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Academic & Professional Books  Earth System Sciences  Atmosphere  Climatology

Microbes The Unseen Agents of Climate Change

By: David L Kirchman(Author)
248 pages, 33 b/w illustrations
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  • Microbes ISBN: 9780197688564 Hardback Jun 2024 Not in stock: Usually dispatched within 6 days
Price: £22.99
About this book Contents Customer reviews Biography Related titles

About this book

For billions of years, microbes have produced and consumed greenhouse gases that regulate global temperature and in turn other aspects of our climate. The balance of these gases maintains Earth's habitability. Methane, a greenhouse gas produced only by microbes, may have kept Earth out of a deep freeze billions of years ago. Likewise, variations in carbon dioxide, another greenhouse gas released by microbes and other organisms, help to explain the comings and goings of ice ages over the last million years.

Now we face a human-made climate crisis with drastic consequences. The complete story behind greenhouse gases, however, involves microbes and their role in natural ecosystems. Microscopic organisms are also part of the solution, producing biofuels and other forms of green energy which keep fossil fuels in the ground. Other microbes can be harnessed to reduce the release of methane and nitrous oxide from agriculture, and geoengineering solutions that depend on microbes could pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

In this book, David L. Kirchman introduces a unique and timely contribution to the climate change conversation and the part microbes play in our past, present, and future. He takes readers into the unseen world behind the most important environmental problem facing society today and encourages us to embrace microbial solutions that are essential to mitigating climate change.


Chapter 1. Introduction
Chapter 2. The natural carbon cycle and fossil fuels
Chapter 3. Carbon sinks and sources on land
Chapter 4. Carbon pumps in the oceans
Chapter 5. Clouds, CLAW, and a Greek goddess
Chapter 6. Slow carbon and deep time
Chapter 7. Natural gas
Chapter 8. Laughing gas
Chapter 9. Microbial solutions

Selected Bibliography

Customer Reviews


David L. Kirchman was the Maxwell P. and Mildred H. Harrington Professor of Marine Studies at the University of Delaware until he retired in 2020 and was elected as a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography. Author of over 175 papers and two books, and editor of the "bible" of microbial oceanography (Microbial Ecology of the Oceans), Kirchman worked on the marine carbon cycle in regions around the world, from the Arctic to Antarctica. His findings were instrumental in showing the importance of bacteria and the rest of the microbial loop in the marine carbon cycle. He received a B.A. from Lawrence University and the Ph.D. from Harvard University.

By: David L Kirchman(Author)
248 pages, 33 b/w illustrations
Media reviews

"This book brings a fresh view to climate change by focusing on microorganisms, including solutions, such as producing biofuels, helping to keep soil carbon in the ground, and catalysing the removal of greenhouse gases like methane. Readers of this book will discover that microorganisms have remarkable abilities that can be used to address many different aspects of climate change."
– Bruce Logan, Director, Institutes of Energy and the Environment, Pennsylvania State University

"Professor Kirchman, a leading scholar in microbial ecology, has moved the needle with this thoughtful and comprehensive synthesis of relevant information on intersections of microorganisms, human activities, and global climate change. This is a must read for all Earth scientists."
– David M. Karl, Director, Daniel K. Inouye Center for Microbial Oceanography, University of Hawai'i

"This timely book addresses one of the most pressing challenges facing our planet – global warming due to increasing amounts of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in our atmosphere. Earth's microorganisms play a key role in both the production and consumption of GHGs, and may even help mitigate global warming if they consume more than they produce."
– Janet Jansson, Chief Scientist for Biology, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

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