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Plows, Plagues, and Petroleum: How Humans Took Control of Climate

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  194 ratings  ·  23 reviews
The impact on climate from 200 years of industrial development is an everyday fact of life, but did humankind's active involvement in climate change really begin with the industrial revolution, as commonly believed? William Ruddiman's provocative new book argues that humans have actually been changing the climate for some 8,000 years--as a result of the earlier discovery o ...more
Hardcover, 202 pages
Published August 21st 2005 by Princeton University Press (first published 2005)
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Daniel
great book on climate history.
The author not only presents his theory and background information in a way easy to understand even for people with no background, but also shares his intellectual journey - how he started noticing unusual developments, explored various explanations, eliminated some of them and finally developed his thesis. He also shows readers how climate historians work and what kind of evidence they use. Prof Ruddiman is part of the book - he shares not only his knowledge, but
...more
Patrick Worms
Mar 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A climatologist, Ruddiman in the early noughts observed that levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere started deviating from their expected paths about 7,000 years. What follows is a detective story - the story of how Ruddiman came to the conclusion that one factor, and one factor only, could explain the discrepancy: the human factor. Forest clearance and wet rice agriculture started around that time, realised carbon dioxide and methane, and compensating for the natural cooling that would ha ...more
Keith Akers
Nov 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is a great book with a really interesting, well thought out, and lucidly explained idea about climate -- that human-caused climate change had already begun well before the start of the industrial revolution. In terms of writing, Ruddiman does a good job of explaining both basic science and his own theory. He hasn't made his thesis really "sexy," but that's OK.

Jared Diamond he’s not, but he’s better than Paul Martin’s spotty writing in Twilight of the Mammoths: Ice Age Extinctions and the R
...more
Alysha
Jan 12, 2008 added it
My father is the author of this book. It's a bit technical, but it gives a non-alarmist look into how humans have impacted the earth's climate.
Stephan Winter
Aug 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Best book about climate change (that’s neither a textbook nor an activist pamphlet) I’ve read so far.
Bioteo
Sep 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: saggi, ecologia
Fino a poco tempo fa vi era l'opinione diffusa che l'impatto dell'uomo sul clima fosse iniziato nel XVIII secolo, in concomitanza con la prima grande rivoluzione industriale. William Ruddiman, esperto paleoclimatologo, nel suo saggio che riprende lo stile di Armi, acciaio e malattie di Jared Diamond, propone una tesi estremamente interessante nota come "ipotesi di Ruddiman": l'uomo ha iniziato ad essere una forzante climatica a partire da 11.000 anni fa in seguito all'introduzione dell'agricoltu ...more
Mark O'Connor
Oct 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Climate Change outcomes

This was an interesting book and one of the only ones that mentions climate change from 8,000 years ago to the beginning of the industrial era. It points out that prehistoric agricultural development caused CO2 and methane increases. It actual caused temperatures to not decrease.
Peter Tillman
Oct 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Interesting book by a well-regarded climatologist who writes well. 4.4 stars.

A very cool book, highly recommended. Plus, it's short! Some of his conclusions are speculative (even highly speculative), but the tide is running in his direction, I think. I'm a geologist who has followed paleoclimate research pretty closely over the years. I had fun with this one.
Roger Burk
Mar 04, 2010 rated it liked it
The author's thesis is that the onset of agriculture around 6000 BC slowed and then reversed the onset of an ice age that would otherwise be upon us now. The argument is logical and cogent, and in the area of the author's expertise, but I remain unconvinced for two reasons: (1) The primary argument is the very weak one that he can't think of any other reason an ice age hasn't happened; and (2) He posits an immediate and very strong effect from agriculture on atmospheric CO2 (e.g. in fig. 9.2), a ...more
Jonathan
Jan 01, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: to any one interested in climate
Recommended to Jonathan by: Jim Kurz
This book takes one more deeply into the science of climate change than most current popular writing and looks at the effect humans have had over thousnads of years, not just the last century or so. The subtitle "How Humans Took Control of Climate" summarizes what this book is about, although "affect" perhaps should replace "control" as control suggests a more purposeful activity. The author is a scientist who is describing his own work as well as that of others; his views are by no means extrem ...more
Frederick Bingham
Jan 01, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The basic thesis of this book is that humans have been controlling climate for much longer than anyone has thought. For about 6000 years humans have been clearing forests and emitting CO2. The current climate would be approaching an ice age if not for human modification of the climate. He also talks about disease outbreaks and how they have affected the emissions of CO2 over the years. It's a scientific book, with some figures and numbers to go along with it.
Casandra
Feb 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
This was required for a class and I was hesitant that I would enjoy it because a few people that had read it before said it was dry- however I completely disagree. As a fellow scientist with strong interest in climate science I felt that this book was VERY easy to read and very informative. Ruddiman's theory is one of the better and well thought out theories I've read on the subject and I would highly recommend anyone interested in climate science and its past, to read this book.
Mike
Apr 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
Ruddiman is a gifted science writer, especially pertaining to the earth and climate sciences. However, some of his ideas are a little bit out there and seem to be leaps in the direction of answering unanswered questions. For example, his hypothesis connecting ancient warming with the flood myth(s) is a nice answer to a long unanswered question but it lacks real substance.
Erin
Sep 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: disasters, nonfiction
Fascinating to find out that human causes of climate change started long ago, and today is just an acceleration of what started in prehistoric times. Might be a tough read for non-science types. Lots of astronomy at the beginning to establish the normal pattern of hot and cold spells.
Chuck Russo
Jan 31, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-general
Excellent book, well written for the general science audience. Presents a very interesting theory about the effects of humans on climate, without any of the politically-tainted alarmism or anti-alarmism so prevalent in this general field these days.
Amanda Spacaj-Gorham
I don't know about the changes of 8,000 years ago, but it's a great argument no matter how you slice it. I read this as a required reading for a class several years ago. I found it intellectually stimulating yet accessible while always written.

Greg
Nov 02, 2008 rated it really liked it
A different perspective on global warming. The author presents a pretty good case that we've impacted climate for a long time, and while the warming isn't necessarily good, its probably better than the alternative.
Jerry
Dec 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really liked Ruddiman's examination and hypothesis for climate change. It's sensible, well researched and very, very pleasurable to read. It has a few holes that he doesn't really cover, but on the whole it's a great book that is pretty thought provoking.
Marian
Dec 12, 2009 rated it really liked it
An interesting history of how man has affectedthe earth's climate starting 5,000 years ago with the invention of agriculture.
red sweater
May 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ecology-earth
Really interesting work about climate history. It shows quite fascinating perspective on anthropogenic influence of climate change. I would recommend this book to everyone.
Ann M
Jul 11, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Fascinating, if dry look at how people affect global warming.
Gwen Hill
reading this for my climate change class, but very pleased with both the content and format of this book. Way to make learning fun, Ruddiman.
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