Fifty Degrees BelowFifty Degrees Below by Kim Stanley Robinson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If not for the quirky behavior of some of the characters which struck me as distracting from an otherwise compelling story, I’d have rated this a 5-star book that ought to be read by everyone. It’s science fiction, but it contains a lot of horrifying science fact. And horrifying is definitely the right description, more so than anything I’ve seen classified as “Horror”.

The 2004 film “The Day After Tomorrow” projected an apocalyptic view of the consequences of global warming. it was great theater, but it stretched scientific credibility to its absolute limit. I found that troubling, because it left the idea in most people’s minds that the disastrous effects of global warming were about as likely as a dinosaur-killing asteroid event.

The truth, as depicted in “Fifty Degrees Below Zero” and its sister novels, “Forty Signs of Rain” and “Sixty Days and Counting” is that potential disasters capable of shattering the global economy and killing millions, even billions of people are all too possible. Global climate is the result of a relatively delicate balance of the energy in our oceans and atmosphere. Strain that balance too hard and we’ll destroy the equilibrium that sustains our civilization.

Can ice ages occur overnight as in the film? Almost certainly not. But science now knows that the transitions between catastrophic changes in climate can occur in less than a decade, as opposed to the centuries-long process we were taught in school.  The melting polar icecaps, rising sea levels, and decreased salinity in the oceans near the poles are all symptoms that we ignore at our peril.

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