The Uninhabitable Earth

Life After Warming
Narrated by: David Wallace-Wells
Length: 9 hrs
4.5 out of 5 stars (1,854 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Number-one New York Times best seller • "The Uninhabitable Earth hits you like a comet, with an overflow of insanely lyrical prose about our pending Armageddon." (Andrew Solomon, author of The Noonday Demon)

With a new afterword

It is worse, much worse, than you think. If your anxiety about global warming is dominated by fears of sea-level rise, you are barely scratching the surface of what terrors are possible - food shortages, refugee emergencies, climate wars, and economic devastation.

An "epoch-defining book" (The Guardian) and "this generation’s Silent Spring" (The Washington Post), The Uninhabitable Earth is both a travelogue of the near future and a meditation on how that future will look to those living through it - the ways that warming promises to transform global politics, the meaning of technology and nature in the modern world, the sustainability of capitalism and the trajectory of human progress.

The Uninhabitable Earth is also an impassioned call to action. For just as the world was brought to the brink of catastrophe within the span of a lifetime, the responsibility to avoid it now belongs to a single generation - today’s.

"The Uninhabitable Earth is the most terrifying book I have ever read. Its subject is climate change, and its method is scientific, but its mode is Old Testament. The book is a meticulously documented, white-knuckled tour through the cascading catastrophes that will soon engulf our warming planet." (Farhad Manjoo, The New York Times

Praise for The Uninhabitable Earth

"Riveting.... Some readers will find Mr. Wallace-Wells’s outline of possible futures alarmist. He is indeed alarmed. You should be, too." (The Economist)

"Potent and evocative.... Wallace-Wells has resolved to offer something other than the standard narrative of climate change.... He avoids the ‘eerily banal language of climatology’ in favor of lush, rolling prose." (Jennifer Szalai, The New York Times)

"The book has potential to be this generation’s Silent Spring." (The Washington Post)

"The Uninhabitable Earth, which has become a best seller, taps into the underlying emotion of the day: fear.... I encourage people to read this book." (Alan Weisman, The New York Review of Books)

©2019 David Wallace-Wells (P)2019 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"Most of us know the gist, if not the details, of the climate change crisis. And yet it is almost impossible to sustain strong feelings about it. David Wallace-Wells has now provided the details, and with writing that is not only clear and forceful, but often imaginative and even funny, he has found a way to make the information deeply felt. This is a profound book, which simultaneously makes me terrified and hopeful about the future, ashamed and proud of being a human." (Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Everything Is Illuminated)

"David Wallace-Wells argues that the impacts of climate change will be much graver than most people realize, and he's right. The Uninhabitable Earth is a timely and provocative work." (Elizabeth Kolbert, author of The Sixth Extinction)

“A brilliant new book...a remorseless, near-unbearable account of what we are doing to our planet." (John Lanchester, The New York Times Book Review)

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Don’t read if you have depressive tendencies.

The book is realistic about what is sure to come and it’s not good... at ALL. So stay away if you’re psychologically vulnerable.

But we stagnated even when we knew 100 years ago that pollution is not good and now it’s too late to avoid a significant catastrophic future.

He does a great job showing what’s to expect with 2-3 degrees of warming.

22 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

Classic mistake

The book is excellent ... at least, as good as a book involving the depressing subject matter found therein can be.

Sadly, the author missed the lesson of a lawyer who represents himself in court having a fool for a client. Listening to this audiobook is an experience in listening to the author's inner voice. Unfortunately, that inner voice does not translate well in performance. Badly broken up and over emphasized phrasing detracts from the experience of listening to the narrative, to the point where you turn it off repeatedly just to take a break from the effort to listen. Wallace-Wells would have been better off hiring a professional who better communicates the author's thoughts and ideas in a manner that illuminates, as opposed to detracting.

20 people found this helpful

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Painful but Necessary

The first 12 chapters describe how quickly we are destroying Earth's ability to support life. Then some intelligent thoughts about it. A touch of exaggeration, but not much. The one great improvement would have been having a professional reader.

14 people found this helpful

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Excellent audio book. Will give to my grandchildren.

I am grandfather, I would hope that my grandchildren forgive me for not being a better steward of this earth. I can only hope that they can forsee the path they we have led them to and do something about it.

21 people found this helpful

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I tried to like this one. I couldn't.

I expected a jeremiad; to read the positive reviews this should be up there with Carson's Silent Spring, Schell's The Fate of the Earth, or Ehrlich's The Population Bomb. It isn't.

The segments on a potential future at X degrees of warming are all based on the latest science that would have been available when he wrote, but they devolve into an incoherent welter of conflicting statistics that fail to provide any plausible picture of the world over the next few decades--even as a projection. I got out of it that India and Bangla Desh would be among the countries most hard hit, that there will be more storms, wildfires, and sea rise as we go, but it all blurs together. The bad news is that this is most effective part of the book.

The segments on literary responses to climate change (which he clearly labels as going into science fiction) prove only that he hasn't read any science fiction, or any SF criticism. The historical segments on "how we got here," the political segments on how government will be affected, and the philosophical segments on what global warming means in terms of humanity's self-definition are all drawn from consistently fringe works that have captured his imagination. Worse, this part of the book pretty much descends to chiding us all as individuals for "lack of political will" to do something, while turning around and then pointing out that most of what we could do as individuals is pointless.

My favorite digression is on micro-plastics, about which the author details the harms at length, only to then mention after a ten-minute diatribe, "of course, micro-plastics are not a component in global warming," followed an hour or so later by a swipe at environmentalists on getting sidetracked by concerns about micro-plastics. Then there's the time that he argues that terrifying diseases unknown to humanity because they are thousands or even millions of years old could be revived by thawing ice and devastate humanity, only to buttress this with his sole example of it happening: some children who got anthrax from the corpse of a deer that had been frozen for ... 75 years.

It's important also to point out that the author is a technophobe (who manages to give a nod to a guy still reading Ted Kozinski), and an uber-preachy elitist. FYI I am very aware of climate threats and the need to take dramatic concerted action. If I were at all on the fence, however, the muddled nature of the book's first part and the patronizing elitism of the last third would have tossed me clear over the fence to become a climate change denier.

22 people found this helpful

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The author shouldn't be the narrator

This is a sobering and enlightening book about the likely effects of climate change. However, I found the author's narration to be rather harsh which tended to take away from his thoughts. I think a professional narrator would have done a better job of reading this book to the average listener.

9 people found this helpful

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Disservice to Climate Change

This book is a typical example of an author trying to capitalize on a current concern to make money. Climate change is a serious issue that requires careful thought and analysis. This is far from it. Many may be turned off to the topic by this juvenile presentation of the issue. I hope that is not the case.

5 people found this helpful

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Wow. A book I really needed to read.

I have been doing what I do when faced with seemingly insurmountable problems: I to try to think about other things. But after reading this book I’m going to have a hard time thinking about anything else.

Well thought out and well written. Is a book that everybody should read.

I think the author did ok narrating but I only David McCullough can read his own books well; I prefer a professional narrator—thus three stars for narration.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Dj
  • 07-22-19

wow

very informative! I strongly suggest weaponizing this book towards anyone who claims climate change is fake

1 person found this helpful

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A must read book.

I am sure unfortunately that this book is probably too little and too late. it should be required reading of every student in school of every elected official.

I would say the one glaring error in this book is that he did not address over population. I will never understand how our discussion of our impending collapse has not included over population. other than that it is a incredible work unclaimed change.

1 person found this helpful