While the recent work of climate scientists has added greatly to our understanding of the fragility of climate, the public rarely hears from geologists – even though geologists have been studying climate change for almost 200 years. The typical American has the impression that climate would be stable if it weren’t for industrialization and the production of greenhouse gases from smokestacks and cars. However, geologic history reveals a ceaselessly changing climate running back into the time millions of years before the modern economy. As The Whole Story of Climate explains, several long, cold spells have been punctuated by short, warm ones. We are, in fact, currently living in one of the short, warm periods that the Earth has seen many times before. There is even a serious hypothesis worth exploring that if it weren’t for the greenhouse gases created for millennia by agriculture we would today be headed back into a time of bitterly cold temperatures worthy of the mastodons and mammoths many of us read about as children.
I hope that The Whole Story of Climate represents a new voice in the public debate and that learning about the geologic perspective on climate change will enrich your own views. There is much worth discussing in the landscape of climate, both some of the technical issues and the broader political questions about how we choose to respond to what we understand about the Earth and how her climate varies. For myself, I believe that once we come to grips with the fact that climate is bound to evolve, we will see it is past time to start new conversations not predicated on the framework of somehow holding climate static through the sacrifices of carbon taxes or caps. We can adopt what carbon policies we choose, but we also surely had better invest in tools for climate adaptation and mitigation. It’s time we begin to think about how we will try to cope with sharp changes in weather patterns, those that could be either in the direction of warmer or colder conditions. For the important point is and always will remain that if we think of climate change as our enemy, we will always be defeated. For change is coming, and it will reshape our world. Our goal cannot be to hold climate static, but to understand its menacing and manic moods – and adapt as nimbly as we can to changes in whatever directions and at whatever rates they arrive.
Here’s More Evidence: