Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Field Notes From a Catastrophe: Man, Nature and Climate Change” as Want to Read:
Field Notes From a Catastrophe: Man, Nature and Climate Change
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

Field Notes From a Catastrophe: Man, Nature and Climate Change

3.83 of 5 stars 3.83  ·  rating details  ·  1,512 ratings  ·  218 reviews
Americans have been warned since the late 1970s that the buildup of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere threatens to melt the polar ice sheets and irreversibly change our climate. With little done since then to alter this dangerous path, the world has reached a critical threshold. By the end of the century, it will likely be hotter than at any point in the last two million ye ...more
Published March 7th 2006 by Simon & Schuster Audio (first published 2006)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Field Notes From a Catastrophe, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Field Notes From a Catastrophe

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,970)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
This was more hard science than rhetoric which was welcome. Kolbert lays out the argument convincingly and compellingly. Because she is not daunted by the science, the argument comes across measured and deliberate - maybe even a bit understated at times - making it all the more effective. For anyone still harboring doubts about global warming, I'd like to think this book may well challenge their current thought processes.

Kolbert takes us on a voyage across Iceland and Greenland, glaciers in Alas
David Tranvik

“It may seem impossible to imagine that a technologically advanced society could choose, in essence, to destroy itself, but that is what we are now in the process of doing.” This quote demonstrates the overwhelming message that Kolbert is trying to convey in writing this book. She urges people to recognize the growing changes that are occurring on our planet and the need to address issue before for it is to late.
Kolbert’s book provides unique facts and observation that allow her to come to the
Elizabeth Kolbert was, still is I think, the main environmental writer for The New Yorker. This book was one of the first books I read on climate change, and is particularly convincing as it is based on actually observing what is going on in the Arctic, not on climate models, theoretical projections, or any such things as these (though I imagine that some of this stuff is mentioned in the book, I don't recall).

Kolbert is a fine writer, and although I suppose the book is a bit out of date by now
This book seems poorly-proportioned. It spends too many pages shoring up the existence of anthropogenic climate change and not enough time talking about the implications. Anyone open to the scientific premise isn't going to need 100 pages of proof before getting into the interesting part. Between assessments of the present and forecasts for the future, Kolbert also never pauses to explain exactly why this is a problem. I'm not a climate change skeptic by any means, but my biggest frustration is ...more
Field Notes From A Catastrophe is an interesting book that calmly lays out the evidence to support the fact that the earth is now the warmest it has been in the past 420,000 years. She then goes on to talk about differing scientists viewpoints of what this might mean. At the core, all of the important scientists in the field agree that the warming means that the planet is on the edge of a major climate change. The main point of contention seems to be the time frame in which that will happen and ...more
“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”
― Upton Sinclair, I, Candidate for Governor: And How I Got Licked

That famous quote from Upton Sinclair seems highly appropriate to any discussion of climate change in this country. Entrenched, very powerful economic interests control our political system and, to a great extent, our media, and those interests are determined that business as usual shall prevail in the production and distrib
Field Notes from a Catastrophe, by Elizabeth Kolbert, studies the evidence for global warming and the consequences of global warming. She argues that global warming exists by looking at current and past research taking place all over the world in many different branches of science. She lays out the consequences of global warming in two groups. The first half of the book is directed toward what is happening to nature as a result of global warming and the second half describes what humans are doin ...more
by now a dated review of the science and politics and climate change, but it was interesting to read a few years later and realize how little the election of a Democratic president actually alters the basic difficulties of achieving drastic change. Lays out pretty clearly the evidence that, as the last sentence puts it, "It may seem impossible to imagine that a technologically advanced society could choose, in essence, to destroy itself, but that is what we are now in the process of doing." Some ...more
As Kolbert states in her introduction, this booked is aimed more at the climate change sceptics than those already convinced but it is still a very good read. It is written in clear and concise terms while trying to be as objective and as calm as possible about the evidence there is for anthropogenic climate change, despite the obvious (and understandable) temption to dive into the implications of what we as a species are doing. Kolbert has managed to avoid the usual trap of preaching to the rea ...more
Christopher Cotrell
Sep 07, 2009 Christopher Cotrell rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who aren't yet convinced we're fucked
A good overview of current climate science, its history, implications, and possible courses of action and the political states of them. It's all in a journalistic style, which manages to give the whole issue and its history a bit of life and personality, without the nonsense of portraying climate change deniers as anything but fools or tools of various industries.

