9780691121642

Plows, Plagues, And Petroleum

by
  • ISBN13:

    9780691121642

  • ISBN10:

    0691121648

  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2005-08-01
  • Publisher: Princeton Univ Pr

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Supplemental Materials

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Summary

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 CO2 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.

Author Biography

William F. Ruddiman recently retired as Professor of Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
ix
Preface xiii
Part One What Has Controlled Earth's Climate?
Climate and Human History
5(12)
Part Two Nature in Control
Slow Going for a Few Million Years
17(8)
Linking Earth's Orbit to Its Climate
25(10)
Orbital Changes Control Ice-Age Cycles
35(11)
Orbital Changes Control Monsoon Cycles
46(9)
Stirrings of Change
55(10)
Part Three Humans Begin to Take Control
Early Agriculture and Civilization
65(11)
Taking Control of Methane
76(8)
Taking Control of CO2
84(11)
Have We Delayed a Glaciation?
95(11)
Challenges and Responses
106(13)
Part Four Disease Enters the Picture
But What about Those CO2 ``Wiggles''?
119(8)
The Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Which One?
127(12)
Pandemics, CO2, and Climate
139(12)
Part Five Humans in Control
Greenhouse Warming: Tortoise and Hare
151(8)
Future Warming: Large or Small?
159(10)
From the Past into the Distant Future
169(10)
Epilogue
Global-Change Science and Politics
179(11)
Consuming Earth's Gifts
190(5)
Bibliography 195(2)
Figure Sources 197(2)
Index 199

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