A bold, far-reaching look at how our actions will decide the planet’s future for millennia to come.
Imagine a planet where North American and Eurasian navies are squaring off over shipping lanes through an acidified, ice-free Arctic. Centuries later, their northern descendants retreat southward as the recovering sea freezes over again. And later still, future nations plan how to avert an approaching Ice Age... by burning what remains of our fossil fuels.
These are just a few of the events that are likely to befall Earth and human civilization in the next 100,000 years. And it will be the choices we make in this century that will affect that future more than those of any previous generation. We are living at the dawn of the Age of Humans; the only question is how long that age will last.
Few of us have yet asked, “What happens after global warming?” Drawing upon the latest, groundbreaking works of a handful of climate visionaries, Deep Future helps us look beyond 2100 a.d. to the next hundred millennia of life on Earth.
Bill McKibben is the author of Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet.
Bill McKibben: How'd you come to worry about this global warming stuff in the first place?
Curt Stager: When your book, The End of Nature, first came out, I already knew about global warming but wasn't very worried about it yet. I'm a paleoclimatologist, so I was used to thinking about huge climatic changes of the distant past, and I also wasn't convinced by what was then the available evidence that humans are driving most of today's trend. But now so many excellent studies clearly demonstrate our central role in the warming of the last 30-40 years that I've moved on from "is it really happening" mode to "what does it mean" and "what can we do about it?" Another factor was a project that you asked me to do in support of one of your articles several years ago - to study the weather records in our home region in and around northern New York and Vermont. The latest data show that much of this area is actually warming faster than the global average, and ice stays on our lakes two weeks less in an average winter than it did a century ago. Because of all this, I suppose you could say that I'm a "reformed climate skeptic" now.
Bill McKibben: What kind of timescales do we need to be thinking on to really understand what's happening?
Curt Stager: We've got to expand our view of this issue a thousand-fold to really grasp it. According to the latest research, much of the heat-trapping carbon dioxide we release during our lifetimes will linger in the air not just for centuries but for tens of thousands of years, long enough to affect future ice ages.
Curt Stager: Eaarth is one of the most amazing book titles I've ever seen; in a single word it beautifully captures the essence of what you're trying to tell us about our influences on the planet. How did you come by it?
Bill McKibben: Well, I wanted a way to get across the idea that we're already living on an altered planet. Not as altered as it's going to be, but--for people my age, the iconic image of our planet was that first photo back from the Apollo spacecraft. And the world does not look like that any more. A lot less white up top! Somehow we have to figure out how to get the message across that global warming is not a problem for the future, it's a desperate crisis already.
Bill McKibben: Scientists are forever struggling to communicate effectively with the general public. You're a whiz at it, as this book, and your work in places like National Geographic, make clear. What advice would you give your colleagues?
Curt Stager: That's a fine compliment coming from a master wordsmith like yourself, but it's particularly nice to hear in my case because when I first started my scientific career, back in the 1980s, communicating with the public was openly frowned upon. Nowadays I'm glad to see that it's much more widely accepted, even encouraged, and there are many great opportunities for scientists to be trained in such things. I was fortunate enough to attend a public communications workshop sponsored by the National Science Foundation, for example. But don't be fooled, you science types; there's a lot more to writing effectively for the public than you may think. When it's done properly it appears smooth and natural, but that's not because it's easy; it's a sign of skill and effort. Pay this craft the respect it deserves and learn from people who know what they're doing, then go out and really earn your grants by letting us all know how you spent our tax dollars!
Curt Stager: You do a good job of keeping up with the latest developments in climate research even though you're not a professional scientist. Do you have any advice in that regard for non-science types who are trying to wade through the information jungle in search of current, reliable information about climate change?
Bill McKibben: Like any other huge field, you need some guides--picking someone like Jim Hansen who's been right again and again seems like a good strategy. You need to keep abreast of the important science as it develops. And you need to find some journalists who have paid attention for a long time: Bryan Walsh at Time, Andy Revkin at the New York Times, and so forth. But the trick is not to be too caught up in the details, and keep your eye on the main current: the debate about whether we're warming the planet is no longer interesting. What's interesting is what we're going to do about it.
A Kirkus Reviews Best Nonfiction Book of the Year
“Amid all the ranting, confusing, and contradicting books on climate change, at last here's one that does something truly useful: Clearly and engagingly, scientist Curt Stager guides us back into the atmosphere's history, letting us compare it to the present and draw informed ideas about what to expect in the future. It's heartening to know that he expects us to have one.”
--Alan Weisman, author, The World Without Us
“Deep Future is a richly informative and deeply persuasive book -- one that will be relevant for generations.”
--Elizabeth Kolbert, author of Field Notes from a Catastrophe
“Deep Future is like one of Jared Diamond’s magisterial accounts, except set in the future, not the past.”
--Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature and Eaarth
“A highly entertaining, carefully balanced, and deeply sobering look at our climate future.”
--William F. Ruddiman, author of Plows, Plagues, and Petroleum
“Fascinating and measured - at last someone is taking the long view.”
--Mark Lynas, author of Six Degrees
“This intriguing and thought-provoking view of the far future is an essential read for all interested in the full force of climate change. ”
--Paul Andrew Mayewski, Director of the Climate Change Institute, and author of The Ice Chronicles
"A probing exploration of the impact of climate change over geological time. ... Essential reading."
--Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"A thoughtful, if controversial, approach to an over-heated subject."
"Deep Future is a clear, concise, and thought provoking work, one that takes a refreshingly frank look at the science behind global warming and, more importantly, what is coming next. In a field where hyperbolic claims and bitter skepticism prevail, the clarity and unflappability of Stager’s account is like a breath of fresh, slightly heated air."
--The Faster Times
"Maintaining a casual style and providing vivid metaphors, he makes his account entertaining and easy for nontechnical readers to understand."
Dr. Stager has written an easy-to-read book, with many new (to me) important things to give serious thought to.
The road that lies ahead of us isn't going to be easy, but I hope we - all of humanity - will find a way to get through this together and make the best of it.
So maybe by reading Stager's "Deep Future" some will come to understand climate change in a different way and more baby steps like those can be taken.
Uses calm, rational language and avoids hyperbole in examining possible and probable effects of man-made climate change over the next 100,000 years.Published 1 month ago by Shannon Ward
Although I got to this book late (copyright 2011) I very much enjoyed Curt Stager's book "Deep Future" on climate change in the future. Read morePublished 2 months ago by jjmazza
"Deep Future" is an engrossing treatise exploring Earth in the long-term. Engaging and thought provoking, it's an important book at a pivotal time in our history.Published 2 months ago by Connie Cuellar
I read this book once, and then skimmed through a second time to try to identify the salient points because I found the message and its format so confusing the first time. Read morePublished 6 months ago by MZ
This is a very dry book! The author seems aligned with geo-engineering scientists and has lost his perspective. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Tnd441
For some reason Stager is criticized by the environmental community for "minimizing" the long term impact of climate change. I don't share this view of his work. Read morePublished 15 months ago by stuffwrangler
It intrigues me how effective financial and political interests have been in taking lessons from the tobacco industry's playbook from the 1960s and 1970s. Read morePublished 16 months ago by Michael Birman
Our human attention is usually focused on immediate events or those of the recent and distant past. Future planning is generally measured in years or decades - sometimes centuries,... Read morePublished 18 months ago by Albert Sedlmayer