Ron Wadebooks

Review of Forecast: The Consequences of Climate Change, from the Amazon to the Arctic, from Darfur to Napa Valley

by Stephan Faris

(Basic Books, 240 pages, $26.00, January 2009)

Guest Reviewer: Ronald Martin Wade (see photo), posted at the Science Shelf with permission of the reviewer

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Stephan Faris is not a scientist. He is a journalist and a quite capable one. Rather than base his well-written book, Forecast: The Consequences of Climate Change, from the Amazon to the Arctic, from Darfur to Napa Valley, on the popular doomsday scenario of 11 Fahrenheit degrees of global warming favored by alarmists and politicians, he has assumed the more optimistic goal of world-wide efforts halting warming at the three and one half degree increase targeted by economist Nicholas Stern.

Having established that as a baseline, he traveled some 60,000 miles to gather and record disturbing stories based on his first-hand, on-the-ground experience in such widely diverse places as the unhappy and deadly Sudan, the forever cheerful and upbeat Napa Valley, an isolated coastal village in Manitoba, the diminishing forests of the Amazon, Uganda and the seemingly perpetually despairing Bangladesh to name but a few.

The world is familiar with the horrors told from Darfur in the Sudan. Faris attributes that seemingly genocidal conflict to creeping desertification and increasingly scarce natural resources already too thin to support the population that inhabits the area and competition for water and the barest necessities of life between the principal indigenous groups, all compounded by the ruthless regime in Khartoum. He foresees continuing struggles between entrenched indigenous peoples and those attempting to green the planet in already blighted regions around the world as exemplified by attempts to reforest Uganda's Mount Elgon, a project that displaced and infuriated farmers who had used soil for decades.

Faris relates the story of an Inuit village displaced by thawing permafrost and an encroaching river and forced to move miles away from its ancestral location. In sharp contrast to the third world's miseries already aggravated by global warming, he relates a happier visit to the Napa valley where the winegrowers are sensitive to the slightest variations in temperature and have learned to adapt to changing conditions. Faris' lush detail treats the reader to a virtual Winegrowing 101.

The value of Forecast is allowing the reader to understand which areas of the planet, given increasing worldwide temperatures and failing rainfalls, will first crumble into chaos. Faris' rich descriptions allow the sensitive researcher to almost feel the heat and smell the stench of these places. And he offers us small solace in his forecast that the United States, Australia and Europe will be spared the humanitarian disasters that will hit Africa, South America and Asia. But those areas that suffer the least will become the most desired shelters for the millions seeking relief from apparent doom in their home countries.

Faris ends his message with the reminder that, at present, global emissions are not being reduced; they are, in fact, increasing.

Ronald M. Wade, an author of fiction, satire and westerns, was formerly a circus acrobat, oil field roustabout, Air Force fighter pilot, security director and instructor in management and labor relations at two Texas colleges. His latest books are available on