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Plows, Plagues, and Petroleum: How Humans Took Control of Climateby William F Ruddiman
Synopses & Reviews
The impact on climate from 200 years of industrial development is an everyday fact of life, but did humankind's active involvement in climate change really begin with the industrial revolution, as commonly believed? William Ruddiman's provocative new book argues that humans have actually been changing the climate for some 8,000 years--as a result of the earlier discovery of agriculture.
The Ruddiman Hypothesis will spark intense debate. We learn that the impact of farming on greenhouse-gas levels, thousands of years before the industrial revolution, kept our planet notably warmer than if natural climate cycles had prevailed--quite possibly forestalling a new ice age.
Plows, Plagues, and Petroleum is the first book to trace the full historical sweep of human interaction with Earth's climate. Ruddiman takes us through three broad stages of human history: when nature was in control; when humans began to take control, discovering agriculture and affecting climate through carbon dioxide and methane emissions; and, finally, the more recent human impact on climate change. Along the way he raises the fascinating possibility that plagues, by depleting human populations, also affected reforestation and thus climate--as suggested by dips in greenhouse gases when major pandemics have occurred. The book concludes by looking to the future and critiquing the impact of special interest money on the global warming debate.
Eminently readable and far-reaching in argument, Plows, Plagues, and Petroleum shows us that even as civilization developed, we were already changing the climate in which we lived.
About the Author
William F. Ruddiman is the author of "Earth's Climate: Past &Future", and has published many articles in "Scientific American", "Nature", and "Science" as well as various scientific journals. He recently retired as Professor of Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia, following many years as a Doherty Senior Research Scientist at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations ix
Part One: What Has Controlled Earth's Climate?
Chapter One: Climate and Human History 5
Part Two: Nature in Control
Chapter Two: Slow Going for a Few Million Years 17
Chapter Three: Linking Earth's Orbit to Its Climate 25
Chapter Four: Orbital Changes Control Ice-Age Cycles 35
Chapter Five: Orbital Changes Control Monsoon Cycles 46
Chapter Six: Stirrings of Change 55
Part Three: Humans Begin to Take Control
Chapter Seven: Early Agriculture and Civilization 65
Chapter Eight: Taking Control of Methane 76
Chapter Nine: Taking Control of CO 2 84
Chapter Ten: Have We Delayed a Glaciation? 95
Chapter Eleven: Challenges and Responses 106
Part Four: Disease Enters the Picture
Chapter Twelve: But What about Those CO 2 "Wiggles"? 119
Chapter Thirteen: The Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Which One? 127
Chapter Fourteen: Pandemics, CO 2 , and Climate 139
Part Five: Humans in Control
Chapter Fifteen: Greenhouse Warming: Tortoise and Hare 151
Chapter Sixteen: Future Warming: Large or Small? 159
Chapter Seventeen: From the Past into the Distant Future 169
Chapter Eighteen: Global-Change Science and Politics 179
Chapter Nineteen: Consuming Earth's Gifts 190
Figure Sources 197
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