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The Uninhabitable Earth

Life After Warming
Written by: David Wallace-Wells
Narrated by: David Wallace-Wells
Length: 8 hrs and 33 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (73 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

New York Times Best Seller

"The Uninhabitable Earth hits you like a comet, with an overflow of insanely lyrical prose about our pending Armageddon." (Andrew Solomon, author of The Noonday Demon)

It is worse, much worse, than you think. If your anxiety about global warming is dominated by fears of sea-level rise, you are barely scratching the surface of what terrors are possible. In California, wildfires now rage year-round, destroying thousands of homes. Across the US, “500-year” storms pummel communities month after month, and floods displace tens of millions annually. 

This is only a preview of the changes to come. And they are coming fast. Without a revolution in how billions of humans conduct their lives, parts of the Earth could become close to uninhabitable, and other parts horrifically inhospitable, as soon as the end of this century. 

In his travelogue of our near future, David Wallace-Wells brings into stark relief the climate troubles that await - food shortages, refugee emergencies, and other crises that will reshape the globe. But the world will be remade by warming in more profound ways as well, transforming our politics, our culture, our relationship to technology, and our sense of history. It will be all-encompassing, shaping and distorting nearly every aspect of human life as it is lived today. 

Like An Inconvenient Truth and Silent Spring before it, The Uninhabitable Earth is both a meditation on the devastation we have brought upon ourselves and an impassioned call to action. For just as the world was brought to the brink of catastrophe within the span of a lifetime, the responsibility to avoid it now belongs to a single generation.

©2019 David Wallace-Wells (P)2019 Random House Audio

What the critics say

"The Uninhabitable Earth is the most terrifying book I have ever read. Its subject is climate change, and its method is scientific, but its mode is Old Testament. The book is a meticulously documented, white-knuckled tour through the cascading catastrophes that will soon engulf our warming planet.... Wallace-Wells’ imagine-the-worst approach has become prescient.... I read it with an unfolding mix of horror and hopelessness, the way you might learn of a terminal diagnosis that affects yourself and your family and everyone else you might ever hope to know.” (Farhad Manjoo, The New York Times)

The Uninhabitable Earth is unabashedly pornographic. It is also riveting.... Some readers will find Mr. Wallace-Wells’ outline of possible futures alarmist. He is indeed alarmed. You should be, too.” (The Economist)

"Most of us know the gist, if not the details, of the climate change crisis. And yet it is almost impossible to sustain strong feelings about it. David Wallace-Wells has now provided the details, and with writing that is not only clear and forceful, but often imaginative and even funny, he has found a way to make the information deeply felt. This is a profound book, which simultaneously makes me terrified and hopeful about the future, ashamed and proud of being a human." (Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Everything Is Illuminated)

"David Wallace-Wells argues that the impacts of climate change will be much graver than most people realize, and he's right. The Uninhabitable Earth is a timely and provocative work." (Elizabeth Kolbert, author of The Sixth Extinction)

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We all need to hear this book

Well researched book about what global warming really means going forward. Very interesting and scary facts, which most people know nothing about. Made me want to read more. There is some repetition in the book, but the repetition was appropriate given the different contexts. Have been recommending this book to others, especially when the topic of climate change comes up.

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An excellent book on the human impacts of global warming

This is an excellent book to listen to for anyone with an Interest in well, the future of human civilization. David Wallace-Wells focuses not on climate science, but rather on the impact climate change is having and threatens to have, on human life. The book is highly intelligent, draws on a wide range of relevant literature, and is elegantly written. The author does the narration very well, with evident passion. It is one of a handful of audiobooks that I felt I had to listen to again after the first time I heard it, so important did it’s content seem to me.

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Empowering through Understanding

In short, although this book will make you feel terrible with dire predictions for our future together on earth, it also will empower you through education. I plan on listening to it again, as there is so much information it can feel overwhelming on the first go through. I appreciated how the information is presented in a way that makes sense to someone who has no scientific background. I usually enjoy reading over audio books, but in this case, I'm not sure I would have absorbed the material as well had I simply read it myself. If you only listen to one audio book, this should be it. Highly recommended.

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terrifying, but important<br />


excllent overview of the true state of the climate catastrophe. Not sure his optimisim is warrentef though.

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  • Ricky
  • 2019-03-17

Don’t read if you have depressive tendencies.

The book is realistic about what is sure to come and it’s not good... at ALL. So stay away if you’re psychologically vulnerable.

But we stagnated even when we knew 100 years ago that pollution is not good and now it’s too late to avoid a significant catastrophic future.

He does a great job showing what’s to expect with 2-3 degrees of warming.

17 of 19 people found this review helpful

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  • Steve
  • 2019-06-24

I tried to like this one. I couldn't.

I expected a jeremiad; to read the positive reviews this should be up there with Carson's Silent Spring, Schell's The Fate of the Earth, or Ehrlich's The Population Bomb. It isn't.

