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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > May 2019 > Books in brief

Books in brief

The Uninhabitable Earth: A Story of the Future

by David Wallace-Wells (Allen Lane, £20)

Cyclone Idai, which has just devastated the coastal city of Beira in Mozambique, is only the latest extreme weather event we have seen in recent years. According to David Wallace-Wells in his gripping new book, The Uninhabitable Earth, it is the kind of disaster that will become all too common as the Earth continues to warm at an alarming rate. Climate change has been described as a “hyperobject”—an idea so large and complex that it’s impossible to mentally get to grips with it. Which is why, I suspect, some commentators retreat into denial or simply shrug their shoulders fatalistically.

Wallace-Wells shocks us out of complacency.

In the first half of his book, he lays out what will happen if we do nothing to stop carbon emissions. The planet will warm by 3.2 degrees; Miami, Dhaka, Shanghai and Hong Kong will flood, plus 100 other cities; the world economy will lose cumulatively $551tn; wars will break out over access to freshwater; millions will die due to heat waves, floods, wildfires and pollution;drought will fuel political extremism, as it did with Islamic State. All this conceivably within our lifetimes, and certainly within our children’s. As the author writes, “the facts are hysterical.”

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InProspect's May issue: Tom Clark explores how British politics has ended up in crisis and suggests that a proper constitution could have avoided the current chaos and may well be necessary now to avoid the same problems in the future. Elsewhere in the issue: Kevin Maguire profiles Labour deputy leader Tom Watson who says that “if needs must” he would join a government of national unity. Max Rashbrooke examines Jacinda Ardern’s government in New Zealand and the ways the country is being transformed, ultimately suggesting that it could be an example for Britain to follow. Also, Stefanie Marsh follows the work of a donor detective who is helping children conceived by anonymous sperm donation to find their biological parents and Francesca Wade shows how Virginia Woolf is inspiring a new generation of women writers.