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Review of 2084: An Oral History of the Great Warming by James Powell

Posted on 21 June 2011 by John Cook

I'm a big fan of graphs (some say I have a problem). But I would concede a more powerful and resonating way to communicate the reality of climate change to the general public is not through more graphs but through stories of how humans are affected by global warming. A book that uses this narrative approach is 2084: An Oral History of the Great Warming. The book is written by James Powell, scientist and teacher of geology (who has actually had an asteroid named for him).

2084 is a collection of personal accounts from victims of climate change, set 73 years into the future. What Powell does is take what the science is currently telling us about future climate impacts and translate them into real life, tangible human impacts, told as raw, visceral stories. He's taken peer-reviewed science and humanised it.

The litany of impacts are devastating and emotionally draining. Storm surges topple the Statue of Liberty (it's not a disaster story without the destruction of a famous monument). Bangladeshis burn with righteous anger as they suffer the cruel double blow of rising sea levels from the south and diminishing drinking water from the north. Powell paints a vivid picture of the human misery arising from millions of climate refugees fleeing Bangladesh. Poignant and tragic is the image of the last Tuvalese walking up the ramp to board the last ship from Tuvalu.

It's a psychological reality that doom and gloom can drive a person to denial. And I have to admit, as I read through the litany of tragedies, I could sense the denial instinct rising within me. Surely these impacts can't happen. Surely we won't let them happen. But the reality is we are letting it happen - 2084 is a vision of what would happen if we continue at business-as-usual and currently, CO2 emissions are tracking towards the worst-case scenario.

2084 was released as a Kindle e-book and is currently ranking #1 on Amazon under Environmental Science and #3 under Earth Sciences. However, you don't need a Kindle or any other kind of mobile device in order to read the book. You can also download Kindle reader for Mac and Kindle reader for PC to read the book on your computer. So I recommend this book as a way to step beyond the graphs and scientific terminology, as a vivid reminder of the human toll from climate change.

Download the 2084 book from Amazon

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Comments 1 to 2:

  1. I read the book and I find it sobering to say the least. One could quibble about the timing of climate events but that would be to miss the big picture we are stealing from future generations the ability to lead a healthy life.
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  2. I have written a short story on the same topic, with much the same goals. It is available at: please share this link with Skeptical Science readers!
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