Waking the Giant Discusses Earthly Disruptions to the Environment

While we transmit more than two million tweets a day and nearly one hundred trillion e-mails each year, we’re also emitting record amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2). Bill McGuire, professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, expects our continued rise in greenhouse gas emissions to awaken a slumbering giant: the Earth’s crust. In Waking the Giant: How a changing climate triggers earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanoes (Oxford University Press), he explains that when the Earth’s crust (or geosphere) becomes disrupted from rising temperatures and a CO2-rich atmosphere, natural disasters strike more frequently and with catastrophic force.

Applying a “straightforward presentation of what we know about how climate and the geosphere interact,” the book links previous warming periods 20,000 to 5,000 years ago with a greater abundance of tsunamis, landslides, seismic activity and volcanic eruptions. McGuire urgently warns of the “tempestuous future of our own making” as we progressively inch toward a similar climate.

Despite his scientific testimony to Congress stating “what is going on in the Arctic now is the biggest and fastest thing that Nature has ever done” and the “incontrovertible” data that the Earth’s climate draws lively response from the geosphere, brutal weather events are still not widely seen as being connected to human influence. Is our global population sleepwalking toward imminent destruction, he asks, until “it is obvious, even to the most entrenched denier, that our climate is being transformed?”