The segments on a potential future at X degrees of warming are all based on the latest science that would have been available when he wrote, but they devolve into an incoherent welter of conflicting statistics that fail to provide any plausible picture of the world over the next few decades--even as a projection. I got out of it that India and Bangla Desh would be among the countries most hard hit, that there will be more storms, wildfires, and sea rise as we go, but it all blurs together. The bad news is that this is most effective part of the book.

The segments on literary responses to climate change (which he clearly labels as going into science fiction) prove only that he hasn't read any science fiction, or any SF criticism. The historical segments on "how we got here," the political segments on how government will be affected, and the philosophical segments on what global warming means in terms of humanity's self-definition are all drawn from consistently fringe works that have captured his imagination. Worse, this part of the book pretty much descends to chiding us all as individuals for "lack of political will" to do something, while turning around and then pointing out that most of what we could do as individuals is pointless.

My favorite digression is on micro-plastics, about which the author details the harms at length, only to then mention after a ten-minute diatribe, "of course, micro-plastics are not a component in global warming," followed an hour or so later by a swipe at environmentalists on getting sidetracked by concerns about micro-plastics. Then there's the time that he argues that terrifying diseases unknown to humanity because they are thousands or even millions of years old could be revived by thawing ice and devastate humanity, only to buttress this with his sole example of it happening: some children who got anthrax from the corpse of a deer that had been frozen for ... 75 years.

It's important also to point out that the author is a technophobe (who manages to give a nod to a guy still reading Ted Kozinski), and an uber-preachy elitist. FYI I am very aware of climate threats and the need to take dramatic concerted action. If I were at all on the fence, however, the muddled nature of the book's first part and the patronizing elitism of the last third would have tossed me clear over the fence to become a climate change denier.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Joe Christensen
  • 2019-04-08

Classic mistake

The book is excellent ... at least, as good as a book involving the depressing subject matter found therein can be.

Sadly, the author missed the lesson of a lawyer who represents himself in court having a fool for a client. Listening to this audiobook is an experience in listening to the author's inner voice. Unfortunately, that inner voice does not translate well in performance. Badly broken up and over emphasized phrasing detracts from the experience of listening to the narrative, to the point where you turn it off repeatedly just to take a break from the effort to listen. Wallace-Wells would have been better off hiring a professional who better communicates the author's thoughts and ideas in a manner that illuminates, as opposed to detracting.

11 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • Ray Clark
  • 2019-02-21

Excellent audio book. Will give to my grandchildren.

I am grandfather, I would hope that my grandchildren forgive me for not being a better steward of this earth. I can only hope that they can forsee the path they we have led them to and do something about it.

19 of 23 people found this review helpful

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  • Shawn
  • 2019-03-06

Painful but Necessary

The first 12 chapters describe how quickly we are destroying Earth's ability to support life. Then some intelligent thoughts about it. A touch of exaggeration, but not much. The one great improvement would have been having a professional reader.

10 of 12 people found this review helpful

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  • Kilgore Trout
  • 2019-05-24

The author shouldn't be the narrator

This is a sobering and enlightening book about the likely effects of climate change. However, I found the author's narration to be rather harsh which tended to take away from his thoughts. I think a professional narrator would have done a better job of reading this book to the average listener.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Mitchell L DeStigter
  • 2019-03-12

Very repetitive

This book appears to be an expansion on an article of the same name that the author did for the New York magazine in 2017. Unfortunately, the book just repeats itself over and over and over for 8.5 hours. The points made by the author are valid, but there is no structure to how they are presented. The book ends up being a repetitive jumble of mind numbing statistics with very little context or explanation, and no critical or contextual analysis. I agree with the message being presented, and really wanted to like this book. However, I should have saved myself 8 hours and just read the magazine article instead.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • John
  • 2019-05-22

Disservice to Climate Change

This book is a typical example of an author trying to capitalize on a current concern to make money. Climate change is a serious issue that requires careful thought and analysis. This is far from it. Many may be turned off to the topic by this juvenile presentation of the issue. I hope that is not the case.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Sabin Russell
  • 2019-04-10

Relevant

Many will criticize this book for the alarmist content held within, nevertheless this book is relevant. We need to be alarmed, we need to be scared, and we need to take action.

I hope many of you will listen, give this as a gift, and hold a conversation about life after global warming.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Steven S. Crider
  • 2019-03-18

Wow. A book I really needed to read.

I have been doing what I do when faced with seemingly insurmountable problems: I to try to think about other things. But after reading this book I’m going to have a hard time thinking about anything else.

Well thought out and well written. Is a book that everybody should read.

I think the author did ok narrating but I only David McCullough can read his own books well; I prefer a professional narrator—thus three stars for narration.

5 of 7 people found this review helpful