Cover Image: The Atlas of a Changing Climate

The Atlas of a Changing Climate

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Member Reviews

This wasn’t exactly what I was expecting judging by the cover and publisher (National Geographic). I expected a light overview of climate change information that would be delivered primarily via graphics. In actuality, it is a text-heavy lesson augmented with graphics and it is excellent.

The author tackles an extremely complex topic with writing that is accessible to the non-scientist and the graphics help support the text. It is not a light read and is best read in “sips” rather than “gulps” to fully absorb the material.

Don’t judge this one by the cover, the title and cover art do not prepare you for the content. My hope is that readers will pick it up expecting something light, but will be absorbed by the text and will find themselves better-educated for the experience.

4.5 stars Thank you to NetGalley and National Geographic and Timber Press for the eARC in exchange for an unbiased review.
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I received a free eARC from the author/publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

This is a timely illustrated guide to climate change - its causes, its development, and its impact. It looks at changes in the hydrosphere, geosphere, biosphere, and the urban environment, and why these are concerning. 

There is quite a lot of information to absorb, so I had to read this in small bursts, but there are plenty of gorgeous illustrations and maps to peruse. This isn't a children's book, so that's something to be aware of when purchasing it (although older children with an interest might enjoy it.) It is written in a very straightforward and easy to understand manner, and all the information is presented beautifully. 

Would recommend for people interested in climate change, earth science, and life sciences more broadly.
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This wasn’t quite what I was expecting. While it’s chock-full of great information about climate change, I was expecting something a little more child friendly because of the cover and this was very text heavy.
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The Atlas of a Changing Climate documents the measurable changes in our ecosystem using an accessible, conversational we're-in-this-together tone. I expected lots of snazzy infographics, but instead, it leaned more towards beautiful vintage and contemporary geographical maps and statistical models of a more academic nature. This is a very comprehensive collection of historical, current, and predicted data of the earth's ecosystems, explained in layman's terms.
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A simplistic writing and an educational tone, along with data charts, geographical maps, and engaging tales, creates an easy-to-understand and commendably comprehensible introduction to the changing climate. From the urban landscape to the historical outlines, this illustrated guide successfully puts across the concerning impact of climate tensions on the various facets of our biosphere. A captivating and factual resource that easily comprise the various aspects and effects of a problem that should and does inevitably bring us together to save something we can all call 'home'. Though, one would quickly realize that the book is largely garnered towards a Western audience from the lack of enough focus on the Eastern or other overlooked regions of this planet.
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This timely, illustrated guide to climate change highlights causes for concerns in changes that impact the atmosphere, hydrosphere, geosphere, urban environment, and biosphere. Author Brian Buma succinctly covers this global problem with case studies, historical data, and clear diagrams. A fantastic read and fabulous resource for a lay person to get a general understanding of climate change. I plan to add this to my classroom and school library.
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“The future is a moving target,” Brian Buma writes in The Atlas of a Changing Climate. Temperate latitudes are expected to dry, while everywhere else will get wetter. Freshwater supplies will change; this may not be obvious, as water is underground. Trees will be affected; this happens slowly and then all at once. The disappearance of the mylomys, last sighted in 2009, is the first known extinction of a mammal to have been caused by climate change in our era. Species today are going extinct at an increasing rate — at least hundreds, maybe thousands, of times faster than they have in the past.
The Atlas of a Changing Climate explains the science of the systems that support life in a “relatable and understandable” way, admitting that readers may react with “wonder” or “despair.” It is gorgeously illustrated with maps and diagrams, old and new, that explain the issues.
As far as the eye can see is not very far at all. At an average adult height, standing in an unobstructed area, turning in a circle, we can see about 30 square miles in panorama. But the surface of the globe is 6.5 million times that area. Thus, Buma writes, “it is hard to overstate the difficulties this scale mismatch causes in understanding the world and global climate change; it is a scale wholly disconnected from our individual lives.” This is part of how we end up endorsing the fallacy that “the weather where I am is unseasonably cold, therefore global warming is a hoax.”
For air and water, though, a journey across the globe is easy. Microscopic particles of combusted carbon — air pollution — are swept up in the ocean’s jet streams and deposited thousands of miles away. There, it can cause problems like “the acceleration of glacial melt (because it darkens the snow’s surface),” and, as the poles are no longer white, they will no longer reflect heat away from the planet, which further accelerates global warming. We may have a hard time visualizing the size of the planet, but the parts of the system connect.
A place’s average temperature is “a fundamental descriptor of climate,” but the average is not the only number that matters. Nature is also impacted by the range of temperatures that may actually be experienced at any moment: “variability.”
“It is not necessarily the slightly warmer temperature over decades that kills a forest, it can be only a few years of extreme heat, hotter than they used to be. Change can be sporadic and sudden, a series of thresholds that are crossed, not only a gradual process of warming average annual temperatures.”
When atmospheric carbon dioxide dissolves into water, it produces carbonic acid. Thus, as atmospheric carbon dioxide rises, the oceans acidify. In the mid-1800s, the oceans had a pH of 8.2, but today it is 8.1. Since pH is on a logarithmic scale, that means “the ocean is now about 25–30 percent more acidic than it was.” (For comparison: A similar change in your own blood pH could be fatal.) When the oceans acidify, there are fewer carbonate ions, and so marine animals find it harder to form their shells of calcium carbonate.
The book talks about cities as ecosystems in themselves. (Think of urban tunnels, for example.) It also talks about nature within cities. Did you know that the Treepedia project has a “Green View” index that maps which urban neighborhoods have the most trees? That is my own actionable takeaway. If you read this book, you might find a takeaway of your own, and that, in this case, would be important.
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This is an excellent set of visualisations of the spread of climate change. Whether an ominous Hurricane Sandy approaching shore, or receding glacier in Alaska, there are plenty of large visual cues to turbulence and temperature rise. We also see riverbeds mapped with lidar or aerial photography, indicating the many meanders over the centuries. And a span of lights at night indicating cities, mainly along coastlines.  

