Climate, History, and the Modern World

Climate, History, and the Modern World

Climate, History, and the Modern World

Climate, History, and the Modern World

Synopsis

In this internationally acclaimed book, Hubert Lamb explores what we know about climate, how the past record of climate can be reconstructed, the causes of climatic variation, and its impact on human affairs now and in the historical and prehistorical past. This second edition incorporates important new material on recent advances in weather forecasting, global warming, the ozone layer, pollution and population growth. Providing a valuable introduction to the problems and results of the most recent research activity, this book extends our understanding of the interactions between climate and history and discusses implications for future climatic fluctuations and forecasting.

Excerpt

We live in a world that is increasingly vulnerable to climatic shocks. After some decades in which it seemed that technological advance had conferred on mankind a considerable degree of immunity to the harvest failures and famines that afflicted our forefathers, population pressure and some other features of the modern world have changed the situation. In the years since about 1960, moreover, the climate has behaved less obligingly than we had become used to earlier in the century. And there is alarm about how man’s activities might inadvertently upset the familiar climatic regime and therefore disrupt the food production which is geared to it. This concern has in recent years largely replaced the debate which had begun earlier about the possibilities of deliberate action to change world climate so as to increase the total cultivable area. Serious anxieties have been aroused by respected scientists, acknowledged as experts in the field, warning of dire perils: that the next ice age may be now due to begin, and could come upon us very quickly, or that the side-effects of man’s activities and their ever-growing scale may soon tip the balance of world climate the other way and for a few centuries produce a climate warm enough to melt the Greenland and Antarctic ice-caps, raising the sea level and drowning most of the world’s great cities.

This book examines what we know about climate, and its impact on human affairs now and in the historical and prehistoric past, and how we may better understand the problem of climatic fluctuations and changes. Climatic forecasting in the strict sense may be far off, though premature claims are made from many sides. But much has been learnt about the laws which govern the behaviour of climate. We are already in a much better position than previous generations to understand the past and assess our present situation, so as to make more rational provision for the future than our forefathers could.

Many parts of the world have experienced more extremes of weather of various kinds in the last fifteen to twenty-five years than for a long time past and have suffered losses, which have affected political decisions and managerial decisions in industry and land-use. Energy problems are also involved.

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