The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World (Hardcover)

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The following review appeared the the Washington Post on November 10, 2017 and was written by Bill McKibben:

"We’re not even close to being prepared for the rising waters"


Some of humanity's most primordial stories involve flooding: The tales of Noah, and before that Gilgamesh, tell what happens when the water starts to rise and doesn't stop. But for the 10,000 years of human civilization, we've been blessed with a relatively stable climate, and hence flooding has been an exceptional terror. As that blessing comes to an end with our reckless heating of the planet, the exceptional is becoming all too normal, as residents of Houston and South Florida and Puerto Rico found out already this fall.
Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria provide a dramatic backdrop for the story Jeff Goodell tells in "The Water Will Come": If there was ever a moment when Americans might focus on drainage, this is it. But this fine volume (which expands on his reporting in Rolling Stone) concentrates on the slower and more relentless toll that water will take on our cities and our psyches in the years to come. Those who pay attention to global warming have long considered that its effects on hydrology — the way water moves around the planet — may be even more dramatic than the straightforward increases in temperature.
To review the basic physics: Warm air holds more water vapor than cold air does, which means you get more evaporation and hence drought in arid areas, and more rainfall and hence floods in wet ones. (Harvey, for example, was the greatest rainfall event in American history, the kind of deluge possible only in a warmer world.) Meanwhile, heat melts ice: Greenland and the Antarctic are vast stores of what would otherwise be ocean, and now they're beginning to surrender that water back to the sea.
These effects were somewhat harder to calculate than other impacts of climate change. In particular, scientists were slow to understand how aggressively the poles would melt, and hence the main international assessments, until recently, forecast relatively modest rises in sea level: three feet, perhaps, by century's end. That's enough to cause major problems, but perhaps not insuperable ones — richer cities could probably build seawalls and other barriers to keep themselves above the surface. Yet new assessments of the disintegration of glaciers, and more data from deep in the Earth's past, have convinced many scientists that we could be looking at double or triple that rate of sea level rise in the course of the century. Which may take what would have been a major problem and turn it into a largely insoluble new reality.
Consider Miami and Miami Beach, where Goodell has concentrated much of his reporting. Built on porous limestone or simply mounds of mud dredged from the surrounding sea, low-lying South Florida streets already flood regularly at especially high tides. The simple facts, however, haven't stopped the Miami real estate boom: When Irma hit, more than 20 huge cranes were at work building high-rises (and two of them toppled). Goodell manages to track down the city's biggest real estate developer, Jorge Perez, at a museum opening. He was not, he said, worried about the rising sea because "I believe that in twenty or thirty years, someone is going to find a solution for this. If it is a problem for Miami, it will also be a problem for New York and Boston — so where are people going to go?" (He added, with shameless narcissism, "Besides, by that time I'll be dead, so what does it matter?")
Goodell dutifully tracks down the people who are working on those "solutions" — the Miami Beach engineers who are raising city streets and buildings; their Venetian counterparts who are building a multibillion-dollar series of inflatable booms that can hold back storm tides. In every case, the engineering is dubious, not to mention hideously expensive. And more to the point, it's all designed for the relatively mild two- or three-foot rises in sea level that used to constitute the worst-case scenarios. Such tech is essentially useless against the higher totals we now think are coming, a fact that boggles most of the relevant minds. When a University of Miami geologist explains to some Florida real estate agents that he thinks sea level rise may top 15 feet by 2100, Goodell describes one "expensively dressed broker who was seated near me" who sounded "like a six-year-old on the verge of a temper tantrum. . . . 'This can't be a fear-fest,' she protested. 'Why is everyone picking on Miami?'"
No one is picking on Miami. But the developed world is definitely picking on the low-lying islands of the Pacific and Indian oceans. (Goodell gives sharp descriptions of the imperiled Marshalls and the outsize role the nation played in international climate negotiations.) The vast majority of people at risk live in places such as Bangladesh and Burma, where rising seas are already swamping farmland and forcing internal migration, mostly of people who have burned so little fossil fuel that they have played no serious part in causing the crisis we now face.
There are precisely two answers that give some hope to a world facing this greatest of all challenges. The first is to stop burning fossil fuels. If we moved with great speed toward 100 percent renewable energy, we might still hold sea level rise to a meter or two. And this is now a realistic possibility: The rapid fall in the price of wind and solar power over the past few years means we could conceivably make the transition in time. That's precisely what President Trump is now preventing (and to be fair, it's more than President Barack Obama wanted to do, either — Goodell's extensive interviews with the former president capture both his fine rhetoric and his sad policy waffling). At this point, the world seems more likely to stumble along a path of slow conversion to clean energy, guaranteeing that the great ice sheets will crumble.
The other way forward is to adapt to the unpreventable rise in sea level. Goodell describes a few of the plans for floating buildings and such, but if you want a real sense of what this option looks like, you're better off reading Kim Stanley Robinson's massive and massively enjoyable novel "New York 2140," published this year. Robinson is described as a science fiction writer, but in this case he's more like a political scientist, describing a New York a century from now that's been largely inundated but where people inhabit (often with surprising good cheer) the ever-shifting intertidal zone. Of course, this metro-size version of the Swiss Family Robinson happens only after two great pulses of sea level rise have killed off a huge percentage of the human population, so it's not the ideal scenario.
Or we could take the path laid out by Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine at the 100th anniversary of the founding of Miami Beach. "If, thirty or forty years ago, I'd told you you were going to be able to communicate with your friends around the world with a phone you carried around in your pocket," he said in 2015, "you would think I was out of my mind." Thirty or 40 years from now, he promised, "we're going to have innovative solutions to fight back against sea-level rise that we cannot even imagine today." Forget building the ark, Noah — we've got an app for that.

