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Posted August 15, 2013
Climate Change is a young science, little more than a few decade
Climate Change is a young science, little more than a few decades old. What might be termed "Phase 1" occupied the second half of the 20th century - collecting data and perfecting the tools of analysis. The transition to "Phase 2" is now well underway - namely, a focus on taking stock of the implications of climate change, evaluating the remaining uncertainties and planning for the future of Earth.
The so-called "debate" over the reality of climate change that occupied the public forum during the "Phase 1" period is, thankfully, drawing to a close. The only "debate" that remains valid is the political one - What does the human race do about planning for the future of the Earth? Do we attempt to reverse climate change? Stabilize it? Adapt to it? Ignore it? Science can inform these decisions, but they are, ultimately, political - some segments of society will benefit from the decision that is taken while others will lose out.
Brian Fagan, emeritus professor of anthropology at University of California, Santa Barbara, has more-or-less "staked out" as his intellectual turf archeological and historical perspectives on human responses to climate change. In a series of superbly written and engaging texts that now number more than a dozen, he has synthesized his own work and that of other historians and pre-historians into works designed for the general public on various aspects of climate and humans.
The Attacking Ocean, written post-hurricane Sandy, is presented in three sections, each with four or five chapters, all of which follow a similar footprint mixing storytelling with expert analysis. The first section "Millennia of Dramatic Change" follows the impact of rapid post-Wisconsinan sea-level rise on, primarily, pre-historic European or near-European human populations - the now-inundated North Sea, the Black Sea, Mesopotamia and the Nile Delta. The second section "Catastrophic Forces" deals mostly with the post-Younger Dryas period up to historical times and takes a more global view - the Netherlands, Troy, Venice, India, Bangladesh, China and further tales of the Nile delta, along with some timely comments on tsunami impacts in Japan and Indonesia. Section three, "Challenging Inundations", takes the reader into the modern age of climate change with discussions on the impact of rising sea-level on extant coastal and island populations in Alaska, the Pacific and Indian oceans and the Mississippi delta with an update on modern Low Countries.
An Epilogue and several pages of Notes/annotated Bibliography round out the text.
Aside from the poor title (perhaps because "Rising Tide" has been taken?), too-brief an exploration of eustasy and isostasy, and (at least in this eBook version) one typo? error (page 225 - not, we hope, 13 oC by 2100!), The Attacking Ocean is spot on and a significant contribution to the literature of climate change aimed at the general public. Fagan writes with confidence and sober dispassion, avoiding the pitfalls that have lured other climate-change writers into a polemical morass.
Richard R. Pardi Environmental Science William Paterson Universit
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