Long Johns or Sunscreen?
By E. Kirsten Peters
Prometheus Books, $26.00, 290 pages
A complete guide to climate: past, present and–not so much. Dr. E. Kirstin Peters has written a fascinating and complex book about 460,000 years of climate history. She uses brief biographies of the first climate pioneers who used their Mark One Eyeballs to observe the evidence of how the land was sculptured by glaciers and ancient sea levels. At first the evidence was rough, and not until the nineteen fifties, sixties and later were ice cores and sea floor cores available for precision measurements of the chronology and magnitude of warm and cold periods. This story alone, of how the scientific method was applied and the vision of its early practitioners, makes this book worth reading.
First, a broad look at climate over time. For most of the times we can document, the world has been one of ice punctuated by brief periods of warm. The changes could occur over periods as short as 30 to 50 years, not centuries or eons, as we would prefer to think. The latest warm period, that we enjoy today is the longest on record. Why? We don’t know. Agriculture is a likely suspect. What’s going to happen? Probably gradual warming with attendant dislocations in weather patterns.
Dr. Kirsten spends the last couple of chapters explaining why current research is complicated by the fact that it is conducted mostly by large groups which must compete for funding, must work closely together and whose results are subject to a media that is not necessarily accurate or unbiased. Therefore, in the near term, there is not much anyone can be sure of. ||Nate Silver, in his book The Signal and the Noise, includes a chapter on the statistical study of climate prediction which would complement the area of statistical aspects of climate research touched on by Dr. Peters. What I take away from this book is that though warming is likely, it’s not certain and the change may come quickly. The one thing we can say for certain in that there are way too many people worldwide to make the necessary adjustments. Good luck.
Reviewed By Norman West