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By 1979, we knew all that we know now about the science of climate change – what was happening, why it was happening, and how to stop it. Over the next ten years, we had the very real opportunity to stop it. Obviously, we failed.
Nathaniel Rich's groundbreaking account of that failure – and how tantalizingly close we came to signing binding treaties that would have saved us all before the fossil fuels industry and politicians committed to anti-scientific denialism – is already a journalistic blockbuster, a full issue of the New York Times Magazine that has earned favorable comparisons to Rachel Carson's Silent Spring and John Hersey's Hiroshima. Rich has become an instant, in-demand expert and speaker. A major movie deal is already in place. It is the story, perhaps, that can shift the conversation.
In the book Losing Earth, Rich is able to provide more of the context for what did – and didn't – happen in the 1980s and, more important, is able to carry the story fully into the present day and wrestle with what those past failures mean for us in 2019. It is not just an agonizing revelation of historical missed opportunities, but a clear-eyed and eloquent assessment of how we got to now, and what we can and must do before it's truly too late.
Please note, not to be confused with David Wallace-Wells's book The Uninhabitable Earth: A Story of the Future, who garnered attention with a 2017 long-read in New York Magazine.
Nathaniel Rich is the author of the novels Odds Against Tomorrow and The Mayor's Tongue. His short fiction has appeared in McSweeney's, The Virginia Quarterly Review, and VICE, among other publications. He is a writer at large for The New York Times Magazine and a regular contributor to The New York Review of Books and The Atlantic. Rich lives with his wife and son in New Orleans.