We usually try to stay focused on cognitive psychology here at Cognitive Daily, but today I did want to point you to a book review I’ve written in The Quarterly Conversation. I think Tim Flannery’s The Weather Makers may just be the kind of book that can change the way the world thinks about global warming. Here’s some of why I found it so compelling:
Perhaps most convincing is The Weather Makers’ presentation of the vast amount of knowledge about historical climate change that has been accumulated. The information puts our era into context, and provides a compelling rebuttal for those who say that a few degrees change in temperature is no big deal.
The book explains how a variety of geohistorical techniques have independently demonstrated that many of the epochal climate variations of the earth’s past can be explained by variations in the amount of greenhouse gases then present in the atmosphere. In the past, the earth has ranged from hundred-thousand-year ice ages that made vast portions of the northern hemisphere uninhabitable, to completely unglaciated periods lasting millions of years that turned nearly the entire planet into a primordial tropical swamp. The most dramatic and relevant of these episodes occurred 55 million years ago, when the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere rose from around 500 parts per million (roughly 1.5 times the current level) to over 2000 parts per million, probably due to volcanic activity. The earth, already much warmer than today, heated by 5 to 10 degrees centigrade, causing mass extinctions on land. The atmospheric carbon dioxide was then absorbed by the oceans, where it was converted into carbonic acid, which in turn wiped out shelled marine life as their protective armor dissolved. Today, if atmospheric carbon dioxide levels continue to increase at current rates, the resulting climate change will be even more dramatic, because it’s starting at a point where many more animals–including ourselves–are adapted to a much colder planet.
I encourage you to read the whole review. Then, read the whole book.