Like any reasonable overview of climate change, it's sort of a doom, gloom, doom, doom, doom, we're fucked if we don't do anything, th
Wanda Brenni
While perhaps not well written, this is a very important read--the information is there--the reality of our inaction obvious to all. The canary is already dead. For the first time in the history of the planet, we will be a species that is responsible for our own dimise as well as many of our fellow species. Perhaps in that the shift towards global warming started with the industrial revolution, and perhaps given our increasing numbers, this coming self made extention may have been somewhat out o ...more
Keep It Simple Stupid needs to be a widely-used approach to elucidating messages of long-term import to people. Not that I'm dense or dogmatically-inclined, but I can see how unappealing or difficult it may be for people to wade through books about global warming that are either stultifyingly academic or insultingly laden with emotional hyperbole. This book is short, and bitter instead of sweet; wryly journalistic while managing to avoid egregious finger-pointing and save-the-whales gushy sentim ...more
Pete daPixie
Kolbert's 'Field notes' is as up to date as you can get,(2007), on the hard data of climate change. She travels round the globe to collect findings from scientific projects, researchers and environmentalists to explain in simple terms the harsh realities of human impact on mother earth.
She visits both polar regions and many points between to present data on CO2 levels, ice-cap depletion, permafrost, rising sea levels, CFC emissions, third world growth, and inadequate international understanding
This is not a speculative gloom-and-doom story, but a great textbook on climate change research and the current state of affairs, with clear case studies of places around the world where climate change is already affecting the lives of people. The chapter on Dutch water management and the floating houses in Maasbommel is excellently done; the 'Ruimte voor de Rivier' (Room for the River) projects of which she speaks are now well underway and set to be completed in 2015. In the few years since Ms. ...more
David C
I recently got involved in a lengthy email debate about the validity and strength of climate science. A climate skeptic would take one look at the title of this book and throw up their hands and scream "Alarmist propaganda!" Well, I happen to agree with the alarmists. But what Ms. Kolbert does so effectively in this book is to take a very objective look at the current (up to 2005 anyway) and historical climate science, acknowledging its strengths and weaknesses, and distill the complex ideas tha ...more
I believe that one of (if not the) hot topic of the 2008 presidential election will be global warming (no pun intended...okay, a little pun was intended!). It is vitally important that voters realize the actuality of global climate change as it pertains to sea level rise, increasing temperatures, hurricanes, and rainfall. This is a book that explains some of these phenomenons on a level that is understandable to the majority of the general public. Ms. Kolbert is not a scientist, her background i ...more
John Alt
It all began with John Tyndall and Svante Arrhenius. In 1861 with his spectrophotometer, Irish physicist Tyndall identified a phenomenon we now call the natural greenhouse effect. He correctly saw that without this atmospheric effect all Earth heat would be lost into space and the planet would be held "in the iron grip of frost." An insomniac, he died after his wife accidentally gave him an overdose of the sleep aid then available, chloral hydrate. As he lay dying he said to her, "My poor darlin ...more
Mark Crawford

This is something of a miracle of concision--it is scientifically literate and helps to provide a more secure foundation for many of the well-known generalizations about the causes and implications of anthropogenic climate change. I especially appreciated the brief forays into computer modelling and other scientific methods profiled in the book: we spend a few days with Vladimir Romanovsky, geophysicist and one of the world's leading permafrost experts; we read about John Tyndall , who in 1859 b
Steve H
Another older (7 years or so old) book about climate change, replete with warnings and concern about the need for action. And in seven years, what have we done? Perhaps more study needs to be done. Doing something might damage the economy. We can't act if those countries aren't also going to act.

This book looks at evidence of climate change with both anecdotal and scientific evidence of the few decades to the last few million years. It explains some difficult scientific concepts fairly well so t
Since the author is a journalist, not a scientist, her book is more readable than a lot of the scientists who have written about climate change. She is just as passionate as the scientists are, and less ashamed to show her passion. She writes of her interaction with people who are actually trying to deal with climate change which gives the book an immediate focus sometimes not as apparent in the scientist authors. I do recommend this highly!
Roger Gloss
Elizabeth Kolbert's Field Notes from a Catastrophe has been called the Silent Spring of climate change, and that it may well be. Her clearly described scientific evidence of the catastrophe that lies somewhere ahead of us is enough to put the fear in most rational readers.

The problem is that Field Notes was published in 2006, and those of us who are not ostriches know that the foundations of catastrophic climate change have continued to solidify in the eight years since. Worse yet, there has bee
A must read for anyone who cares about leaving a habitable world for future generations. Convincing and backed by personal and scientific observation, this book details our undeniable complicity in our own forthcoming self-destruction. Elizabeth Kolbert makes a compelling reasoned case that we have all but closed the door on opportunities to slow, much less stop, the big wheels of environmental change that will soon lead to a future in which we struggle to survive in an unpredictable and infinit ...more
I want to take this book and give it to everyone who questions whether global warming should be concern. It is a small concise book on what is currently going on. This is required reading at PSU for students taking inquiries in Sustainability. All the small things going on around us should be a wake up call that we should all do our part locally even though our government won't act.
John Kaufmann
This book didn't live up to the hype I had read in various magazine and internet reviews. It was factually correct, but interspersed with too many "personal interest" stories about her trips accompanying various researchers, which I didn't find contributed much to learning anything about climate change. While the book was good enough to finish, and not objectionable any specific, there wasn't anything in it about climate change itself that really stuck in my mind as memorable, unique, or importa ...more
Erin Gunderson
Apr 04, 2014 Erin Gunderson rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: nobody - I'd hate to put anyone through that agony.
Recommended to Erin by: College - Freshman required reading
I despise this book with a fiery burning passion. Climate change is not a joke, but this book is. I finished it, but I was bored out of my mind. This was the book for the "Summer Read" my freshman year of college and profs spent all year trying to shoehorn it into the curriculum and it was awful. I'm not surprised that so many people chose not to finish it. I just didn't enjoy the organization of this book and was so bored and frustrated that I recall wanting to just throw it across the room a f ...more
What can I say about this book? It's pretty depressing in its way, because it outlines a huge amount of data (not speculation, data) that supports the general scientific consensus of climate change/warming across multiple fields—climate science, paleoclimatology, archaeology, biology, zoology, geology—and delved into the political perspectives globally (in which, alas, the U.S. comes across as feckless and irresponsible). It also provides some hope (not much), but it's an engrossing, although ve ...more
this is a nice reference for anyone wanting to understand climate change. admittedly, it's a bit dated, though the science is the same. the predictions available at the time the book was written are, of course, all outdated and underestimate current climate trends. the background is still useful and applicable and the information is presented in a very readable way. at any rate, read this or read something to educate yourself on the mechanisms of climate change if you don't know what's going on ...more
Emily Kimball
I'm amazed at how much information about climate change was synthesized into such a comprehensible book! Kolbert looks at climate change through various lenses, and the connections she made between scientific study, politics, the media, cultural values, human innovation, economic Even though I knew climate change was happening before, I held that view because educated people I trusted told me so, and I'm grateful to now have so much evidence in my hands.

The facts in here were a bit
I just recently re-read this (10/18/09) for the sole reason of deciding whether or not to recommend it to a friend. Due to its brevity and digestibility, I'd say it's a good primer book for anybody interested in global warming. Compared to others, the inevitable Bush party-bashing is pretty mild. The book also isn't nearly as harrowing as some others on the topic, though it certainly contains cause for alarm.

The book is composed of two sections, the first of which primarily catalogues a random a
The subject matter of this book was informative, fascinating from a scientific point of view and completely depressing on a personal level. However we can't take the position of hiding our heads in the sand and hope extreme climate change goes away. It's not going away anytime soon, especially at the rate we're moving to stop it. In fact it seems, that while many governments are willing to commit to something on paper, when it comes time to spend money or sacrifice anything they stop up short wi ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 98 99 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • With Speed and Violence: Why Scientists Fear Tipping Points in Climate Change
  • Storms Of My Grandchildren: The Truth About The Climate Catastrophe And Our Last Chance To Save Humanity
  • The Weather Makers: How Man Is Changing the Climate and What It Means for Life on Earth
  • Hot: Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth
  • World on the Edge: How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse
  • The Weather of the Future
  • Six Degrees
  • The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines
  • Global Warming: A Very Short Introduction
  • Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet
  • The Ripple Effect: The Fate of Fresh Water in the Twenty-First Century
  • Green Gone Wrong: How Our Economy Is Undermining the Environmental Revolution
  • Heat: How to Stop the Planet From Burning
  • The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century
  • The Great Disruption: Why the Climate Crisis Will Bring On the End of Shopping and the Birth of a New World
  • The Revenge of Gaia
  • Into the Storm: Violent Tornadoes, Killer Hurricanes, and Death-Defying Adventures in Extreme Weather
  • Climate War

Elizabeth Kolbert is a staff writer at The New Yorker. She is the author of Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change and The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History. She lives in Williamstown, Massachusetts, with her husband and children.

More about Elizabeth Kolbert...
The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2009 The Arctic: an anthology of the finest writing on the Arctic and the Antarctic (The ends of the earth, #1) Lost Fish: Anthologies of the Work of the Comte De Lacepede The Prophet of Love: And Other Tales of Power and Deceit

Share This Book

“We have to face the quantitative nature of the challenge,” he told me one day over lunch at the NYU faculty club. “Right now, we’re going to just burn everything up; we’re going to heat the atmosphere to the temperature it was in the Cretaceous, when there were crocodiles at the poles. And then everything will collapse.” 0 likes
“The permafrost is still warmest at the very bottom, but instead of being coldest at the top, it is coldest somewhere in the middle, and warmer again toward the surface. This is a sign—and an unambiguous one—that the climate is heating up.” 0 likes
More quotes…