Sierra Summit

Conversations and observations about California's mountains

September 30, 2008
Climate Change bookshelf - recommended reading
Want to know more about climate change from someone who knows the subject inside out - and past and present?
Pick up the latest book by Wallace S. Broecker (co-authored by science writer Robert Kunzig) - Fixing Climate - What Past Climate Changes Reveal About the Current Threat - and How to Counter It.
Broecker is one of America's most highly-regarded climate scientists and the Newberry Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University in New York City. What's intriguing is how much much of his interest in the subject stems from early field trips through California's eastern Sierra Nevada and parts of western Nevada. On those trips to Pyramid Lake north of Reno, Mono Lake near Lee Vining and elsewhere, Broecker began to realize how quickly past climate regimes changed - from ice age to warm spell, from periods of ample rain and snow to century-long "mega-droughts."  Such past turnabouts were brought about by natural causes. But with CO2 levels from fossil fuel burning now contributing to the warming the planet, Broecker says we are now changing the climate ourselves - and the results may be dramatic once more. 
"The message from the study of past climates is that the time for stopping the increase in atmospheric CO2 is now," Broecker and Kunzig write in the book. "Skeptics often find strange solace in the knowledge that climate varies naturally, as if that somehow disproves that fact that we are rapidly changing it ourselves, or as if it somehow implies that climate change is inevitably benign. 
"When you have explored the Ice Age ... and especially the wild swings that happened within the Ice Age, you don't think natural climate variability is benign."
Fixing Climate was published this year (2008) by Hill and Wang, a division of Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 

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About Sierra Summit

The Author
Tom Knudson lives in the Sierra Nevada and travels widely throughout the range. His hobbies include fly-fishing, backpacking and cross-country skiing. He is the recipient of numerous journalistic awards, including two Pulitzer Prizes, one for a 1992 Sacramento Bee series "Sierra in Peril," a watershed work about environmental threats to the mountain range. E-mail Tom at

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