"The Uninhabitable Earth" by David Wallace-Wells


The Uninhabitable Earth Image credit: Tim Duggan Books via APnews.com

Climate change is a very real and serious threat facing our world. However, some people have still not fully grasped its true impact on life as we know it. For those who want to learn more about the potential future climate change creates, New York Times Bestseller ‘The Uninhabitable Earth’ gives you a no holds barred look at the true consequences of global warming.

A Quick Summary

In July 2017, David Wallace-Wells wrote an article called ‘The Uninhabitable Earth’ for the ‘New York’ magazine. Two years later he expanded on those thoughts in his book of the same name. We have all heard the fact that global warming will result in extreme weather events and rising sea levels, but there is so much more not caring about climate change could result in.

Climate wars, refugee emergencies, food shortages and economic devastation are some of the possible issues that are likely to occur as part of global warming with droughts and famine affecting areas where crops are grown and wildfires pushing people out of their homes. Global politics will change and life as we know it will no longer be sustainable.

‘The Uninhabitable Earth’ is not meditations on some far-flung future, but real warnings related to a near future we can already see taking shape. It is a warning that things are already starting to change and that we have little time to try and change things to stop the world as we know it falling into disaster.

The book is not just a warning, it is a call to action. It asks us all to take responsibility for the fate of the Earth. It is not a book focussed on solutions though it recognizes that these do exist from things like public investment in green energy and carbon taxes. But it also suggests things individuals can do like shifting their diets away from beef and dairy. It paints a pretty grim picture of the future if we don’t start putting solutions into practice.

However, the book does argue that even with active intervention the effects of climate change are already starting and will have catastrophic impact across the globe. With warnings of earthquakes, floods, disease outbreaks and food shortages it is hard to disagree with the message as we see these events reported almost daily in the news.

About the Author

David Wallace-Wells is an American journalist born in New York in 1982. His maternal grandparents were Jews who fled Nazi Germany in 1939, so it’s not beyond the realm of reason he has been brought up without rose tinted glasses from a very young age. He graduated in 2004 from Brown University with a degree in History before beginning his journalism career.

He mostly writes about Climate change and covered the COVID-19 pandemic extensively as editor-at-large for ‘New York’ magazine. He provides a weekly newsletter for ‘The New York Times’ and contributes to ‘The New York Times Magazine’. He was made a National Fellow at ‘New America’ in 2019.

He has provided writing for ‘The Guardian’ in the UK on climate change, writing an article about the necessity to adapt in August 2021. He has also appeared on the controversial ‘The Joe Rogan Experience’ podcast, though it does not seem like he was involved in the COVID-19 misinformation disaster but simply appeared to discuss Climate Change. He previously worked as deputy editor of ‘The Paris Review’.

Book Reception

The book has had a fairly positive reception in spite of its eco-apocalyptic predictions. Farhad Manjoo of ‘The New York Times’ described ‘The Uninhabitable Earth’ as “the most terrifying book I have ever read” with Andrew Solomon, author of ‘The Noonday Demon’, agreeing saying it’s message “hits you like a comet”. Timothy Snyder, author of ‘Black Earth’, may have put it best by saying “If we don’t want our grandchildren to curse us, we had better read this book.”

The writing has been described as beautiful, poetic, vivid and powerful. Many have said this makes the book very readable despite its terrifying contents. Wallace-Wells has been described as “an extremely adept storyteller” by ‘Slate’ and the message it presents is clearly one that many people feel should not be ignored.

On the other side, the book has been criticized for the dramatic depictions it gives of future life as alarmist and over-shocking. However, ‘The Economist’ rightly points out that the future in this book is alarming and is something that should not be ignored but one we should get alarmed by. John Gibbons of ‘The Irish Times’ did provide one criticism that stood out, which is that while the book focuses on the impact of climate change of humans it does nothing to consider the impact on other species.

The book has been fairly well received outside of the press. It was nominated for a Goodreads Choice Award for ‘Best Science & Technology) in 2019 losing out to Caitlin Doughty’s “Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?”. The majority of Goodreads readers, 40%, rate the book at 4 stars. Most praise the writing and message provided, though some lament that it doesn’t provide the science of climate change or creative solutions to help save the planet. On Amazon, 70% of readers give the book a 5 star rating and it is #35 on the Climatology Best Sellers list.

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Where to Buy

If you are interested in getting a copy of the book there are a few formats available with the book having paperback, hardback, e-book and audiobook options available. You can purchase a copy for yourself at:

  • https://www.amazon.com/Uninhabitable-Earth-Life-After-Warming/dp/0525576711
  • https://www.walmart.com/ip/The-Uninhabitable-Earth-Life-After-Warming-Paperback-9780525576716/269560243
  • https://www.target.com/p/the-uninhabitable-earth-by-david-wallace-wells-paperback/-/A-78311125
  • https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-uninhabitable-earth-david-wallace-wells/1129708622
  • https://www.powells.com/book/the-uninhabitable-earth-9780525576709

It will also likely be available at your local independent bookstores. If you cannot buy the book you should check your public library for a copy. The book also has an adaptation for Young Adults as well as a Spanish translation making it accessible to more readers.