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Climate Wars

Columnist examines the potential geopolitical effects of a warming world

By Lisa Van de Ven

Climate Wars
By Gwynne Dyer
(Random House Canada) $21

Don’t read Climate Wars. Not if you’re still trying to bury your head in the sand and ignore the potential global repercussions of climate change.

For those who prefer to face the world’s problems head on, though, there are few books that do so quite as directly as this one. Forthright and often downright frightening, the newest book by syndicated columnist Gwynne Dyer (In Future Tense, War and Ignorant Armies) examines the potential geopolitical repercussions of a warming world, and in doing so sets out to predict the future. And the future, at least the way Dyer sees it, doesn’t look so fine.

The book veers between two storytelling techniques. Dyer uses traditional journalism — citing an impressive list of interviews and source material — to build a foundation; then, based on that foundation, he creates a collection of imagined future predictions. In those scenarios, he portrays a world that hasn’t happened yet: a Russia in 2019, for example, where the former superpower fights for resource rights in the melting Arctic; or the United States in 2029, introducing new military measures to prevent massive numbers of Mexican refugees from crossing the border in their bid to escape the drought that has crippled their country.

None of the predictions are pretty: war, famine and escalating death counts are never easy to read about, but those are exactly what Dyer and the experts he interviews see going forward if the world can’t get emissions in check.

While the structure of Climate Wars can sometimes get confusing, with predictions for the future painted as if they’ve already happened, Dyer gets his point across with alarming dexterity. He refuses to sugar coat the potential effects of global warming, nor does he pretend that it’ll take anything but massive efforts to turn things around.

He’s not trying to argue, either, whether climate change is fact or myth; “this debate has ended, except for a few diehard skeptics,” he states. What’s important now, he adds, is reacting quickly to reduce its effects.

Consider Climate Wars a wake-up call, then. Which is why those with their heads still planted firmly in the sand should, actually, pick this book up after all. Because the one happy note about the predictions Dyer presents is that they’re still in the future. And the future is still ours to change.

Lisa Van de Ven is a freelance writer in Toronto.
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