(Cover picture courtesy of Amazon.)
Nostradamus and the Bible foretell the end of times. In school we learn that five billion years from now the sun engulfs and incinerates the Earth. Recent headlines say asteroid 1950 DA might wipe out all life on Earth if it collides with us in 2880. But what if none of this matters? What if none of this can harm us, because what if all life is gone from Earth before the year 2100? Using both thermodynamics and the Ideal Gas Law, Robert Ben Mitchell explains how global phase change (not global warming) is the ever present danger that might very well be the end of the world as we know it.
Author’s Note: “For those who seem a little intimidated at this point by words like thermodynamics and phase change, do not run to find your high school or college physics books just yet. In some ways, I fully understand your trepidation in engaging in an ivory-tower discussion about such a lofty topic. That fear notwithstanding, I was once told by a professor of mine that if you can’t explain your ideas at eleven o’clock in the evening to the graveyard shift waitress who is serving you coffee at an all-night diner, then no one is ever going to understand what you are talking about. So drop your books and pick up your aprons, because I am going to try and make this explanation easy to understand.”
[Full disclosure: I accepted a free ebook from the author in exchange for an honest review.]
Global warming, climate change, global phase change…call it what you will, normally I would not touch the topic with a ten foot pole on my blog. In part because I don’t have a good background in environmental science and also because despite the overwhelming evidence that it does exist, the climate change controversy invites some heated debate to put it mildly. I honestly didn’t think it was worth it until I got a review request from Robert Ben Mitchell asking me to review this relatively simple yet scientific explanation of why we should all be a little more worried than we are about climate change. I was a little reluctant but I decided to give it a go.
As promised in the Author’s Note in the blurb, this is not an overly complicated highly technical book. Your average high school student could read this book and understand the science behind it quite well because the author is able to explain the science in a more accessible way. He doesn’t dumb things down so much as use regular language to explain the concepts behind climate change and add in statistics that present to us the fact that it is a clear danger to human life as we know it. Even if you have little or no science background I think you’ll find his explanations very easy to understand and at the end of every chapter there’s a bullet point summary of all of the concepts discussed so the information sinks in much better. Overall it simplifies things without talking down to readers but there are some times where I did feel like I was being spoken to like a child. That creeps into the information rarely but it definitely is there.
One of the things I liked very much about Bursting the Atmosphere is that the flow is very logical, organized and none of the sections are overly long. This is the kind of book where you could read a section when you have fifteen minutes to spare at lunchtime and then go back into it at dinner without getting confused. Robert Ben Mitchell organizes things in a logical fashion: first he talks about the controversy surrounding climate change, then he goes into the science of it and then he uses the science he just explained to extrapolate his findings to what might happen if something isn’t done soon. He does point out that life on earth will be extremely difficult for millions if not billions of people but it’s never done in a sensational 24 hours news like manner. That doesn’t make it any less terrifying, however.
Really, if you’re looking to understand the science behind climate change and really don’t have a strong science background, this is the book for you. It’s not overly data heavy but there are places where you can fact-check everything the author presents and he cites his sources quite well. It’s a well-written analysis of climate change and it is definitely accessible to the average person. Sometimes he talks down to his readers but those instances are rare and don’t really detract from the arguments and data he presents. All in all, it’s a pretty good if terrifying look at the possible future of our planet.
I give this book 4.5/5 stars.