Anyone who was paying attention to global temperatures in 2015 probably knew what was coming on Thursday morning.
Yep, 2015 was the hottest year since modern records began in 1880. Though the latter part of the year was boosted by El Niño, 2015 continued a trend of record-breaking temperatures, with 15 of the 16 hottest years occurring since 2001.
At the start her book Towards a warmer world: what climate change will mean for New Zealand’s future science journalist Veronika Meduna called it:
The year 2014 was the hottest on record since we’ve begun collecting global temperature measurements in 1880, but the generations alive in 2100 won’t remember that. Even at its midway point, 2015 was already promising to take over this dubious record, and there will be many years between our time and theirs that will supersede it. In fact, from the perspective of the end of this century, the record-warm years we live in now will look extremely cold.
From her years of reporting – you probably know her through Radio New Zealand’s Our Changing World – Meduna has a lovely touch when writing about complex topics in an accessible way.
Towards a warmer world is a quick read, clocking in at less than 80 pages (sans references): it reads more like a long essay than a book. Without in-text citations or footnotes, the text flows well – though that style perhaps won’t suit those who prefer to see citation information immediately.
But Towards a warmer world isn’t the book for those wanting to delve deep into the science of climate change. It’s a good place to start though, with Meduna giving a clear and readable overview of the key points. She discusses the weather we saw in June 2015 – storms, floods, some of the highest June rainfalls recorded in various New Zealand towns – and how a warming atmosphere likely contributed.
She talks to New Zealand scientists, including some of the big names like James Renwick and Tim Naish about their research, but also about the implications of a warming world that are becoming more apparent.
It’s been a slow trend to move away from an emphasis on “global warming” – and all the jokes about warmer weather sounding like a good thing – to the broader implications of what a warm atmosphere will bring: higher sea levels, more frequent and intense storms, shifting species boundaries and so forth.
That’s one of the strengths of Meduna’s book. She narrows the complex, sometimes confusing, climate science down to what it will mean for us. What changes will New Zealand see in the coming century and what ought we be preparing for.
And that isn’t just limited to sea level rise (though that is an important effect for New Zealand, our coastline is the tenth largest in the world); Meduna covers agricultural and horticultural issues, conservation, the possibility for increased wildfires and the potential for pest species to expand their range.
If climate science and the implications of climate change seem overwhelming, this would be a good place to start with plenty of further reading recommended at the end.
Towards a Warmer World: what climate change will be for New Zealand’s future, Veronika Meduna, BWB Texts.
Featured image: Hoffellsjökull Glacier – Iceland, Flickr CC, Cheryl Strahl.