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Losing Earth

A Recent History
Narrated by: Matt Godfrey
Length: 5 hrs and 17 mins
5 out of 5 stars (44 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

By 1979, we knew nearly everything we understand today about climate change - including how to stop it. Over the next decade, a handful of scientists, politicians, and strategists, led by two unlikely heroes, risked their careers in a desperate, escalating campaign to convince the world to act before it was too late. Losing Earth is their story and ours.  

The New York Times Magazine devoted an entire issue to Nathaniel Rich’s groundbreaking chronicle of that decade, which became an instant journalistic phenomenon - the subject of news coverage, editorials, and conversations all over the world. In its emphasis on the lives of the people who grappled with the great existential threat of our age, it made vivid the moral dimensions of our shared plight.  

Now expanded into audiobook form, Losing Earth tells the human story of climate change in even richer, more intimate terms. It reveals, in previously unreported detail, the birth of climate denialism and the genesis of the fossil-fuel industry’s coordinated effort to thwart climate policy through misinformation propaganda and political influence. The audiobook carries the story into the present day, wrestling with the long shadow of our past failures and asking crucial questions about how we make sense of our past, our future, and ourselves.   

Like John Hersey’s Hiroshima and Jonathan Schell’s The Fate of the Earth, Losing Earth is the rarest of achievements: a riveting work of dramatic history that articulates a moral framework for understanding how we got here and how we must go forward.

©2019 Nathaniel Rich (P)2019 Macmillan Audio

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Outstanding Overview

Having studied climate change in college, I am aware of the actual issues of climate change. I am also aware of the current status quo of people questioning the science. However, I was not aware of the history behind our knowledge of the issues. This book does a wonderful job of explaining the history of studying climate change and the political struggle of the people trying to bring it to the masses.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Essential

Learning more about our sad past can help give us the understanding and energy to act now. This is an enlightening , disturbing and necessary book. The author is concise, yet includes enough personal stories to keep this from being just a scientific and legislative history. It is after all a story of people .

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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By The Time You Listen To This, It'll Be Too Late

In 1979, scientists learned everything we needed to know about Earth's changing climate and the human factors that have led to it. Not much has changed, scientifically, in the intervening years. Our predictive models have gotten better, and, if anything, we've learned that the original estimates offered by scientists regarding warming trends were too generous.

Nathaniel Rich explores the decade of 1979-1989, when global warming first came into the public purview and scientists and some politicians attempted to begin curbing carbon emissions and atmospheric pollution contributing to the rise of greenhouse gases that will, inarguably, have severe effects on human survival and extreme weather effects upon the Earth. It's also the decade that, despite George Herbert Walker Bush running on a pro-environmental campaign, that the GOP became the party of science denialism.

Narrating all this is Matt Godfrey, whose narration is crisp and even-keel. Rich writes in a highly accessible manner, avoiding technical and scientific jargon, and Godfrey's narration follows a similar For Everyone approach. It's not highly dramatized, but simple and to the point. It's very well done.

It's a chilling account, and also one that is deeply disheartening. The scientific consensus on the validity of climate change is there -- 97% of all the world's scientific community agrees that it is real and that humans are the cause), regardless of what right-wing politicians, conservative commentators, and businesses that have grown fat and rich off the production of fossil fuels would have you believe. One of the arching themes of LOSING EARTH surrounds the economy of climate change, and whether or not humanity as a collective will allow itself to suffer short-term pains in order to ensure long-term benefits. Sadly, the answer, as is obvious to anybody that's been paying attention, is no, we will not. Humanity simply doesn't care enough about its long-term survival. We are too greedy to care about the world we leave behind for future generations. Greed rules all. Greed will, ultimately, destroy us. With 2018 the fourth hottest year on record, the science is clear. We are on the brink. Maybe -- maybe -- scientific advancements might come along to help us, but it's hardly a guarantee. We had our chance to save ourselves, and we squandered it.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Rich makes us want a time machine

Missing such an opportunity to address global climate change is equal parts depressing and inspiring. Rich does a beautiful job of explaining clearly how we screwed up, but also implicitly giving hope for this generation to realize that real policy change is possible.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Amazing look at our delusions regarding climate change


This book is a good and comprehensive reminder that we have known about the effects of petroleum combustion on our environment and society since at least the 1950, that we knew with high confidence in the 1970s about the climate events that happen with increasing frequency today, and that politicians in the 1980 - particularly an engineer who had a deeply obscured sense of his own bloated expertise on computer modeling and climate - had the opportunity to slow global warming and did nothing to stop it. I’m walking away from this book with renewed commitment to making changes to my own daily footprint, and to writing and calling my legislators to encourage action on the Green New Deal.

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Half a History

The earth’s climate is changing and that change is due largely to the burning of fossil fuels. Nathaniel Rich tells an interesting story about the clear-eyed scientists who worked to get the United States government to commit to actions that would limit the scope of that climate change. The story is rich with details about the decade between 1979 and 1989. It looked like progress was being made. Then John Sununu, the White House Chief of Staff who thought his engineering background qualified him to reject the scientific consensus, derailed the whole process.

The problem with this history is that it only tells the story of the activists. That the White House Chief of Staff was able to prevent the United States from playing a leadership role on climate change means that there had to have been more to the story than one politician deciding the climate models underestimated how much heat the oceans would absorb. The story that really needs to be told is the story of the men who conspired to undermine the scientific establishment and thereby accelerate the our current calamity.