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Academic & Professional Books  Palaeontology  Palaeoclimatology

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

By: Steven Earle(Author)
207 pages, 50 b/w photos, b/w illustrations, and b/w maps
Runaway Climate
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  • Runaway Climate ISBN: 9780865719897 Paperback Jun 2024 Not in stock: Usually dispatched within 1-2 weeks
Price: £16.99
About this book Contents Customer reviews Biography Related titles

About this book

With rising emissions, we are on track to cause rapid global warming with devastating consequences. 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, 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 200,000 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 everyone committed to understanding and taking action on the climate emergency.


Chapter 1. The Bighorn Basin
Chapter 2. The Late Paleocene World
Chapter 3. The Ocean Sediment Record
Chapter 4. Climate Models
Chapter 5. Changes in the Oceans during the PETM
Chapter 6. Changes on Land during the PETM
Chapter 7. PETM Impacts on Land Plants and Animals
Chapter 8. What Caused the PETM Climate Crisis?
Chapter 9. What is Similar Now and What is Different?
Chapter 10. What Can We Expect?
Chapter 11. What is Our Role in Changing the Climate?
Chapter 12. What Do We Need to Do Now?

Customer Reviews


Steven Earle, PhD, has worked as a geologist and developed and taught university-level courses in earth sciences and climate change for over four decades. He is the author of the IPPY award-winning A Brief History of Climate Change and the widely used post-secondary textbook Physical Geology, now in its second edition. A dedicated community activist, he spearheads local engagement with climate change solutions including low-carbon transportation initiatives, heating systems, and land stewardship. Steven and his family live in a nearly net-zero house on a small sustainable farm on Gabriola Island, BC, Canada.

By: Steven Earle(Author)
207 pages, 50 b/w photos, b/w illustrations, and b/w maps
Media reviews

"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

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