Runaway Climate

What the Geological Past Can Tell Us about the Coming Climate Change Catastrophe

Table des matières


Part I What Happened in the Past?
Chapter 1: The Bighorn Basin
Chapter 2: The Late Paleocene World
Chapter 3: Understanding Past Climates
Chapter 4: Changes in the Oceans During the PETM
Chapter 5: Changes on Land During the PETM
Chapter 6: What Caused the PETM Runaway Climate?
Chapter 7: What Is Similar Now and What Is Different?

Part II Where We Are Heading If We Don’t Change Course
Chapter 8: How the Oceans Might Change Under PETM Conditions
Chapter 9: How the Land Might Change Under PETM Conditions
Chapter 10: Where Will Everyone Go?
Chapter 11: What Do We Need to Do Now?

About the Author
A Note About the Publisher

With tipping points and extreme global warming looming, the key to understanding our climate future lies in our distant past

La description

With tipping points and extreme global warming looming, the key to understanding our climate future lies in our distant past

With rising emissions, we are on track to cause rapid global warming with devastating con- sequences. But how bad could climate change get and what might it do to planet Earth and humanity?

Runaway Climate explores the causes of the Paleocene Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) rapid climate-heating episode, its dramatic impact on life on Earth, and lessons for our climate future.

Fifty-six million years ago our planet experienced a period of intense warming known as the PETM, resulting in a rapid global temperature increase of about 7°C. Triggered by natural geological processes over millennia and magnified by strong climate feedback loops, the PETM lasted for about 180,000 years and drastically altered life on Earth. Yet in only a few short decades we've pumped similar amounts of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, making the PETM an unsettlingly apt analogy for our current predicament. This deeply cautionary tale explores:

  • The runaway feedbacks that pushed the PETM's climate past the tipping point
  • Subsequent cascades of environmental devastation—from plant and animal migrations to ocean acidification, extreme weather, and mass extinctions
  • A sobering vision of life on hothouse Earth—a hostile world of desertification, sea-level rise, climate refugees, and agricultural collapse
  • The urgent need for decisive individual and collective actions to slash carbon emissions, stabilize the climate, and undertake a rapid transition to a cleaner and healthier future.

Scientifically rigorous, yet accessible to a wide audience, Runaway Climate is essential reading for every- one committed to understanding and taking action on the climate emergency.


Rapid, catastrophic climate change may have little precedent in human history, but the rocks tell us it has happened before. This riveting book clearly outlines the potential scope of the crisis that we are unleashing through our continued burning of fossil fuels. If you care at all about our future, you must read Runaway Climate.
—Richard Heinberg, Senior Fellow, Post Carbon Institute and author, Power: Limits and Prospects for Human Survival

Climatologists provided us with early warning of the climate crisis, and now – as this fascinating account makes clear – geologists are making clear that the past both confirms those warnings and intensifies them. Reading this will, I hope, be a prelude to activism that matters.
—Bill McKibben, author, The End of Nature

Earle's new book is a compelling call to climate action that is uniquely engaging and disturbing in equal measure. By setting today's climate crisis within the long story of our planet, he invites us all to acknowledge realities of these times and to find inspiration to act in the climate solutions stories that he shares.
—Laura Lengnick, author, Resilient Agriculture: Cultivating Food Systems for a Changing Climate

I love it. Earle understands the big climate picture and paints it with exceptional clarity.
—James Hansen, director, Climate Science, Awareness and Solutions, Columbia University Earth Institute

An Informative, succinct, and fascinating read Steven Earle offers a unique and detailed account of Earth’s climate history. His innate story-telling ability, coupled with his remarkable talent for making complex scientific information accessible, makes this page-turner a must read for anyone seeking to understand the Earth’s climate system.
—Andrew Weaver, Professor, University of Victoria, former Lead Author, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th Scientific Assessments, former chief editor, the Journal of Climate

An engaging tour through the complex natural processes at play in writing the Earth’s long history of natural climate change to our present climate emergency. This primer will give campaigners, policymakers, and concerned citizens a more thorough understanding of climate science and renewed conviction to go all in on applying the brakes, leaving fossil fuels behind, and embracing a cleaner, healthier, and more equitable future.
—Tom Green, Senior Climate Policy Advisor, David Suzuki Foundation