The Story of Earth’s Climate in 25 Discoveries: How Scientists Found the Connections Between Climate and Life

Columbia Univ. Mar. 2024. 472p. ISBN 9780231203586. $38. SCI
Prothero (geological sciences, California State Polytechnic Univ., Pomona; The Story of Evolution in 25 Discoveries) examines the complex relationship between the geology and ecology of Earth by highlighting scientific discoveries spanning from the Big Bang Theory to post–Industrial Revolution climate changes. This broad approach enables a discussion of the initial conditions necessary for life on Earth; the chemistry of the atmosphere’s, crust’s, and oceans’ responses to geological and biological processes; and the whole swaths of related lifeforms that sometimes disappear from the fossil record. Some chapters, noting that these extinctions and transitions from one geologic age to another, may feel repetitive and dry for some readers, as the causes are nearly always related to the interplay between temperature, volcanoes, shifting continents, and the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Prothero concludes that prior climate fluctuations and their effects on plants and animals are well understood, and that the current crisis is an ecological tipping point brought about by human energy production in this finely tuned system.
VERDICT Adult readers seeking grounded scientific arguments about current climate change will appreciate this big-picture view of the history of Earth’s ecosystems and how present circumstances may herald another tipping point.
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