In chapter 9, The Unraveling World, Tim Flannery presents historical evidence of harmful effects of a climate change and discusses how global increase of yearly temperature affects the environment as a whole and particular organism. The author explains how many different changes took place in such organisms as the Edith's checkerspot butterflies, winter moths, and tuatara. I each of these cases, Flannery describes what happened with each organism due to the changes in the environment. The author argues that global warming makes different earth ecosystems fall apart. Flannery claims that even relatively small climate changes proved to have a disastrous impact on individual species. Flannery compares current climate changes and their effect with whipping the earth and leaving bleeding marks on the globe's body. The chapter says that global environmental footprint of human activity reached such proportions that it will inevitably lead to the catastrophe.
10th chapter Peril at the Poles addresses the effects of global warming on plants and animals in Antarctica as well as Arctic. Flannery describes the relationship between the melting of the sea ice and diminishing of krill. As the amount of Antarctic sea ice declines, so does the amount of krill. This leads to the lack of food whales and other ocean mammals can feed on. Eventual outcome of this situation might be dying out of some species due to the lack of food. Than, Flannery discusses 2004 Arctic Climate Impact Assessment. This document forecasts expansion of forests into arctic areas. Impact Assessment predicts that the tundra will completely disappear. Subsequently, migrations of birds will be heavily impacted. Author brings up an example of polar bears that are under the threat of extinction as well because they require ice to live and hunt. Presently, polar bear's cubs die of hunger. Author describes how climate changes pose the threat to the existence of lemmings, ice seals, and caribou. Flannery concludes that global warming destroys natural habitats of many animals.
Next chapter, The Great Stumpy Reef, is dedicated to endangered coral reefs. Climate experts and marine biologists argue that climate change is deadly to corals. Tens of thousands of people make their living off the coral reefs. Author claims that there are five nations whose population lives completely on coral atolls with relatively small barriers of reefs. Corals can thrive only within very narrow limits. Therefore, when water conditions experience disruptions or changes this leads to the devastation of the coral population. Tim Flannery brings up an example of Ambon harbor in the East of Indonesia. What once used to be a flourishing coral reef turned into contaminated pool full of animal waste and garbage. In order to counter the effects of climate change, reefs need the diversity of fish species. For this reason, extensive overfishing presents an overwhelming threat for corals.
In Warning from Golden Toad (chapter 12), Flannery tells the story of a golden toad, first species that became extinct because of climate change. The only golden toad's dwelling was upper slopes of mountains. Nearly whole year toads lived underground, coming out for a short time to reproduce during the wet season. A complicated chain of interconnected events occurred. For example, the rise of the sea surface temperature led to the change in the height of clouds over the mountains. Mountain terrain got more sunshine which caused drying up of forest grounds and consequent large-scale landslides. Hotter ocean surface warmed up the air and caused rising of the moisture condensation point in golden toad habitat. As a result, golden toad became extinct. Flannery asks whether similar changes go largely unnoticed on a global scale.
In the 13th chapter, Liquid Gold: Changes in Rainfall, author discusses dependency between rainfall changes and global warming. Flannery ponders whether current rainfall tendencies will lead to the west of USA and east of Australia becoming deserts. The problem is that yearly droughts are still present while monsoon rain seasons in central parts of the world change patterns and do not exist any longer as they were in the past. Environmentalists explain rainfall decline by the "global dimming" phenomenon. "Global dimming" implies that the sun does not reach the surface of the earth as strongly as it used to in the past. As a result, the temperature of oceans surrounding Europe went down which reduced intensity of monsoons, according to scientists. The dimming was caused by particles from machinery, cars, and burning of coal. Climate changes start causing fierce conflicts over control of the fertile territories and sources of water supply between ethnic groups. Droughts in different parts of the world that devastate farms and diminish water supplies become a global trend.
Chapter An Energetic Onion Skin introduces the topic of weather cataclysms, and its connection with a climate change. Flannery explains how changes in tropopause affect climate and weather changes, and cause extreme weather events. Ultimately, air pollution caused a change in tropopause. Then, author shows dependencies between ozone layer, its absorption of ultra-violet radiation and emitting more heat. As the ozone layer cooled and shrank, greenhouse gasses trapped more heat and led to the rise of the tropopause. Troposphere became warmer and led to the increase of extreme weather events and changes of global weather patterns. Than, Flannery goes on to explain how dynamics of climate change increase possibility of extreme weather events. Author also explains why and how climate changes led to hurricanes and typhoons changing paths.
In the last 15thchapter of the second part of the book, called Playing at Canute, Tim Flannery explains how throughout the history people chose locations for their dwellings and cities in close proximity to sources of water supply. Author claims that fifteen thousand years ago, the ocean water level was one hundred meters lower than it is today. Melting of ice caps contributes to the significant rise of global sea level. Author predicts that soon we will not have any glaciers left, and Santa will not have a home anymore. For comparison, water reflects back into the space only 10% of sunlight while ice caps reflect back into the space 90% of sunlight. It means that melting of ice caps will lead to even more sun rays being absorbed by the Earth.
In the second part of the book, called One in Ten Thousand, Tim Flannery convincingly presents vast historical evidence of past climate changes and their effects on the environment. Author claims that past climate changes occurred in a form of drastic rapid events that often caused mass extinction of species. Flannery described changes in polar areas and how melting of ice and snow reinforces global warming caused by other factors. Author supports his claims with numerous examples of how past relatively small climate changes had devastating effects on individual species. Flannery analyses how climate changes are already affecting millions of people worldwide. Some geographical areas suffered what is considered permanent climatic changes. Flannery notes increasing tendency among ethnic groups to compete for rapidly disappearing resources. Writer predicts an increase in intensity of extreme weather cataclysms, warns of repercussions of further climate changes, but shows that there is a hope for mankind for building a safe future. Flannery emphasizes that if global society does not take proactive actions to protect environment now, the planet might become "the great stumpy reef" by 2050.
Flannery, T. (2006). The weather makers: How man is changing the climate and what it means for life on earth. New York, NY: Grove Press.