Feeling the Heat: Dispatches from the Frontlines of Climate Change

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Feeling the Heat: Dispatches from the Frontlines of Climate Change

Edited by Jim Motavalli, editor of E/The Environmental Magazine

FEELING THE HEAT is the missing link in global warming literature; a reporter’s book written not from the UN floor or the scientists’ lab, but from the world’s "hot spots"? where this dangerous shift has already started. Instead of conjecture, it documents with vivid, on-the-spot prose the dramatic impact of rising tides, melting glaciers, disappearing beaches and intensifying storms on people’s lives today.

For an increasing number of people, global warming is not an academic and scientific debate, but a matter of survival. From the frozen Arctic to the tropical islands at the earth’s Equator, people are being affected by dramatic changes in long-established climatic patterns and the very geography of the places they call home. As the planet warms at a rate of four degrees Fahrenheit per century, violent storms are increasing in frequency, icebergs are melting, sea level is rising, species are losing their habitats, and temperature records are being broken.

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FEELING THE HEAT is not a dry discussion, dotted with computer models and scientific back-and-forth; it’s a travelogue to actual world hot spots, where people are already coping day-to-day with the consequences of climactic disruption.

From China to New York, minor changes in what were fairly established weather patterns have already produced profound and permanent effects on local ecosystems. Fish species are disappearing, with ripples throughout the food chain. Birds and butterflies are moving, turning up in places they have never been seen before. Some plants are dying, others thrive. In France alone 10,000 people die from a prolonged heatwave that hit Europe in the summer of 2003. A mere few months later, the Eastern Seaboard experiences a cold front that sets records tumbling. Global warming is no longer a matter for serious debate–it is real and it is here.

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The locations for the book were strategically chosen because each represents a separate and important global warming impact, such as rising tides, melting glaciers, evolving ecosystems and air pollution. They are: the California coast, where sea level has risen between three and eight inches; the low-lying islands of Antigua and Barbuda, members of the threatened Alliance of Small Island States, which has proposed a very modest 20 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions; New Jersey, where "the largest and costliest ‘beach nourishment’ project ever" is underway; Alaska, deeply impacted by warming temperatures and melting ice; western Europe, under attack both by rising seas and a loss of warming Gulf Stream waters; Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, threatened by coral bleaching and rising tides; China, where rapid industrialization has pushed sharp increases in fossil fuel use; India, challenged by a vast air pollution haze; New York City, which has formed a coalition to fight climate change; the Pacific Northwest, whose mountains are slowly losing their snow cover; Fiji, threatened with total disappearance by sea level rise; and the Antarctic, where the habitat of penguins and other birds has been disrupted and polar ice is breaking up, as scientists predicted.