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‘Global Weirdness,’ Climate Central’s Book Debut

By Climate Central

About the Book | The Trailer | Reviews | Featured Excerpt | Buy the Book | 10 Q & A Videos with Lead Author

About the Book: 


Random House, Inc. 

Barnes and Noble



There’s a lot of debate about climate change, but not in the scientific community. People who actually study the climate overwhelmingly agree that greenhouse gases generated by human activity are pushing Earth’s climate into a state the world hasn’t seen for many tens of thousands of years. These experts don’t know to the last detail what will happen, but they’ve learned enough to make them very concerned.

This book is an attempt to explain why — to lay out the current state of knowledge about climate change, including what we know, how we know it, and what’s left to figure out. We’ve done our best to explain the underlying science given in clear and simple language, and without the melodrama that characterizes much of the conversation about climate change — “we’re all doomed,” on the one hand, and “it’s just a hoax” on the other. We aren’t interested in preaching. We believe that the facts, presented in a straightforward way, are convincing enough.

We’ve also taken great care to avoid bias. We acknowledge that some aspects of the problem can’t yet be addressed with certainty. We also make clear what climate scientists are confident about.

To ensure technical accuracy, each chapter has been carefully reviewed by Climate Central scientists. The chapters have then been reviewed again by eminent outside scientists who have particular expertise in the relevant subject areas—and then, if necessary, revised again.

The result, we believe, is an accurate overview of the state of climate science as it exists today.

Watch the Trailer:  

Don't Have Flash? Watch this video on your iPad or iPhone here

Watch 131 Years of Global Warming in 26 Seconds

Book Reviews

Prophecies by Nostradamus and Climate Central — New York Times

The Endless Summer — New York Times, Mark Bittman

Want to Understand Climate Change? Try This Simple Book — Scientific American

Climate 'Weirdness' Throws Ecosystems 'Out Of Kilter' — NPR

Severe Storms, Deadly Heat Waves, Relentless Drought, Rising Seas, & Weather of the Future — Publisher Weekly

Ecosystems Around the World Are Already Seeing Big Changes as the Climate Warms — Huffington Post

Clear, Concise Writing Distinguishes Climate Central’s Global Weirdness — Yale Forum on Climate Change, Media

Severe Storms, Deadly Heat Waves, Relentless Drought, Rising Seas, & Weather of the Future — Booklist

Nonfiction Previews, July 2012, Pt. 2: Two Key Current Events Titles — Library Journal


Global Weirdness — The Leonard Lopate Show 

'Global Weirdness' and the Science of Climate Change — MPR News

Climate Central | Interview with Michael Lemonick — Time Out Chicago

Does Global Warming Cause Severe Weather? “Global Weirdness” Excerpt — The Daily Beast

Lemonick Gives Roker Wake-Up Call to ‘Global Weirdness’ — The Weather Channel's "Wake-Up with Al (Roker)"

Q&A: Michael Lemonick, co-author of ‘Global Weirdness’ — Smart Planet


Chapter 3:

Our Ancestors Survived Climate Change. But It Wasn't Always Pretty

The human species has lived through times of drastic climate change. Since modern humans first evolved, perhaps 200,000 years ago, the planet has gone through at least one Ice Age, when temperatures were somewhere between 7.2°F and 14.4°Fcolder than they are today (this is a worldwide average; some places would have been considerably warmer or cooler). That didn’t stop our ancestors from spreading over most of the world. It didn’t stop them from perfecting crude stone tools. It didn’t stop them from creating beautiful paintings, like the ones on cave walls at Lascaux, France, or on rocks in Australia.

And when the climate warmed up dramatically, about ten thousand years ago, our ancestors not only survived but started to flourish. It’s probably no coincidence that human civilization developed during these last ten thousand years, a period in which temperatures have been not only warm but extraordinarily steady. The climate was unusually stable during this period, at least in some parts of the world, which may have helped spur the development of agriculture. That in turn allowed for a dramatic expansion of our population.

Indeed, the human population has exploded over the past ten thousand years, from about five million at the start (about the same as the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, but spread evenly across the world) to nearly seven billion today.

Beyond that, the original five million had no permanent addresses. Just as their ancestors had for millions of years, they lived in small bands that might stay in one place for an extended time, but if they had to pick up and move because a glacier was inching closer or a drought was lingering too long, they could do it. Some of these bands were undoubtedly wiped out by changes in climate, among other reasons. However, these events wouldn’t threaten the species as a whole.

But after our ancestors invented agriculture, most people stopped foraging through the fields and forests for fruits and seeds and began planting them. Farming is a much more efficient way of getting food, and an abundant food supply made it possible for populations to grow. However, it also meant people had to stay in one place, which led to the creation and growth of cities. These tended to arise near lakes, rivers, and oceans — sources of food, water, and transportation — which are also likely to rise or fall as the climate changes.

