Bob Reiss
The Coming Storm: Extreme Weather and Our Terrifying Future

Books like The Coming Storm are why I generally like to read books instead of magazine articles. Unfortunately for this title, it is like a bad magazine article. Full of hype, innuendo, anecdote after anecdote, quotes taken out of context (and perhaps just made up out of thin air), and subjective hyperbole, Reiss proves, without a doubt, that he is much more of a storyteller than a scientist.

Readers who rely more on emotion than facts and persuasive evidence may find The Coming Storm convincing, but the presentation herein does more to hurt than help the environmentalist movement in my view. It's not all "bad." These kinds of works generally aren't. For instance, I was once interviewed for a magazine article. The reporter twisted my words and experiences all around making me wish, once I read the final version, that I hadn't bothered to be a part of it. The general conclusions of that article were accurate, in my view, but I still prefer a more straightforward, objective, and honest telling of the facts. At times, it seems as if Bob Reiss would agree with me. As an example, he quotes Ted Koppel (on page 176) as saying

The issues of global warming and ozone depletion are undeniably important. The future of mankind may depend on how this generation deals with them. But the issues have to be debated and settled on scientific grounds, not politics.
It is too bad the bulk of the book doesn't reflect this attitude. Reiss's basic premise is as follows: Increasing amounts of carbon dioxide and other gases are accumulating in the atmosphere due to human activities. (So far so good, except that Reiss doesn't even really try to prove this well-documented point. There are no footnotes, tables, references, graphs, pictures, or anything of the kind in the book. There isn't even a Table of Contents or Bibliography.) These gases are causing global warming. (This may be true. I believe it probably is to some degree, but not because of any of Reiss's "evidence.") Global warming has caused extreme (and deadly) weather which is escalating at a rapid pace. (This point is not proven within the text in the least despite its focus in the book's title. No statistical analysis or objective look at the rate of severe weather in the past is even attempted even though one would think it should be a starting place for such a work.) Finally, and most importantly, apparently, given the amount of space devoted to it in the book, the personal tales of those who have lost loved ones in the past decade due to heat, floods, wind related fires, storms, tornados, and hurricanes are the principal impetus and proof we need to heed in order to avoid "our terrifying future." As you can tell by now, I found this sort of approach entirely unconvincing and more of a settlement on emotional and political grounds than scientific ones.

There have to be better works available on the subject out there. Greenhouse, for instance, is a much better account of global warming. Yes, there have been "extreme weather" events in the past decade. Yes, there will be such events in the future. And, yes, there were such events before the 1990s too (although Reiss doesn't bother mentioning those). Will such events become more common in the future? Maybe. The Coming Storm: Extreme Weather and Our Terrifying Future, however, isn't the place for scientific confirmation of such a theory.

from the publisher:

"Genuinely unsettling and thought-provoking." --Booklist
Tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, heat waves -- acts of God or the results of man’s actions? To answer that question, this riveting book places readers in the eye of today’s deadliest storms.

If you think the world’s weather catastrophes are becoming more frequent and more powerful, you’re right. Ten of the last eleven years have been the hottest on record, filled with dozens of record-breaking hurricanes, floods, and droughts. Is this a coincidence, or is our civilization wreaking havoc on global weather? Journalist Bob Reiss shares America’s growing fascination -- and concern -- with the phenomenon of extreme weather, a series of interlocking human stories that together create an ominous forecast for the twenty-first century. The Coming Storm presents a frightening, enlightening, and fascinating portrait of an ecosystem off track.

"With a storyteller’s gifts, Bob Reiss shows how a series of freakish and colossally destructive weather events awakened scientists, politicians and ordinary people to the momentous stakes of a changing climate over the past decade . . . a compelling narrative of the people and events that have shaped this ever more urgent debate." --Eugene Linden, author of The Future in Plain Sight and The Parrot’s Lament

"Bob Reiss has taken climate change and made it personal. International in its scope but local in its focus, The Coming Storm is the layman’s guide to global warming -- fair, urgent and deeply unsettling." --Ted Conover, winner of the National Book Critic’s Circle Award for Newjack

Bob Reiss is a former Chicago Tribune reporter who has written for the Washington Post, Outside, Parade, Smithsonian, GQ, and Rolling Stone. He was a National Magazine Award finalist for his reporting on the Amazon and is the author of ten novels and two books of nonfiction. He lives in New York City.