GFB Update

A monthly newsletter on the vast and underappreciated world of current affairs books


Michael Marien, Director

1:10, October 2011

In This Issue
Book of the Month: America's Climate Choices
Climate and Water: Recommended Books
Miscellaneous: Recommended Books
Easy Link to

Quick Links

Join Our Mailing List
Book of the Month
America's Climate Choices
America's Climate Choices.  National Research Council.  Washington: National Academies Press, May 2011, 118p (7x10"), $29.95pb.  (
The final report of the Committee on America's Climate Choices, which synthesizes current thinking on climate change and four earlier panel reports.  It unequivocally states that "climate change is occurring, is very likely caused by human activities, and poses significant risks for a broad range of human and natural systems."  Moreover, risks associated with business as usual are "much greater" than risks of engaging in strong response efforts. 
America's response is about making choices in the face of risks.
The four sections of the report:
  1. Observed and Future Climate Change: US average air temperature up more than 2oF over the past 50 years, sea level rising along most of the US coast, more intense and frequent heat waves expected for US and world, etc.;
  2. Unique Challenges of Climate Change: complex linkages, significant time lags in climate systems and human response, global-scale efforts needed, etc.;
  3. Iterative Risk Management: revising actions as new information emerges is preferable to muddling through, no action, the precautionary principle, and cost-benefit analysis;
  4. Key Elements of America's Climate Choices: limiting the magnitude of climate change, reducing vulnerability to climate change impacts, investing to expand options and improve choices, an integrated national response, and more international engagement. 
This clearly-written and authoritative report, addressed to a non-technical audience, ought to finally end any doubts of so-called climate "skeptics."  But this is not likely, with a substantial minority of the American public, most Republicans in Congress, and at least three Republican candidates for president (Perry, Cain, Bachmann) expressing disbelief in climate change, let alone anthropogenic climate change.  The four sections of the report, especially the distinctive discussions of "unique challenges" and the need for "iterative risk management," should be of great interest to thinkers, planners, and citizens in all countries.

Climate and Water  

New Recommended Books  
 Climate Change

A somewhat more technical companion to the important Book of the Month, America's Climate Choices, is also provided by the National Research Council.  Understanding Earth's Deep Past: Lessons for Our Climate Future (National Academies Press, Sept 2011, 212p) stresses the importance of deep-time geologic records, warning that, by 2100, without a reduction in emissions, atmospheric CO2 will increase to levels that Earth has not experienced for >30 million years. 


Climate Change: Global Risks, Challenges, and Decisions

by Katherine Richardson, Will Steffen, and Diana Liverman (Cambridge UP, March 2011, 524p) provides an extensive overview with contributions by >80 scientists,discussing such topics as climate trends, carbon cycle trends and vulnerabilities, climate change impact on human societies, tipping elements, equity issues, mitigation and adaptation approaches, geopolitics and governance, meeting the challenge, etc. 


Climate Change and Cities edited by Cynthia Rosenzweig and three others (Cambridge UP, April 2011, 312p) is the first assessment of the Urban Climate Change Research Network, formed at the time of the C40 Large Cities Climate Summit in 2007; the report addresses urban energy and transport systems, human health, urban land, wter and wastewater, and challenges for governance.



The related issue of water is broadly addressed in Water Resources Planning and Management edited by R. Quentin Grafton and Karen Hussey (Cambridge UP, March 2011, 800p), with chapters on availability of water for a wide range of users, aquatic ecosystem health, global issues relating to climate change, water security, water trading, water ethics, capacity-building and knowledge-sharing, adaptive and integrated management, etc. 


The seventh biennial volume of the outstanding overview, The World's Water  by Peter H. Gleick (Island Press, Dec 2011, 400p) examines global trends, provides updated data, and discusses US water policy, transboundary waters, the effects of fossil fuel production on water resources, bottled water, water and security, etc.


New Recommended Books

 WorkWORK.  Retirement Heist: How Companies Plunder and Profit from the Nest Eggs of America's Workers by Wall Street Journal reporter Ellen Schultz (Portfolio/Penguin, Sept 2011) shows how companies have exploited loopholes and turned pension plans into tax shelters and profit centers.  On a more positive note, Shared Capitalism at Work: Employee Ownership, Profit and Gain Sharing, and Broad-Based Stock Options edited by Douglas L. Kruse et al. (National Bureau of Economic Research, July 2011, 432p) analyzes the fraction of firms in the US and abroad that enable workers to be part-owners of their firms, and the impact of this sharing on firm performance and worker well-being.

JusticeCRIME AND JUSTICE.  Why the Law Is So Perverse by Leo Katz (U of Chicago Press, Sept 2011, 256p) describes how legal decisions are made in an either/or fashion, loopholes in the law that cannot be made to disappear, inconsistent punishment of immoral behavior, and frequent prohibition of win-win transactions.

CitiesCITIES.  Global Downtowns edited by Gary McDonogh and Marina Peterson (U of Pennsylvania Press, Dec 2011, 376p) describes the heart of major cities such as Beijing, Barcelona, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Dubai, Nashville, Lima, Philadelphia, Mumbai, Havana, and Paris.

FoodFOOD.  The Vegetarian Imperative by Anand M. Saxena (Johns Hopkins UP, Oct 2011, 240p) warns that burgeoning population and increasing preference for meat in all parts of the world are stretching planetary resources beyond their limits, while the huge livestock industry degrades land and pollutes air and water; urges a shift to plant-based foods.

HealthHEALTH.  Remedy and Reaction: The Peculiar American Struggle over Health Care Reform by Princeton sociologist Paul Starr (Yale UP, Oct 2011, 320p) describes a century of rancorous debate on health insurance; despite recent legislation, the battle is not over.  The US has ensnared itself in a trap that makes the system difficult to change.  On a somewhat more promising note, Health Care Comes Home: The Human Factors by the National Research Council (National Academies Press, Sept 2011, 200p) notes how technologies and practices are moving into the home due to the costs of health care, an aging population, increasing prevalence of chronic conditions, and a wide range of new technical innovations.
MethodsMETHODS.  Swans, Swine, and Swindlers: Coping with the Growing Threat of Mega-Crises and Mega-Messes by Can M. Alpaslan and Ian I. Mitroff (Stanford UP, July 2011, 224p) explores the concept of "messes" (a web of complex, dynamic, and wicked problems), our inability to test false assumptions and mistaken beliefs (swans), the inability to confront greed and hubris (swine), and problems in confronting unethical and corrupt behavior (swindlers).

Easy Link to 


Amazon widget

Note the widget at the bottom of GFB search results, which will greatly facilitate ordering of new (and sometimes used) current affairs books, often at a substantial price discount. We encourage you to order books via this Amazon link because GFB gets a small commission on each sale, which, accumulated over time, might help in sustaining this website.

Global Foresight Books is an experimental nonprofit website, the 21st century successor to Future Survey, a monthly publication that Michael Marien founded and edited for the World Future Society. Please visit GFB often, use it freely as a resource, tell your friends (click Forward, below), and think wisely about current affairs.