With packs of data behind each colourful map or graphic, from wind power to ocean currents, or beetle attack on trees, this will be a valuable resource for anyone wishing to understand these topics and the challenges we face. I believe the science material is too complex for primary school, but the graphs could be understood on their face by young readers. However, the ideal reader seems to be one with a grasp of the issues. Many of the locations relate to North America. 

I read an e-ARC from Net Galley. This is an unbiased review.
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2.5 ☆ rounded up

"... averages mask the heterogenous reality of the natural world; thinking about averages is both wrong in scale and scope."

In The Atlas of a Changing Climate, Buma provided a broad-based overview of earth's systems in order to give proper context to the urgency of climate change. 

"You and I both have a fundamental challenge in understanding the natural world: scale. 
We humans average a little less than 6 feet tall and can see about 3 miles on clear days from a level spot, which corresponds to seeing an area of about 30 square miles if you slowly pivot and look in all directions. 
The world is 24,901 miles around the equator and about 197,000,000 square miles in area. That is a difference in scale of around 8,000 times in terms of circumference and 6.5 million times in terms of area. 
It is hard to overstate the difficulties this scale mismatch causes in understanding the world and global climate change; it is a scale wholly disconnected from our individual lives."

This book is arranged in 5 chapters: Atmosphere, Water, Land, Cities, and Life. The first chapter especially pointed out the fallacy that the climate change issue should only be viewed from a localized stance. Because of thermal currents affected by the massive bodies of water on our planet, all of humanity is affected by earth's atmosphere, which is the closed system in which we inhabit. It is why everyone should be concerned about the massive surge, primarily propelled by human activity, in carbon dioxide levels -- from 313 ppm (parts per million) in March 1958 to 419 ppm in April 2021. By the final chapter, Buma summarized the impact of climate change on life. 

"Life only has stark choices when it comes to a climate leaving them by the wayside: migrate, adapt, or die."

As the title indicated, this is a book rich in visual accompaniment. Both the narrative and the visuals more often than not depicted an American perspective. When Buma highlighted an area, all but one or two were from the US. The author provided a history lesson in the earlier chapters but these decades-old graphics were hard to view in my digital ARC. The older images had also not been made with the highest resolution and they just looked blurry when I tried to enlarge them in examination. Given the title mentioned "changing," I expected more visuals to be presented at different points in time to document the alteration; that wasn't the case. Sometimes the placement of the graphics interrupted the narrative in the text and not always in a complementary fashion. Otherwise, the more current graphics were interesting. 

