Literary Saloon
Site of Review.

Trying to meet all your book preview and review needs.

the Best
the Rest
Review Index




to e-mail us:

support the site

In Association with Amazon.com

In association with Amazon.com - UK

In association with Amazon.ca - Canada



In association with Amazon.it - Italia

the Complete Review
the complete review - science / public policy



Andrew Guzman

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Overheated

Title: Overheated
Author: Andrew T. Guzman
Genre: Non-fiction
Written: 2013
Length: 230 pages
Availability: Overheated - US
Overheated - UK
Overheated - Canada
Overheated - India
  • The Human Cost of Climate Change

- Return to top of the page -

Our Assessment:

B : fine overview and call to action

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Publishers Weekly . 5/11/2012 .
The Washington Post . 3/5/2013 Juliet Eilperin

  From the Reviews:
  • "Although the book falters with some less grounded examples regarding disease, Guzman's argument is thoroughly researched and will discourage doubters." - Publishers Weekly

  • "With lines like "The changing climate will create a world of people dying of thirst and hunger," Overheated can be a hard book to read. But its strength lies in its clear-eyed assessment of the costs involved in various policy responses to the issue." - Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

- Return to top of the page -

The complete review's Review:

       Overheated is an appropriately impassioned work arguing that action must be taken with regards to 'climate change' -- specifically global warming caused by human activity -- in the contemporary world. Guzman's area of specialty is law, not climate science, and his book focuses on the possible and likely effect continuing climate change and global warming will have on humans, from the geo-political ramifications to the ones on individuals, rather than the scientific specifics to it; he takes it as a given that scientific consensus has it that the earth is currently experiencing global warming, and that human activity -- and specifically the emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs) -- is the major cause of it. This shouldn't be controversial, but especially in the denialist United States amazingly enough still is. Acknowledging the insidiously successful PR campaign waged by those with interests undermined by any talk of human-influenced global warming, and the disconnect between the scientific consensus (overwhelming) and public opinion (as much of the public remains dubious), Guzman does see himself forced to explain why climate change (and specifically global warming), exacerbated by human activity, can and should be taken as a given. Nevertheless, he can only argue so far and so long and, for example, though he provides considerable supporting evidence and discussion that the (in)famous hockey-stick graph (showing "a mostly flat pattern going back a thousand years or more and a sharp rise over the last 150 years" in global temperatures) "has it basically right, and this fact has been shown in numerous studies", readers who want to see it differently can, of course, find any number of pieces and papers (though generally of the journalistic and policy rather than scientific sort) assuring them that the hockey-stick graph has been soundly and completely discredited .....
       Guzman notes that it's impossible to predict with great accuracy just how much global temperatures will rise (and climate patterns will change) in coming decades, and he chooses a relatively conservative estimate of an increase of global temperature by 2ºC (3.6ºF) and considers the likely impact that would have. He notes that actual global warming may be lower (or, more likely, much higher ...) -- depending also on what actions are undertaken in the coming years and decades -- but also reminds readers that given the extent of the possible consequences -- the enormous damage, physical and human, and the associated costs -- even only a small chance of global warming on this scale should spur humankind to action (and given that the probabilities strongly suggest much greater odds of catastrophe, the incentive should be all the greater).
       Guzman addresses several of the large-scale consequences of global warming, notably the effect on water resources (which will be drastically curtailed by the melting of glaciers), rising sea levels (especially if the ice sheets really melt away), and the transmission of disease. He considers geo-political issues, especially over water rights, as well as the consequences of mass displacement likely if agricultural conditions change and coastal cities or regions (Bangladesh !) are made partially or largely uninhabitable due to rising sea levels.
       He offers a variety of scenarios -- and what is (or should be) noteworthy is that even if things turn out far from the worst-case possibilities, the consequences of even small-scale global warming are going to be very nasty and very costly. Guzman completed his manuscript before Hurricane Sandy hit the American East Coast, including New York City, and thus doesn't even include that example of the damage possible from higher sea levels and increased storm activity -- though it's just another example of recent devastating urban flooding to add to that of cities such as Bangkok and Djakarta.
       Guzman considers some of the range of actions that can be taken, from happy-go-lucky, wait-and-see (head-in-the-sand) attitude that shifts any costs and responsibility down the road to the oh-we'll-figure-out-the-technology-to-deal-with-it-when-the-time/disaster-comes attitude to more constructive and immediate (but, of course, also requiring payment of sorts upfront) action. Specifically, he thinks a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade regime are the most realistic approaches -- well aware that a carbon tax is -- especially in the US, where so many in their oversized cars already and constantly whinge about high gasoline prices despite the low taxes on that (especially in comparison to rates abroad) -- politically ... difficult to realize.
       Guzman's rhetoric occasionally gets the better of him -- you really should only write: "Engraved invitations had been delivered to malnutrition, starvation, and disease" if there were actual engraved invitations involved (preferably with illustration); used figuratively, that's just a silly sentence -- but his fundamental arguments are largely sound. Part of the problem of the climate-debate, especially as it unfolds in the public in the US, is that one can quibble with all sorts of details -- climate science is, on some levels, an extraordinarily inexact one (though it's misleading to focus on that: the basics are pretty clear) --, and no doubt critics can easily point to at least a few specifics Guzman mentions and find mitigating evidence or alternative explanations, but the foundations and essential points are pretty unshakeable: human activity -- specifically (though not solely) human-caused carbon emissions -- is leading to global warming, and global warming, if it increases at anywhere near current rates, is going to have very unpleasant consequences for much of humanity. Whether that simple fact suffices as a call to action -- well, look around you, and see how things are going.
       A tragedy of the commons-type problem, carbon emissions of course need to be addressed globally, and Guzman's focus remains almost entirely on the costs and consequences of inaction. The enormous difficulties of actually taking concerted global (or, indeed, much local) action presumably require a different kind of policy book.
       Still, as a call to action, Guzman's is passionate but, for the most part, not 'overheated', and one wishes that it helps in at least a small way to nudge readers -- and voters and policy-makers -- in the right direction.

- M.A.Orthofer, 5 February 2013

- Return to top of the page -


Overheated: Reviews: Andrew Guzman: Other books of interest under review:

- Return to top of the page -

About the Author:

       Andrew T. Guzman teaches law at the University of Califnia, Berkeley.

- Return to top of the page -

© 2013 the complete review

Main | the New | the Best | the Rest | Review Index | Links