18 April 2010

A World Without Ice--Book Review

"Ice is a sleeping giant that has been awakened, and if we fail to recognize what has been unleashed, it will be at our peril." (Page 130.)

Henry Pollack's A World Without Ice (Avery/Penguin 2009) is not a bad book, but I can't recommend it wholeheartedly. It has a lot of fascinating information in it, from reliable resources (with footnotes--Pollack is Professor of Geophysics Emeritus in the Department of Geological Sciences at the The University of Michigan). But that information is jumbled together and in a few places repetitive. There is not a well-defined theme, story or argument.

Professor Pollack uses information about the Earth's ice deposits of the past, present and future to tell the story of global climate change. But he does not hesitate to include any other information he has at hand, and his chapters wander.

"Nature's best thermometer, perhaps its most sensitive and unambiguous indicator of climate change, is ice. When ice gets sufficiently warm, it melts. Ice asks no questions, presents no arguments, reads no newspapers, listens to no debates. It is not burdened by ideology and carries no political baggage as it crosses the threshold from solid to liquid. It just melts." (Page 114.) "If at times in the past ice ruled the world, then in the warm centuries of the future, seawater--ice's playmate on the global hydrological seesaw--will be the formidable adversary of human life on Earth." (Page 230.)

Any reader will learn some interesting facts, and hear some convincing arguments about global warming. But Professor Pollock could have benefited from a stricter editor.

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