Buma is a professor in the Dept. of Integrative Biology at the University of Colorado at Denver. I was surprised by his academic focus because this book seemed more about earth sciences than about life. I've read a handful of books about climate change and the information was educational, albeit very generalized. However, the tone of the writing didn't always work for me, and I suspect that it was so the book wouldn't read like a textbook. Nonetheless, the tone was sometimes a tad condescending or intrusive with personal interjection (from his time in that particular place). The author's tone was also occasionally filled with wonder at the reality of our earth.  

Thank you to Timber Press and Netgalley for providing me with a digital  ARC in exchange for an honest review. Quotations in this review are from an uncorrected proof (ISBN 978-1-60469-994-4) and may differ from the published version (which looks like it will carry a different title - [The Living Atlas: A Visual Tour of North America’s Changing Nature—Through Maps, Charts, Infographics, and More). Publication date is October 26, 2021.
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For most people, climate change is an abstract concept. Hence, not many have a solid grasp of  what climate change is and how it impacts our home planet. With its numerous maps and graphs, "The Atlas of a Changing Climate' by Brian Buma makes climate change easier to understand. In other words, this book presents the conceptual knowledge along with visuals so that the reader not only reads about the subject but also sees the associated changes.

The writing style is accessible, with a tone similar to what one finds in National Geographic articles. The author organized the information in the book by Earth systems such as atmosphere, water, land, etc. Each chapter is packed with clear and factual information and captivating images. This book would be a great addition to any library.
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Timber Press
ISBN-10: 1-60469-994-9
ISBN-13: 978-1-60469-994-4
November 9, 2021
Non-Fiction Environmental Science

This book is an atlas of the many maps and graphs drawn of the Earth through the ages of man and comparing them to today's world. They show the changes occurring—changes dangerous to many life forms on Earth, including man. It opens with the author's experience on Isla Hornos, Cape Horn, and what he experienced there which exposed him to one human problem: none of us completely understands the spatial scale of Earth, our home. Nor can we experience the time-related scale of the planet. Changes in our life take place daily, monthly, or even in decades, but the Earth's changes are more sporadic. Some are daily or seasonal, others last decades, and some take centuries.

The images are wonderful! Some are in black and white but many in color. These graphics help the reader visualize the Earth and its changes. The book covers five changes, the first in the always in motion atmosphere, followed by the global buffer of water, the infinite variety of land, the (relatively) new environment of cities, and ending with the biodiversity of life. It also has an extended reading list on these topics. It is a valuable book as the images give visual appeal and the text valuable and understandable information. As the book explains, we have nowhere else to live—we are all part of this one world. We humans must readjust our view of ownership of the Earth to one of caretakers of our only viable home.

Robin Lee
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A thoroughly approachable introduction to the changing climate on Earth. 

Brian Buma breaks down the climate into sections (ex: Wetlands, Mountains, Grasslands, Cities), and expounds on each topic with maps, charts, and engaging stories. This is a hefty book but the fantastic images and historical data ensure that you don't get bored. The engaging text utilizes historical data from around the world. This book feels targeted towards a North American audience as many of the images and illustrations focus on that region. 

It's difficult to approach the topic of climate change without feeling overwhelmed or filled with despair. This book succeeds by breaking down the topic into manageable chunks and by placing humans within the myriad of systems that support life on Earth. 

This would be a great addition to adult or YA nonfiction shelves or a helpful if  lengthy introduction to climate change for anyone interested in the subject.
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This didn't focus as much on the inforgraphics as I was expecting it too. While there is a lot of helpful information to be found in this book, I probably wouldn't suggest it to people new to the topic as I thought I would have before picking it up. I definitely think it would be a better fit for people who already have a strong base understanding of climate change. It is a beautiful book though and I enjoyed sitting down and delving into it, even if I was often overwhelmed by the amount of information being presented.
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The Atlas of a Changing Climate is a much more accessible read on how the world is changing than I've seen so far. Brian Buma takes you through the changes in a few different settings: the atmosphere, water, land, cities, and basic life. Each section has plenty of charts, graphs, and maps that show the changes over the years. The whole book reads like an article in National Geographic, which I loved. It stays engaging and doesn't feel long and tedious, as some scientific readings can be. The book went by a lot faster than I expected. The images throughout the book helped give a little more clarity and perspective on the stories they went with-something that is super necessary when reading about things that are hard to understand at first! If you enjoy Nat Geo and/or want to learn more about climate change, this would be a great book to pick up.

Thanks to Netgalley and Timber Press for an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review!
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