If climate change is, as this book successfully argues, a game-changer for everyone, everywhere, all the time, then let’s reflect that in the discourse ... David Wallace-Wells offers a good starting point. His book, The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming, scares us with tales from a future climate-changed world that transcend climate science. Not since Bill McKibben’s The End of Nature 30 years ago have we been told what climate change will mean in such vivid terms ... the dynamic of optimism vs. pessimism over the future [is] something Wallace-Wells deals with well ... The most interesting part of this excellent book is where Wallace-Wells moves on to wonder whether this pattern of climate denial might continue into a 'hothouse Earth' of supercyclones, megafloods, droughts without end and killer heat waves.
Wallace-Wells avoids the 'eerily banal language of climatology' in favor of lush, rolling prose. The sentences in this book are potent and evocative, though after a while of envisioning such unremitting destruction — page upon page of toddlers dying, plagues released by melting permafrost and wildfires incinerating tourists at seaside resorts — I began to feel like a voyeur at an atrocity exhibition ... Wait — what? I found this lurching between sweet hopefulness on the one hand and lurid pessimism on the other to be bewildering, like a heat wave followed by a blizzard. But then Wallace-Wells has resolved to offer something other than the standard narrative of climate change and collective action, which 'is, dramatically, a snore.'
...a frightening, compelling text that re-raises the question: In the face of existential threat, what role can storytelling hope to play? ... Wallace-Wells is an extremely adept storyteller, simultaneously urgent and humane despite the technical difficulty of his subject ... he takes pains to explain where in the world things will be the worst (usually poorer places closer to the equator) ... Wallace-Wells does a terrifyingly good job of moving between the specific and the abstract ... Each chapter is complete enough to work as a standalone essay, and yet together they serve as....well, if I had to sum it up, a critique of our perception that the human story is one of progress ... One frustrating part of the book, though, is the way it simultaneously backs up its central thesis—it is worse than you think—while consistently reassuring us that there is still time to do something about it ... The Uninhabitable Earth isn’t a guide to how to actually do this, though it does suggest that the barriers to action aren’t as high as we think ... He inverts a somewhat classic debate on liberal hypocrisy so delicately I gasped ... What I can’t help but wish is that it also offered them a plan, in part because Wallace-Wells has proven himself to be such a skilled argument-maker and remarkable storyteller on the hardest subject of our time.