In this sweeping work of science and history, the renowned climate scientist and author of The New Climate War shows us the conditions on Earth that allowed humans not only to exist but thrive, and how they are imperiled if we veer off course.
For the vast majority of its 4.54 billion years, Earth has proven it can manage just fine without human beings. Then came the first proto-humans, who emerged just a little more than 2 million years ago—a fleeting moment in geological time. What is it that made this benevolent moment of ours possible? Ironically, it’s the very same thing that now threatens us—climate change.
The drying of the tropics during the Pleistocene period created a niche for early hominids, who could hunt prey as forests gave way to savannahs in the African tropics. The sudden cooling episode known as the “Younger Dryas” 13,000 years ago, which occurred just as Earth was thawing out of the last Ice Age, spurred the development of agriculture in the fertile crescent. The “Little Ice Age” cooling of the 16th-19th centuries led to famines and pestilence for much of Europe, yet it was a boon for the Dutch, who were able to take advantage of stronger winds to shorten their ocean voyages.
The conditions that allowed humans to live on this earth are fragile, incredibly so. Climate variability has at times created new niches that humans or their ancestors could potentially exploit, and challenges that at times have spurred innovation. But there’s a relatively narrow envelope of climate variability within which human civilization remains viable. And our survival depends on conditions remaining within that range.
In this book, renowned climate scientist Michael Mann will arm readers with the knowledge necessary to appreciate the gravity of the unfolding climate crisis, while emboldening them—and others–to act before it truly does become too late.
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Michael E. Mann is the Presidential Distinguished Professor and Director of the Center for Science, Sustainability and the Media at the University of Pennsylvania.
He has received many honors and awards, including NOAA's outstanding publication award in 2002 and selection by Scientific American as one of the fifty leading visionaries in science and technology in 2002. Additionally, he contributed, with other IPCC authors, to the award of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.
More recently, he received the Award for Public Engagement with Science from the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2018 and the Climate Communication Prize from the American Geophysical Union in 2018. In 2019, he received the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement. In 2020, he was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. He is the author of numerous books, including Dire Predictions: Understanding Climate Change, The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines, and The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Denial is Threatening our Planet, Destroying Our Politics, and Driving Us Crazy. He lives in State College, Pennsylvania.