That’s why climate change is such a worry today. It’s one thing for a small band of people to pack up camp and move a couple hundred miles to a better location if the climate changes. It’s a very different thing to try to move a city like Cairo or New York or Shanghai because the sea level is rising. It’s very different to relocate the farms of the Midwestern United States up to Canada — along with the highways and railroads and power lines that serve them — because it’s become too hot and dry to grow grain. It’s very different to move tens of millions of people out of harm’s way in low-lying coastal nations like Bangladesh. Our civilization, in short, is very highly adapted to the present climate. Major changes of any sort would almost certainly be extremely disruptive.

So while the human species has survived climate change in the distant past, those adjustments were relatively simple — but even so, they probably involved levels of mortality that we are unaccustomed to today. It should be a given that individual lives matter, not just the survival of the species. The result of global warming is projected to push temperatures above the range of previous interglacial periods, but even if the changes were no greater than those humans have lived through in the past, our very large population and the existence of modern civilization make this a whole different ball game.

To Buy the Book: 

Here are links to several places Global Weirdness is available for purchase:

Random House, Inc. (Publisher)

Barnes and Noble




By Roger Boyd (Toronto, Ontario, m4w3w9)
on July 24th, 2012

I checked on Amazon to buy this book and the Kindle electronic version is more expensive ($15.30) than the hard cover version ($13.99)! From both a pure economics (no cost of producing a physical book) and an ecological version how can that be justifiable?

Reply to this comment

By JT (Atlanta, GA 30062)
on July 24th, 2012

I think Amazon’s excuse is that an electronic version will never wear out, so it’s worth more.  That said, the NOOK book version is _cheaper_ than the hard copy version… go figure.

Reply to this comment

By Mike (Nashville )
on January 14th, 2013

I was the operations director of an 23 ton—a-day, biohazardous, medical waste incinerator. Built into the operation was a Swedish scrubbing system called, a Venture. I’m not suggesting this as a global cleansing system. However, that fixed our problem of removing heavy particulates from the emissions. I believe we need to design a new industry, exclusively focused on cleaning Co2 out of the atmosphere.

Perhaps a floating platform, built on a ballooned frame, powered by solar panels vacuming the air as it moves forward. If there were thousands of these vehicles, cleaning the environment, it would make a difference and create jobs as a result of all the new work available.

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By Michael Hartman (Albany, CA 94706)
on July 10th, 2013

Hi Folks,
  Just bought your book at a brick and mortar store. Pegasus Books in Berkeley.  Am reading it and on p 22 it states; “As the sun gradually got brighter over billions of years, CO2 levels dropped in a way that kept temperatures relatively fixed. This natural thermostat won’t have any effect on the current episode of global warming, however, because it operates very, very slowly.”
  Nothing is offered to back up the statement that “ operates very, very slowly.” other than the implication that since the warming is very slow then perhaps the response to it is very slow.  But this is not necessarily true. Isn’t it important to the understanding of the impacts and effects of increases in CO2 to know exactly how quickly a healthy biosphere can
absorb free CO2 particularly in response to temperature rise?  Its one thing if it is just “very slow” and another thing entirely if the mechanism is damaged and not functioning normally.  I noted that it was stated (somewhere) deforestation is responsible for 20% of the current problem. But didn’t I read somewhere that 80% of all photosynthesis occurs in the top 200 feet of the ocean?
  I am looking forward to continuing to read your book but would love some additional clarity on this issue. —Michael

Reply to this comment

By Lindsay Harmon
on July 11th, 2013


The point behind the statement is that while Earth’s CO2 levels have changed very gradually over our 4 billion year old history, those natural changes are completely irrelevant on human timescales of hundreds or even thousands of years.

There are also shorter-term natural variations, such as those that have launched or ended the ice ages—but those operate on thousand-year scales, and won’t have any effect on human-caused CO2 changes, which are happening over mere hundreds of years. They’re also irrelevant to the current warming.

It’s clear that Earth’s biosphere has adapted to those slow changes, but as you point out, it’s less clear how it can adapt to the rapid changes we’re causing. So you’re right that understanding these rapid changes is crucial. We only talked about the longer-term changes to make the point that while natural change happens, it’s different from what’s going on now. In short, we seem to agree.

As for the deforestation versus photosynthesis, the two are unrelated. Deforestation is responsible for 20% of the CHANGE in CO2 levels, even if ocean photosynthesis is responsible for most of the natural component of CO2 balance.

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By Russell (Edmonton) (Alberta, Canada)
on August 8th, 2013

I really like this book. Will be passing it on as soon as I’m finished. Fairly easy to read and understand. Hopefully we can fix things.

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