The Whole Story Of Climate by E. Kirsten Peters 

Happy New Year! OK, it’s a little late for that, but I’m working on getting back into a regular routine and this is my first post of the new year. There was a lot of busyness over the holidays, there always is, and, I must say, it’s nice to get back to normal.

I altered my reading schedule significantly and ended up picking up a book I wasn’t looking for that turned out to be a surprise treat.

You may, or may not be, well read on the topic of climate change, but I think this book is well worth the read because of the author’s unique perspective and her vast knowledge of geology-FYI: your going to learn ALOT about glaciers-she also delves into some history by highlighting certain geologists and scientists who have contributed to our understanding of climate change.  

The author, E. Kirsten Peters, earned her doctorate at Harvard, taught at Washington State University and has even written two textbooks. This goes to show that this author is well qualified to speak about geology and the information she is sharing should be seriously considered. She has written other books too, mostly about geology, but this is the first and only book I have read of hers. I must say that I have learned so much from her through this book! I have definitely learned more about glaciers from this one book than probably all the science books I have read up till now. If the topic of glaciers should ever come up at a party, I will have something intelligent to add to the conversation. 🙂

This book is written from a geologists POV so she has a unique, and in my opinion very interesting, perspective to consider. She starts off by explaining who discovered the Ice Age , Louis Agassiz, and how he did it. Interestingly, he was actually trying to disprove this “heretical” view held by a friend of his and in the process he proved it to be true. The main point of the book is that climate changes naturally and there is a pattern to this change. Peters explains how climate has changed over time, and we learn through numerous examples that climate alternates between long periods of cold weather, followed by shorter periods of warm weather, only to return to cold weather again. She uses several different methods to illustrate this pattern– e.g. glacial ice, ice core samples and seafloor sediment to name but a few, but by no means is she saying that we have not contributed to climate change. In fact, she makes a point early on in the book to say that this is not her intent. The earth may have its own cycle of “endless change” as the subtitle states, but humans are contributing to climate change and in ways I did not even realize.

She tells us about a new hypothesis currently being discussed in scientific circles of how the early agricultural practices of slash- and-burn to clear ground for crops may have been contributing to climate change. Time will tell whether or not this method had a role in climate change, but it was interesting to learn how and why trees are “natural carbon banks”.  She also talks about the coal fires that have been burning for years and their effect on the atmosphere and the people who live near them.  There was a lot I was unaware of regarding coal fires so this was educational for me.

In fact, there was so much that was educational for me in this book!  I really enjoyed learning about the different methods scientists use to study, not just past climate, but the past, period. For example, I learned how air bubbles in the ice cores tell us how our atmosphere has changed, the pollen record tells us more about which trees were growing in the past, I learned how glacial ice plays a role in erosion and even how the remains of warm vs. cold tolerant  creatures on the seafloor reflect past conditions.

I think her book is easy to read and I like her writing style. She was balanced in her approach as she addressed different perspectives for a subject that can be quite controversial. There were a lot of details in this book, but I personally enjoyed this. This book may not appeal to everyone, but I felt that this book allowed me to zoom out to see the bigger picture and all the complexities that are involved. And that made it well worth the read.