Most of us are familiar with the terms climate change and global warming, but not too many of us understand the science behind them. We don’t really understand how climate change will affect us, and for that reason we might not consider it as pressing a concern as, say, housing prices or the quality of local education. This book explains the scientific knowledge about global climate change clearly and concisely in engaging, nontechnical language, describes how it will affect all of us, and suggests how government, business, and citizens can take action against it.
The vast majority of scientists agree that human activity has significantly increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere—most dramatically since the 1970s. In February 2007 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that global warming is "unequivocal" and that human-produced carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are chiefly to blame, to a certainty of more than 90 percent. Yet global warming skeptics and ill-informed elected officials continue to dismiss this broad scientific consensus.
Tectonic faults are sites of localized motion, both at the Earth's surface and within its dynamic interior. Faulting is directly linked to a wide range of global phenomena, including long-term climate change and the evolution of hominids, the opening and closure of oceans, and the rise and fall of mountain ranges. In Tectonic Faults, scientists from a variety of disciplines explore the connections between faulting and the processes of the Earth's atmosphere, surface, and interior.
Knowledge about environmental problems has expanded rapidly in recent decades, as have the number and variety of processes for making large-scale scientific assessments of those problems and their possible solutions. Yet too often scientific information has not been transformed into effective and appropriate policies to protect the global environment.
American agriculture has doubled its use of pesticides since the publication of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring in 1962. Agriculture is the nation's leading cause of non-point-source water pollution--runoffs of pesticides, nutrients, and sediments into streams, rivers, lakes, and oceans.
Human history, as written traditionally, leaves out the important ecological and climate context of historical events. But the capability to integrate the history of human beings with the natural history of the Earth now exists, and we are finding that human-environmental systems are intimately linked in ways we are only beginning to appreciate. In Sustainability or Collapse?, researchers from a range of scholarly disciplines develop an integrated human and environmental history over millennial, centennial, and decadal time scales and make projections for the future.
Seen from space, the earth is blue. That luminous blueness is water—the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, Arctic, and Antarctic oceans. Seventy percent of what we call "earth" is under water. Life began in the ocean, and the ocean still plays a vital role in our lives and the earth's ecosystem. More than half the world's population lives within a few miles of the sea; we're drawn to it to swim, surf, sail, or simply gaze out across the waves.
Throughout much of human history, changes to forest ecosystems have come about through natural climatic changes occurring over long periods of time. But scientists now find changes in forest cover dramatically accelerated by such human activities as large-scale agriculture, the building of dams and roads, and the growth of cities with vast areas of asphalt. Changes that once took centuries now take only decades. Seeing the Forest and the Trees examines changes in land cover and land use in forested regions as major contributors to global environmental change.
Human survival depends on a continuing energy supply, but the need for ever-increasing amounts of energy poses a dilemma: How can we provide the benefits of energy to the population of the globe without damaging the environment, negatively affecting social stability, or threatening the well-being of future generations? The solution will lie in finding sustainable energy sources and more efficient means of converting and utilizing energy.