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Home » Global Change, Land Use

Rewriting the history of global climate change

Submitted by on June 29, 2009 – 8:23 pm

Plows, Plagues & PetroleumFor thousands of years, humans have been changing global climate, maybe even helping us avert the next ice age, all long before the Industrial Revolution. Interested? Then you should read Plows, Plagues, and Petroleum: How Humans Took Control of Climate by Paleoclimatologist Bill Ruddiman.

I’ve just finished reading it – and I give it my highest recommendation- especially to those of you in need of more education on climatology and the human hand in changing it. Thoroughly well written and balanced, congenial yet scientific and always full of character even while delving into the underpinnings of climate change science, this book is both an enlightening and an entertaining education on the history of global climate change. Though I am familiar with Bill’s work, having read his most recent scientific papers and having worked with him on an even more recent one, I still learned a great deal from this book. It is tailored to those of you like myself, who have little prior education in climatology, as it explains, patiently, all of the basic climate science needed to understand climate change over the long term. And for climatologists, it opens the door to a completely new way of thinking about the history of climate change on this planet!

As I’ve discussed previously on this blog, evidence continues to grow in support of Ruddiman’s Early Anthropocene Hypothesis, which holds that the burning and clearing of land for agriculture by early farmers began increasing carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere, thereby causing anthropogenic global warming more than five thousand years ago. Plows, Plagues, and Petroleum, while not entirely rooted on this topic, uses this as a theme to unite its lessons on how and why climate has changed over millennia, and how humans continue to change it faster than ever.

I’ll admit that I read few books these days in their entirety, especially on work-related topics. But I began reading Plows, Plagues, and Petroleum both to gain its valuable insights on the history of global climate change and finished it because it is really a great book. How good? Soon to be published as a second edition!

Highly Recommended: Plows, Plagues, and Petroleum

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