What We’re Reading: The Uninhabitable Earth Life After Warming

Written by: Alyssa Farrell

The Seaside Sustainability Book Club brings you February’s What We’re Reading book selection, The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming, by David Wallace-Wells. He is a journalist and this book is an expansion of his previous New York Magazine article with the same title. Wallace-Wells chooses not to speak about the science of climate change, but rather expand on exactly what the world will look like if we continue as we are.

Wallace-Wells sums up the bleakness of the future in the first line of the book, “It is worse, much worse, than you think.” He uses scientific modeling of the earth at varying degrees of warming and visualizes exactly what the world would look like at each instance.

Paired with the frightening facts and data, Wallace-Wells offers a smidge of hope that this last generation has the power to drastically change our future and ultimately: “What happens, from here, will be entirely our own doing.” We have the power to either continue as we are and find ourselves in the horrific future Wallace-Wells lays out, or change our ways and improve our future.

Our Seaside Sustainability Book Club would like to offer these key takeaways for you to consider:

Economic Impacts of Climate Change.

Often financial concerns are presented as reasons for not finding greener and more sustainable alternatives to our current way of life. However, climate change itself promises financial collapse. Globally, with each degree of warming, the negative financial impacts also grow. Wallace-Wells cites a study that predicts a 15 to 25 percent cut per-capita output at 2.5 to 3 degrees Celsius of warming by the end of the century. At 4 degrees that number becomes 30% or more. Climate change promises expensive natural disasters and a loss of arable land and drinkable water. While solutions to climate change may come at a cost, inaction will prove to be more detrimental to the economy in the long run.

What If We’re Wrong?

Wallace-Wells addresses that even those who know of and fear the consequences of our current lives act as though nothing is wrong. For climate change deniers, as detailed in this previous blog post, inaction has become the norm. Society at large seems to have decided to pretend nothing is wrong and hope the problem goes away. Realistically, this plan is doomed to fail, much like health officials communicated to the public at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. We need to take the necessary actions now to prevent further climate catastrophes. If we act now the horrors Wallace-Wells describe may not come to pass. However, that does not mean science was wrong, it means it was right.

Comment below your thoughts and any suggestions for books we should read next!