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Book Review: A World Without Ice by Henry N. Pollack, Ph.D.

Posted Nov 25 2009 8:08pm
“Ice is nature’s best thermometer, perhaps its most sensitive and unambiguous indicator of climate change. When ice gets sufficiently warm, it melts. It asks no questions, presents no arguments, reads no newspapers, listens to no debates. It is not burdened by ideology and carries no political baggage as it crosses the threshold from solid to liquid. It just melts.”

– Henry N. Pollack, Ph.D.
Ann Arbor, MI

When former Vice President Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize roughly two years ago, many people lost sight of the fact that Mr. Gore shared his prize with one of the most prestigious scientific bodies in the world, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which is part of the United Nations. Given Mr. Gore’s stature and the success of his book and film, this is an understandable oversight but Mr. Gore has been consistent in sharing his fame with the scientists who make his work possible.

A key member of the IPCC and advisor to the highest levels of government is noted geophysicist Dr. Henry N. Pollack of the University of Michigan. Pollack has a reputation for explaining how the world works and he has written a new book, A World Without Ice.

Last month, I was contacted by Lisa Munley with TLC Book Tours. She extended the kind invitation for me to review Dr. Pollack’s fine opus. It is an honor and privilege to report to you my findings. In short, I recommend that everyone read this book.

On my blog I’ve been warning about how life will change when we have an ice free Arctic. That’s a huge problem and a proverbial canary in our hydrologic coal mine. However, Dr. Pollack’s delightful tome explains the historical and geographic significance of ice, the coda to the story of losing ice in the Arctic, which is a nightmarish world in which we have no natural accumulations of ice anywhere.

Sadly, humanity’s reckless abuse of its own habitat is taking us toward the fateful collision between carbon emissions in the atmosphere and the planetary absence of glaciers and sea ice. The good news is that we can seek redress with the globe before it kills too many of us in response to our abuse of its natural systems. We can embrace bold, swift action and turn the corner on the crisis of our own making which worsens every day.

To help start the process, former Vice President Al Gore has written the forward to A World Without Ice in which he heaps praise on Dr. Pollack. I echo the plaudits. This book is about more than ice. It is about ice and people, about the inexorable link between ice and the abitability of this planet to sustain us. We must cherish it and vouchsafe it.

Why should you care about ice? Its role in protecting us from the ravages of solar radiation cannot be overstated. Without it, we won’t have the same environment we do today. It is just that simple and the warning signs quite literally are right beneath our feet. Indeed, Shaopeng Huang, a colleague of Dr. Pollack’s and fellow geophysicist, has reported that climate change has resulted in a dramatic heating of subsurface rocks. Given that planetary ice accumulations are a vital shield against precisely that, we should be gravely concerned and take immediate action.

Ice is our friend. I shudder to ruminate on our world without it. If our environmental misdeeds lead to the extinction of it, millions, perhaps billions, of people will pay for the loss with their lives, as will additional thousands of endangered species. Dr. Pollack’s fine narrative explains why everyone should care and I exhort you not to waste a single moment before exploring this 300-page work from Avery Books.

You can learn more about the author and his work at
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