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The signs of climate change are unmistakable even today, but the real transformations have hardly begun. For a generation, we've been taught that warming was a problem of Arctic melting and sea levels rising, but in fact it promises to be all-enveloping, driving dramatic changes at every level of our lives, from everyday matters like the supply of chocolate and coffee (likely to dry up) to public health (tens of millions likely to die from pollution) to climate migration (hundreds of millions fleeing unlivable, overheated homelands). We've been taught that warming would be slow – but, barring very dramatic action, each of these impacts is likely to arrive within the length of a new home mortgage signed this year.
What will it be like to live on a planet pummeled in these ways? What will it do to our politics, our economy, our culture and sense of history? What will it mean for our collective appetite for climate action? And what explains the fact we have done so little to stop it? These are not abstract scientific questions but immediate and pressing human dramas, dilemmas and nightmares. In The Uninhabitable Earth, David Wallace-Wells undertakes a new kind of storytelling and a new kind of social science to explore the era of human history on which we have just embarked.
Please note, not to be confused with Nathaniel Rich's book Losing Earth: The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change, who garnered attention with a 2018 long-read in New York Times Magazine.
David Wallace-Wells is deputy editor of New York magazine, where he also writes frequently about climate change and the near future of science and technology. In July 2017 he published a cover story surveying the landscape of worst-case scenarios for global warming that became an immediate sensation, reaching millions of readers on its first day and, in less than a week, becoming the most-read story the magazine had ever published – and sparking an unprecedented debate, ongoing still today among scientists and journalists, about just how we should be thinking, and talking, about the planetary threat from climate change.
"In crystalline prose, Wallace-Wells provides a devastating overview of where we are in terms of climate crisis and ecological destruction, and what the future will hold if we keep on going down the same path. Urgently readable, this is an epoch-defining book."
– Matt Haig, 'The Book that Changed My Mind' The Guardian
"Clear, engaging and often dazzling"
– The Telegraph
"A masterly analysis"
"Relentless, angry journalism of the highest order. Read it and, for the lack of any more useful response, weep [...] The article was a sensation and the book will be, too."
– Bryan Appleyard, The Sunday Times
"The most terrifying book I have ever read [...] a meticulously documented, white-knuckled tour through the cascading catastrophes that will soon engulf our warming planet."
– The New York Times
"A must-read. It's not only the grandkids and the kids: it's you. And it's not only those in other countries: it's you."
– Margaret Atwood, Twitter
"I've not stopped talking about The Uninhabitable Earth since I opened the first page. And I want every single person on this planet to read it. [...] Riveting [...] Some readers will find Mr Wallace-Wells's outline of possible futures alarmist. He is indeed alarmed. You should be, too.
– The Economist
"Skipping the scientific jargon and relaying the facts in urgent and elegant prose, the magazine editor crafts a stirring wake-up call to recognize how global warming will permanently alter every aspect of human life."
– Best Nonfiction Books of 2019, So Far Time
"Wallace-Wells is an extremely adept storyteller, simultaneously urgent and humane [...] [he] does a terrifyingly good job of moving between the specific and the abstract."