Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Global Change and the Earth System

BOOK REVIEW: “Global Change and the Earth System”, by W. Steffen and others, Springer-Verlag, £77/$129, ISBN 3540408002 Reviewed by Fred Pearce, under the title: “Gaia may not save us”

THERE are two sorts of concern for the environment. There is all that touchy-feely stuff about saving cuddly animals, and there is saving the planet from humanity's mega-depredations. Earth-system science deals with the latter. It deals with how our planet works, and offers suggestions about how we might avoid the Gulf Stream shutting down, save the ozone layer and stop the oceans from turning so acid that they dissolve the coral reefs.

It's a crowded agenda. And this scholarly but highly readable primer to the fate of the Earth, written by a dozen leading lights in a worldwide scientific network known as the International Geosphere-Biosphere Program, seems to cover a new global peril on almost every one of its 300-odd pages. After spreading deserts and blooming oceans, Asian brown haze and the sulfur cycle, global warming almost seems like an afterthought.

One remarkable development on show in Global Change and the Earth System is the extent to which the Gaia hypothesis has taken over research into Earth systems, guiding researchers to new feedback between the geosphere and the biosphere. Will Gaia save us, after all? Probably not. The bad news seems to be that all Gaia's comforting negative feedbacks - designed, as true Gaians would have it, to maintain a habitable planet - are being overwhelmed and could be heading for chaotic mode. Hold onto your hats.

From issue 2435 of the New Scientist, a leading British science magazine, 21 February 2004, page 51.


At March 19, 2008 at 11:54 AM, Blogger Paz said...

People should learn more about energy alternatives like electric cars. The new ones coming out are way better than gas cars. One of the main electric car companies, Zap, has delivered more than 100,000 electric vehicles (source: EV’s cost 1 to 3 cents per mile to run, compare that to regular cars!


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