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[This Just In]

SUMMER SIZZLE
Now weíre cookiní

BY NINA WILLDORF

Think itís been unbearably hot here this week? On Monday, a Spanish territory in Africa experienced a " heat surge " when the temperature shot up 30 degrees within a few minutes. And one continent to the north, 18 Russians (most fueled by vodka, according to Reuters) drowned Saturday after diving into lakes in an attempt to find relief from unseasonably hot weather.

One man isnít surprised by all this death and destruction. Former journalist Bob Reiss, author of next monthís The Coming Storm: Extreme Weather and Our Terrifying Future (Hyperion), says the forecast looks bleak indeed. His book, which combines personal stories from victims of such weather disasters as hurricanes, droughts, and floods with extensive scientific research and blow-by-blows on the political-policy front, conclusively demonstrates that unless we turn off our lights and cut back on fossil fuels, our future will be truly terrifying.

Q: Global warming is something that weíve been hearing about for a while. Why write the book now?

A: The past decade was the hottest on record. The number of hot days have gone up and bad weather is increasing. You have to understand, Iím not a raving environmentalist by nature ... Iíve voted for Ronald Regan, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, and Rudy Giuliani.... the goal with this book was to connect all the dots in a way that wasnít done before, to give life to a subject usually considered dry.

Q: Do things look to get worse?

A: Of course. In order to reduce the effects of [the] human-induced greenhouse effect, we have to start cutting back on gases that cause the effect ó coal, methane.

Q: Movies like A.I. forecast the end of life as we know it, and blame it on humansí excess. Is the human race going to become extinct because of this?

A: A.I. made me a little angry when it got to its take on global warming. It dramatically portrayed the worst that can happen under global-warming scenarios, and thanks for doing it. But if you look at the way people use energy in that movie ó lights all over the city, etc. ó people were using 25 times more energy than us. Itís not realistic. I would rather talk about the worst-case scenario five years from now.

Q: Okay, so what is the worst-case scenario five years from now?

A: A category-four hurricane will be a category-five hurricane. Youíre talking about a difference between 10 inches of rain and 20 inches of rain. Youíre talking about a greater possibility of contracting tropical diseases.

Q: Are you trying to scare people into action?

A: Certainly my hope is that people who would doubt the existence of global warming or distrust the motives of environmentalists would see [via] rational arguments that they should act now. Anyone who cares about their grandchildren should be scared.

Q: Word is that Californiaís energy crisis has signaled the end of the hot tub, as people try to curb their consumption.

A: [laughing] A solar-powered hot tub would be fine with me.

Issue Date: July 26 - August 2, 2001