Climatologist Heidi Cullen was taken aback at her lecture on the prospects for global warming when a member of the audience came up with a practical question:
"Do you think I should sell my beach house?"
On reflection, the question seemed less surprising. She foresees a rise in the sea level that would drop the price of beachfront property — besides threatening climate disasters.
To limit the rise, she wants governments to make people reduce, over the first half of the 21st century, the millions of tons of carbon that she says have been spewing out as carbon dioxide from their cars, trains, stoves and factories.
She accepts weather as a local matter, just as Tip O'Neill, longtime speaker of the House of Representatives, proclaimed all politics to be local.
"Most Americans believe that we will not take steps to fix climate change until after it has begun to harm us personally," she writes.
"Unfortunately, by that point it will be too late. The climate system has time lags. . . . So, by the time you see it in the weather on a daily basis, it's too late to fix. . . ."
Her book, "The Weather of the Future," uses a broad itinerary to illustrate the threats she perceives.
It predicts more frequent and more violent storms, more hot spells, cold spells, droughts, famines and huge waves of desperate refugees.
She also notes threats that range from the possible extinction of the Bengal tiger because of increased flooding on islands off the coast of Bangladesh, and increased danger to dog sleds from melting sea ice in Canada, east of Hudson Bay.
She sees lucrative tourism reduced by warming of south Pacific waters — a warmth that blanches the colorful corals of Australia's Great Barrier Reef — and by the possibility that a hurricane will heavily damage New York's transit system by hitting the third rail at the Christopher Street subway stop. That station in Greenwich Village is already 14.6 feet below the level of the Atlantic Ocean, according to her figures.
Despite more than ample graphs and statistics, Cullen is likely to attract readers with an insistent style and quotes from people who claim to have been already damaged by global warming.
That goes especially for those who remember something of what they learned in Chemistry or Physics 101 classes.
"The Weather of the Future: Heat Waves, Extreme Storms, and Other Scenes From a Climate-Changed Planet" by Heidi Cullen (Harper, 352 pages, $25.99)