We've been lied to. That's what Eugene Linden tells us in his formidably researched Winds of Change: Climate, Weather, and the Destruction of Civilizations, a cautionary document that challenges public complacency about global warming. Scientists have, for years, agreed that human activity has seriously altered Earth's atmosphere to the point where we may be facing severe climate change. But that's not the story that gets out from our elected officials and from the national media. Linden's book spends a lot of time in the past, documenting the sudden and mysterious collapse of several advanced civilizations. Why did the Norse Greenland colonies fail? Why did the Mayans abandon their cities? Linden says the answer to these long-pondered mysteries lies in sudden climate change. His emphasis on history puts a face on climate change which can throttle a culture through drought, starvation and disease.
The same could happen to us. Evidence of climate change flickers bursts of extreme climate instability transitional to permanent change are already upon us, Linden suggests. This evidence comes from multiple fronts these days, not just from the ice core blanketing Greenland, but also from oceanic water and sediment samples. Who dropped the ball and forgot to tell the public at large? The majority of scientists who publish in peer-reviewed journals believe human activity could provoke severe climate change in the foreseeable future. But reporters give equal weight to the minority opinion of less credentialed scientists and to scientific experts specifically hired by major industry to downplay the threat of global warming. It's true that scientists have reached no consensus about the type of climate change we're looking at or what impacts it will have, but, as Linden notes, ignoring the threat of climate change until every question is settled is a bit like refusing to run from an oncoming tsunami. Lynn Hamilton writes from Tybee Island, Georgia.