Our Biggest Experiment

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Synopsis

Maybe it's the weirdness of the weather. Maybe it's another way to pour scorn on politicians. Maybe the steady stream of headlines about fires, floods and droughts is finally starting to get to us. Whatever it is, for more and more of us, climate change is shifting from a shadowy fear in the backs of our minds to something we feel we need to get a handle on.

Climate change may be a horror story, but, as Our Biggest Experiment shows, the tale of how we discovered it isn't. The discovery of climate change didn't feature a 'Eureka!' moment - it was a slow and gradual realisation as each new generation pieced together a little more information.

Our exploration of the Earth's fluctuating environment is an extraordinary story of human perception and scientific endeavour. It also began much earlier than we might think. This book takes us back to climate change science's earliest steps in the 18th and 19th centuries, through the point when concern started to rise in the 1950s and right up to today, where the 'debate' is over and the world is finally starting to face up to the reality that things are going to get a lot hotter, a lot drier (in some places) and a lot wetter (in others), with catastrophic consequences for most of Earth's biomes.

Our Biggest Experiment recounts how the world became addicted to fossil fuels, how we discovered that electricity could be a saviour, and how renewable energy is far from a 20th-century discovery. Alice Bell cuts through the jargon and jumble of numbers to show how we're getting to grips with what is now the defining issue of our time. The message she relays is ultimately hopeful; harnessing the ingenuity and intelligence that has driven the history of climate change research can mean a more sustainable and bearable future for humanity.

Chapters

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