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'Weather Makers' Seeks to End Climate Debate

Discussions of global warming and climate change often center around anecdote and cyclical analysis. Scientist Tim Flannery seeks to clarify current -- and future -- conditions in The Weather Makers: How Man is Changing the Climate and What it Means for Life on Earth.

Flannery, an Australian biologist and paleontologist who says he had been skeptical of theories of global warming in the past, looks at the history of Earth's weather to help describe its future. And the picture he paints of the coming 100 years is not pretty.

As "greenhouse gas" levels rise, Flannery warns that the Earth is nearing a "global climatic tipping point," in which swaths of animal species will be lost to extinction.

The Weather Makers is the product of several years of research, as Flannery sought to identify large-scale climate patterns and trends.

Climate change has shaped evolution, Flannery says -- and fluctuations in weather are becoming more extreme. Since 1990, hurricanes and other storms have set records for their intensity and frequency, including the first South Atlantic hurricane ever recorded.

While it is intended as an antidote to the sometimes confusing claims made in the debate over the world's climate, The Weather Makers also has a practical side. Flannery offers guidance to his readers -- whether they're politicians, activists, or simply people who agree with his arguments against rampant consumption and pollution.

Among his suggestions: expanding efforts to derive power from wind, solar and other renewable power sources like geothermal energy; and acting to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Australia, like the United States, has not signed the Kyoto Treaty against global warming. But last fall, Australia's environmental minister, Ian Campbell, said the debate on climate change is over. The Australian government owes it to the public to represent the truth, he said. Adding that global warming poses a serious threat to Australia, Campbell said he agrees with contentions in Flannery's book.

A contributor to the New York Review of Books and the Times Listerary Supplement, Flannery's other books include The Future Eaters and Throwim Way Leg. He also wrote The Eternal Frontier, an ecological history of North America. Flannery is currently the director of the South Australian Museum.

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