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Our Biggest Experiment: A History of the Climate Crisis

Our Biggest Experiment: A History of the Climate Crisis

by Alice Bell

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Shortlisted for the Wainwright Prize for Conservation Writing 2022

Did you know the link between carbon dioxide and global warming was first suggested in the 1850s? Climate change books are usually about the future, but Our Biggest Experiment instead asks how we got into this mess, and how and when did we work out it was happening? Join Alice Bell on a rip-roaring ride through the characters, ideas, technologies and experiments that shaped the climate crisis we now find ourselves in. From an emerging idea of 'greenhouse gases' in the 19th century and, via scientific expeditions across oceans and ice caps and into space, the coining of the term 'global warming' in the 1970s, Bell explores how we began to realise that not only could human pollution dangerously warm the climate, but that it was already doing so. Drop by the first climate talks, weather forecasts and early experiments.

Watch excitement over solar and wind power start in the 1870s, only to be forgotten before being rediscovered a century later. See the monster of big oil slain by a plucky investigative journalist back in the 1910s, only tore-emerge more powerful than ever. However, this isn't a simple story with exploitative fossil-fuel baddies on one side and the goodies of renewable energy, environmentalism and climate science on the other.

It's more complex than that. As citizens of the 21st century, we've been left an almighty mess, but as this ultimately hopeful book argues, we've also inherited the tools for our survival.

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  • "A highly enjoyable rabbit hole of a book. Alice Bell chronicles the science and history of climate change in an intuitive manner that glides easily from one episode to the next"
    - New Statesman

  • "You might think it's more important to focus on the future of our planet, but only by understanding our history can we start to shape what happens next. Read this and be energised to save the world."
    - Rowan Hooper, New Scientist

  • "Alice Bell's Our Biggest Experiment reads like a "chocolate box of a book"-regaling readers with a curated history of the people, science, politics, and technology that have intersected with the current climate crisis"
    - Science

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