Bill McKibben is the founder of the global climate movement 350.org and the author of the novel "Radio Free Vermont."

Description


"An immersive, mildly gonzo and depressingly well-timed book about the drenching effects of global warming, and a powerful reminder that we can bury our heads in the sand about climate change for only so long before the sand itself disappears." (Jennifer Senior, New York Times)

A New York Times Critics' Top Book of 2017
One of Washington Post's 50 Notable Works of Nonfiction in 2017
One of Booklist's Top 10 Science Books of 2017

What if Atlantis wasn't a myth, but an early precursor to a new age of great flooding? Across the globe, scientists and civilians alike are noticing rapidly rising sea levels, and higher and higher tides pushing more water directly into the places we live, from our most vibrant, historic cities to our last remaining traditional coastal villages. With each crack in the great ice sheets of the Arctic and Antarctica, and each tick upwards of Earth's thermometer, we are moving closer to the brink of broad disaster.

By century's end, hundreds of millions of people will be retreating from the world's shores as our coasts become inundated and our landscapes transformed. From island nations to the world's major cities, coastal regions will disappear. Engineering projects to hold back the water are bold and may buy some time. Yet despite international efforts and tireless research, there is no permanent solution-no barriers to erect or walls to build-that will protect us in the end from the drowning of the world as we know it.

The Water Will Come is the definitive account of the coming water, why and how this will happen, and what it will all mean. As he travels across twelve countries and reports from the front lines, acclaimed journalist Jeff Goodell employs fact, science, and first-person, on-the-ground journalism to show vivid scenes from what already is becoming a water world.

About the Author


Jeff Goodell is a contributing editor at Rolling Stone and the author of five books, including How to Cool the Planet: Geoengineering and the Audacious Quest to Fix Earth's Climate, which won the 2011 Grantham Prize Award of Special Merit. Goodell's previous books include Sunnyvale, a memoir about growing up in Silicon Valley, which was a New York Times Notable Book, and Big Coal: The Dirty Secret Behind America's Energy Future.

Praise For…


Praise for The Water Will Come

"Jeff Goodell's latest contribution to the environmental cause paints an eye-opening portrait of humankind's dilemma as temperatures -- and sea levels -- continue to rise. The Water Will Come brings together compelling anecdotes from all over the globe and shocking expert assessments that should make the world's few remaining skeptics reconsider. Read this book for a reminder of the stakes -- right now, today -- and why we have to work harder, faster, to address the climate challenge."—John F. Kerry

"Jeff Goodell has taken on some of the most important issues of our time, from coal mining to geoengineering. In The Water Will Come, he explains the threat of sea level rise with characteristic rigor and intelligence. The result is at once deeply persuasive and deeply unsettling."—Elizabeth Kolbert, Pulitzer Prize-winning and New York Times bestselling author of The Sixth Extinction

