Cover image for Historical perspectives on climate change
Historical perspectives on climate change
Fleming, James Rodger.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Oxford University Press, 1998.
Physical Description:
xi, 194 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
QC981.8.C5 F45 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



This intriguing volume provides a thorough examination of the historical roots of global climate change as a field of inquiry, from the Enlightenment to the late twentieth century. Based on primary and archival sources, the book is filled with interesting perspectives on what people haveunderstood, experienced, and feared about the climate and its changes in the past. Chapters explore climate and culture in Enlightenment thought; climate debates in early America; the development of international networks of observation; the scientific transformation of climate discourse; and earlycontributions to understanding terrestrial temperature changes, infrared radiation, and the carbon dioxide theory of climate. But perhaps most important, this book shows what a study of the past has to offer the interdisciplinary investigation of current environmental problems.

Author Notes

James R. Fleming is at Colby College.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Fleming's title implies a review of paleo- and historical climate change; readers will be surprised and perhaps disappointed to find that he focuses predominantly on cultural attitudes towards climate and notable figures within climatology, but offers very little information regarding past climate epochs or the forcing of past climate variability. An understanding of anthropogenic "greenhouse warming" learned from history and the history of science and climatology is certainly a rich topic, full of interesting individuals as amply documented here. However, what is less clear is whether Fleming, in presenting examples of previous concerns regarding climate stability, is instructing us to be calm, given that climate variability "hasn't killed us yet," or whether he is merely cautioning against exaggeration of risks in the face of uncertainty. Chapter 9, "Global Warming?," is certainly an engaging read and does show that climate and climate variability have always been a source of both wonderment and concern to humans. A lucid, well-written, and skillfully presented work; the bibliography is bountiful and sources of information are well documented. However, its place in the scientific and political dialogue surrounding projected climate and environmental change is less certain. General readers; faculty. S. C. Pryor; Indiana University