John Wilson ’64 notes this Washington Post story on William Ruddiman ’64.

Has climate change been around as long as the pyramids?

It is an odd-sounding idea, because the problem is usually assumed to be a modern one, the product of a world created by the Industrial Revolution and powered by high-polluting fossil fuels.

But a professor emeritus at the University of Virginia has suggested that people began altering the climate thousands of years ago, as primitive farmers burned forests and built methane-bubbling rice paddies. The practices produced enough greenhouse gases, he says, to warm the world by a degree or more.

Other scientists, however, have said the idea is deeply flawed and might be used to dampen modern alarms over climate change.

Read the whole thing. Comments:

1) What other Ephs are prominently involved in the science and politics of climate change?

2) Anything that dampens “modern alarms over climate change” gets a thumbs up from me, although I place my non-Eph related climate posts at other blogs.

3) More info in Ruddiman’s book.

k8014The 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 of agriculture.

The “Ruddiman Hypothesis” will spark intense debate. We learn that the impact of farming on greenhouse-gas levels, thousands of years before the industrial revolution, kept our planet notably warmer than if natural climate cycles had prevailed–quite possibly forestalling a new ice age.

Plows, Plagues, and Petroleum is the first book to trace the full historical sweep of human interaction with Earth’s climate.

Interesting stuff. Environmental Science ought to invite Ruddiman to give a talk at Williams.

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