"Once you've read an excellent book about climate change, which Jeff Goodell's The Water Will Come most certainly is, you can never unremember the facts... Goodell has been writing about climate change for many years... he's the real deal, committed and making house calls."—Jennifer Senior, The New York Times

"This harrowing, compulsively readable, and carefully researched book lays out in clear-eyed detail what Earth's changing climate means for us today, and what it will mean for future generations... It's a thriller in which the hero in peril is us."—John Green

"Sea level rise is coming. We know this as clearly as we know thermometer measurements, the melting point of ice, and the law of thermal expansion. Jeff Goodell's book cuts through the fossil-fuel lies, and is a warning I hope we heed while there's still time."—Senator Sheldon Whitehouse

"A deeply reported and very well-written account of how rising sea levels are reshaping our world. Goodell has written a powerful call to arms that is never preachy but is a very timely reminder that we ignore how climate change is raising sea levels only at great risk to our way of life."—Peter Bergen, author of United States of Jihad and Manhunt

"Even if we could halt further growth in greenhouse gas emissions today, we would remain locked into several centuries of sea level rise ahead. Jeff Goodell's The Water Will Come shows us how this stark truth will unfold, right down to individual human experiences."—Laurence C. Smith, author of The World in 2050

"For people who want to learn more about climate change, rising sea levels and what it means for our future, read The Water Will Come."—Chris Hayes, MSNBC

"If there was ever a moment when Americans might focus on drainage, this is it. But this fine volume (which expands on [Goodell's] reporting in Rolling Stone) concentrates on the slower and more relentless toll that water will take on our cities and our psyches in the years to come."—Bill McKibben, The Washington Post

"[A] vivid mix of science, history and sociology... Goodell talks about climate change and what it means to every person on the planet in a way that will engage even the non-Nova crowd."—USA Today

"This important [book] is absolutely brilliant scientific journalism, and certainly is a must read for all of the world's citizens."—Forbes

"[The Water Will Come] is a well-rounded, persuasive survey.... A frightening, scientifically grounded, and starkly relevant look at how climate change will affect coastal cities."—Kirkus, Starred Review

"In this engaging book, environmental writer Goodell points out that while sea levels have always risen and fallen, the current rise is driven primarily by the dramatically accelerating melting of the arctic ice caps, and with so many cities on seashores, this will be devastating."—Booklist, Starred Review

"An urgent, clear-eyed and downright terrifying account... Each chapter is scrupulously researched yet written in the clean and accessible style of a journalist who's perfected his craft... Persuasive, timely and vividly constructed, The Water Will Come might be one of the most essential reads of the year."—Shelf Awareness

"Goodell's journalistic writing style is engaging and will be accessible to a wide audience...[a] thought-provoking tour through our watery futures offers both challenge and inspiration."—Jessica Lamond, Science

"A must-read... Goodell writes with insight and compassion, giving us a primer we can use to persuade neighbors, friends, and politicians to take action now."—The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation

"One of the most important books of the year... A potent examination not of whether seas will rise in our lifetimes, but of the fact that they will rise."—The Sierra Club

"Cogent reportage on a world going under."—Nature

"A journey to the cities and towns around the globe that are trying to figure out how to adapt to sea levels that are continuing to rise."—Business Insider

"Goodell offers some welcome, practical prescriptions, including relocating airports, reconfiguring pumping systems, and designing big public squares that can collect and drain water to avoid flooding."—The National Book Review

"Immensely engaging--but frequently terrifying."—Yale Climate Connections

"The Water Will Come is an important book, regardless of where you live. It moves the conversation from a nebulous debate on 'climate change' to a concrete set of data points that signal danger in the rising tides."—BookBrowse, Editor's Choice

"A very sobering read, underscoring how unprepared we all are for climate change."—Nicholas Kristoff

"While keenly observing and poignantly describing rapidly changing coastal ecologies, Goodell also reports with empathy and acumen."—Los Angeles Review of Books
Product Details
ISBN: 9780316260244
ISBN-10: 031626024X
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication Date: October 24th, 2017
Pages: 352
Language: English
 

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