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

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  3,508 ratings  ·  419 reviews
Long known for her insightful and thought-provoking political journalism, author Elizabeth Kolbert now tackles the controversial and increasingly urgent subject of global warming. In what began as groundbreaking three-part series in the New Yorker, for which she won a National Magazine Award in 2006, Kolbert cuts through the competing rhetoric and political agendas to e
Paperback, 225 pages
Published January 1st 2007 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (first published 2006)
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Kristien I just finished reading this book and I say, yes, this is absolutely still worth a read (even now it is already 2019). The situation only went from al…moreI just finished reading this book and I say, yes, this is absolutely still worth a read (even now it is already 2019). The situation only went from already very bad to far worse unfortunately.(less)

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David Schaafsma
Jul 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: environment
“As the effects of global warming become more and more difficult to ignore, will we react by finally fashioning a global response? Or will we retreat into ever narrower and more destructive forms of self-interest? 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"--Elizabeth Kohlbert, the concluding paragraph of this book, published in 2006.

This book, Field Notes from a Catast
Elizabeth Kolbert was, still is I think, the main environmental writer for The New Yorker, though she writes of other things too, nowadays. 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 was 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 althou
Jul 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book, 'Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature and Climate Change' by Elizabeth Kolbert grew out of a three-part series she wrote for the 'New Yorker'. In this slim volume, Elizabeth Kolbert methodically explains the science of climate change and the warming temperatures of the earth. I think one of the most startling aspects of this book, for me, was learning that the study of climate change as it relates to the burning of fossil fuels actually dates back to the 19th century. This isn' ...more
May 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
It’s impressive how well Kolbert avoids doom and gloom. Neither does she understate the issue. She navigates the polemic (that’s been made false polemic), debunks the myths, observes from ground zero, outlines plans of action. It’s an excellent primer, well-researched and grounded. But ultimately, yeah: this was written ten years ago and we’re still not paying attention. Soon what happens next won’t be up to us.
David Tranvik
Dec 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing

“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
Apr 08, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Mar 18, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: nature, science
“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
Sep 09, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 19, 2018 added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: eco-masochists
The only thing more hope-killing than reading Elizabeth Kolbert on climate change see also The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History is reading one of her books several years after publication, knowing no progress has been made. What she writes is impossible to deny. This book was published before The Sixth Extinction, then re-issued in 2014 with a few updates that only confirm the bad tidings. Trying to sum up the book here I went back to what I said about Sixth Extinction. q.v. Though this bo ...more
Mark Stevens
Nov 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Elizabeth Kolbert’s "Field Notes From a Catastrophe" is more than ten years old (I read the 2006 edition) but don’t let that dissuade you from reading this brisk, concise overview of climate change and all the reasons we should be worried.

Very worried.

Kolbert zooms in and zooms out, from details to big-picture analysis. She visits the Alaskan village of Shismaref five miles off the coast of the Seward Peninsula. She heads to Swiss Camp, a research station on a platform drilled into the Greenla
Dec 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: eco
In Field Notes from a Catastrophe, Kolbert goes to distant places and interviews scientists about what they’re doing. She covers many areas of research, including the melting permafrost, the melting glaciers, Hansen’s climate modelling, the northerly spread of insects, and more. In each case, she effectively summarizes how scientists gather data, how they interpret it, and she explains the implications of this research clearly. Better still, Field Notes is not only informative but is also very r ...more
Lekeisha The Booknerd
Jun 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I read The Sixth Extinction a few months ago, so it was only right that I read Kolbert's summary of global warming and the American political system. Surprise surprise, the Bush Administration had no inclination to acknowledge global warming or the future of this planet. America isn't the only one, but it is (was) the leader that other nations looked to for guidance. I'm not at all surprised they bungled the snatch. I wish people would take this seriously. I very thought provoking read if you wa ...more
Timbre Wolf
Mar 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Really a well thought out book. Bear in mind, this book is now 13 years old. But the author does great reporting of talking to scientists of different fields, to communities already feeling and bracing for impact, the political and global aspects and throws in some good visuals. it's not overly bombarded with science jargon and terms are explained well for the unknowing. Really enjoyed this book!
Isaac Baker
May 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
This is a really good primer on climate change, the perfect gift for your conservative uncle who thinks climate change is a liberal conspiracy. Although he wouldn’t read it, which is why so many people still ignore this crucial issue: they don’t care about science and reality.

Published in 2006, I was struck over and over again by how little we have done to address climate change since this book came out. It’s depressing is that some things are still the same. James Inhoffe, for example, is feat
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
Jul 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
To cite a well worn phrase, this is a must read to gain an insight and understanding of climate change.....
(The updated and revised edition...)
Aug 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The content is not uplifting, but this message needs to be heard.
I'm reading through Lithub's 365 Books to Start Your Climate Change Library, a reading list in four sections (Classics, Science, Fiction & Poetry, and Ideas). This book is #2 of Part 4: The Ideas and #3 overall.

Really good intro to some of the key scientific ideas in climate change - thawing permafrost, changing migratory patterns, rising sea levels, melting ice shelves - as well as some of the cultural/political aspects that have made up its history - inaction due to "not enough evidence", cart
Women's National Book Association of New Orleans
The Women's National Book Association sent this book to the White House today (March 9) in honor of Women's History Month:

From the Women's National Book Association's press release:

In Field Notes from a Catastrophe, Elizabeth Kolbert documents her travels around the world to sites already affected by man-made climate change, including Alaska, the Arctic, Greenland, and the Netherlands. Kolbert not only witnesses rising sea levels, altered patterns of migr
Jul 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Just for reference, I read this book after having read The Sixth Extinction first. This only happened because The Sixth Extinction was the Chicago Public Library's book club selection. I am glad I was able to read both books. Both are very insightful into climate change but, in retrospect, I feel it would make better sense to read this book before The Sixth Extinction.

This book is entirely about climate change. The science and jargon is not entirely difficult to follow along. It should be noted
Sarah Boon
Nov 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Interesting to read this book from 2005 now, in 2018. Kolbert's book was one of the first to start to bring together the various threads of climate change happening around the globe. It's a well-reported and accessible book. But it's disappointing, when you compare what things were like in 2005 with now - there hasn't been much progress despite much political posturing.
Stacy Lewis
Dec 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Written before “The Sixth Extinction,” this book is very similar in topic but more limited in scope. Having finished it, I think I should send it to the president. But there are very few pictures and lots of big words.
Oct 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Elizabeth Kolbert wrote this book 12 years ago, and what is disappointing is the knowledge increasingly available while we still have done little about climate change. Her travels for this book included: Greenland; Alaska; Burlington, Vermont, and other climate change points of interest. Reading this book set in that period reminds us again where politicians have let us down.

For those seeking knowledge on climate change, it is an interesting book.
Livi Wolfe Nelson
Jan 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
She executed this in easy-to-understand way for those who have little knowledge on climate change, but still kept me very engaged. Makes sense since it was written over 10 years ago - but even scarier because we have not moved very far.
Oct 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Scientifically speaking, this was depressing as hell.
Jennifer Henschel
Feb 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Seriously scary stuff.
Kee Onn
Jul 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
A slightly dated book on climate change and global warming, but it only raises the question of why haven't we taken action on this even after knowing the impending crisis for a decade? 13 years ago, the author has already compiled and described the various measures of how the CO2 concentration is recorded to be rising, how animal breeding cycles are already adjusting to warmer temperatures, and how seaside nations already already planning for the inevitable inundation of waters in the near futur ...more
Apr 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Elliott Bignell
Apr 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I pounded through this book in a couple of sittings, captivated by the sheer, physical impact of its descriptions of the reality of global warming out in the field. The author has been reporting on climate science and mixing with scientists for some time, and it shows. Whether out on the ice in Greenland, surveying butterflies in the Home Counties or at conventions with alarmed scientists and obfuscating politicians, Kolbert has actually been there.

If you know someone still trying to deny the th
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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.

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