New book . . .

by Brian Fagan and Nadia Durrani

Public Affairs, New York, 2021

There’s a common belief that the human experience with ancient climatic shifts is irrelevant to today’s industrialized, and warming, world. Nothing could be further from the truth. Climate Chaos tells the story of humans over the past 30,000 years that draws on the dramatic advances in both archaeology and climatology in recent years. As a result, we now have a much closer understanding of how humans adapted to long- and short-term climate change during the late Ice Age and afterward. We have important lessons to learn from their experience, which have a direct relevance to today’s crisis over humanly caused global warming. The story begins during the intense cold of the last Ice Age glaciation, when hunt societies adapted skillfully to bitter cold and the rapidly changing, warming world that confronted their successors after 15,000 years ago. We stress the importance of intuition and social memory, then describe the increasing vulnerability that came with the appearance of cities and civilizations. Our story encompasses the collapse of the Roman Empire, the transformation of Maya and Andean societies in the Americas and shows how climate change was a major player in the rise and fall of pre-industrial civilization. The narrative ends with a journey through the more familiar climatic and historical events of the Medieval Climate Anomaly and the Little Ice Age. A final chapter outlines some of the priceless lessons about adapting to climate change we have inherited from the past. Climate Chaos is a forcible reminder that we have much to learn from the past as we navigate the present and move onward into an uncertain climatic future.