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Plows, Plagues, and Petroleum By William F. Ruddiman

Plows, Plagues, and Petroleum
by William F. Ruddiman

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Traces the historical sweep of human interaction with Earth's climate. This book takes readers through 3 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 human impact on climate change.
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Plows, Plagues, and Petroleum Summary

Plows, Plagues, and Petroleum: How Humans Took Control of Climate by William F. Ruddiman

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.

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Plows, Plagues, and Petroleum Reviews

The activities of Stone Age farmers may have altered Earth's climate. This is the exciting but controversial theory conveyed by palaeoclimatologist William Ruddiman in his well-written book Plows, Plagues and Petroleum... [A]n excellent book summarizing and placing in context the age-old influence of humans on atmospheric composition, climate and global warming. Nature If you're not familiar with Ruddiman's hypothesis, you should be... At a time when some scientist seem to fear that open criticism will give the public the impression that we disagree about the facts on climate change--that it is real, caused in part by humans, and increasingly unavoidable--it is good to read of Ruddiman's faith in the scientific method and his willingness to let the process unfold as it should... Plows, Plagues and Petroleum is excellent reading for scientist and nonscientist alike. -- James White Science What William Ruddiman has done in Plows, Plagues and Petroleum, an attractive, well-written new book aimed at a popular audience, is to explore the geochemical and climatological implications of worldwide deforestation over the past several thousand years... Ruddiman's argument makes it clear that there is no 'natural' baseline of climate in the late Holocene from which to reckon the human impact of the past two centuries. -- Wolfgang H. Berger American Scientist William Ruddiman's provocative but plausible conclusion is that the economic behavior of humans began to profoundly influence global climate roughly 8000 years ago... Ruddiman's book has already begun to spark an important debate--a debate which economic historians should be eager to follow and join. -- Robert Whaples This well-written book does a great job of summarizing complex topics through simple calculations and examples, and provides the right balance of cultural background and scientific data. -- Matthew S. Lachniet Geotimes The book by Ruddiman is very enjoyable and easy to read. It also takes quite a unique perspective on the relationship between human societies and climate. For Ruddiman, rather than the climate being a determinant of the course of human events, the argument is turned on its head making human economic behavior a cause of climate change, even well into distant antiquity. -- Arlene Miller Rosen Nature and Culture Ruddiman's short book is an excellent primer on the various influences on global climate. He explains scientific concepts clearly and accessibly, and his melding of climate science and human history is fascinating. For these reasons alone, the book is worth reading. -- Erik M. Conway Journal of the History of Biology Plows, Plagues, and Petroleum is a primer on natural variations in Earth's climate and on how human activity is having even more of an impact. While some readers might find it disturbing that people have been influencing the planet's climate for millennia, others may be even more alarmed to think about climate changes yet to come. -- S. Perkins Science News [Ruddiman] reviews the ongoing debate about future climate change and provides a balanced and judicious assessment of the challenges ahead. This book offers valuable new insights into one of the world's most demanding environmental challenges. Population and Development Review The book is instructive and refreshingly non-technical in its prose. It also offers insight to historians as to how they might think about scientific and environmental processes ... and draw on these materials to write history... Given our contemporary industrial capacity, it rises some serious questions and concerns over the fragility of the physical environment and our relationship with it. -- Michael Egan Left History

About William F. Ruddiman

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 Preface xiii 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 Epilogue Chapter Eighteen: Global-Change Science and Politics 179 Chapter Nineteen: Consuming Earth's Gifts 190 Bibliography 195 Figure Sources 197 Index 199

Additional information

Plows, Plagues, and Petroleum: How Humans Took Control of Climate by William F. Ruddiman
William F. Ruddiman
Used - Very Good
Princeton University Press
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