Questions and answers about Climate Chaos

Why did you choose to write another book about climate change? There are many out there. There’s been an extraordinary revolution in paleoclimatology–the study of ancient climate–since I wrote my earlier books. There was much less firsthand information, research was in its infancy. A lot of people asked me when I was going to look at thr subject again. In the event, Nadia and I decided to write a narrative history of climate change and people over the past 30,000 years, so that we included the late Ice Age with its drastic climatic shifts.

How did you approach the story? The obvious overall organization was chronological, starting in the late Ice Age and ending up with the end of the Little Ice Age during the late nineteenth century. we ended the story with a chapter on the relevance of the past for the present and future, which was fascinating to write.

Obviously, you cover ground that you have written about before. What’s different this time? A vast amount of new data and a series of brilliant historical studies that encompass everything from the Assyrians of Southwest Asia and the Egyptians to the Indus and Angkor Wat. Satellite imagery, notably LiDAR, has transformed out knowledge of the ancient Maya and the Khmer civilization, notably Angkor Wat and its landscape, for a start. Climatic proxies like cave speleothems are giving us startlingly prep]cise insights into what happened climatically centuries ago. This has made the story far more interesting and comprehensive.

What was the greatest challenge in writing this book?
Just there sheer amount of information that has come along in recent years. A torrent of articles and books have descended on our desks, this apart from the need to talk to all manner of experts, also delving extensively into both academic and popular literature. Add to this the endless and delusional bombast generated by climate deniers, who refuse to see any merit in science at all, and there was a huge jigsaw puzzle confronting us.Turning this complex story into an interesting narrative for a wider audience was also a huge challenge. I hope we’ve succeeded.

What book are you planning to write next?
At this point, I’m recovering from Chaos, while Nadia has started a popular journal called The Past Magazine, which takes a lot of her time. I strongly recommend this, by the way. We are also kept very busy with textbook revisions, which are a permanent part of our lives. Add bee swarms (we have 7 hives), platoons of cats haunting my computer, and it’s never dull around here.