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Our Biggest Experiment: An Epic History of the Climate Crisis

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Traversing science, politics, and technology, Our Biggest Experiment shines a spotlight on the little-known scientists who sounded the alarm to reveal the history behind the defining story of our age: the climate crisis. In 1856, American scientist and women's rights activist Eunice Newton Foote first warned the world that an atmosphere heavy with carbon dioxide could se Traversing science, politics, and technology, Our Biggest Experiment shines a spotlight on the little-known scientists who sounded the alarm to reveal the history behind the defining story of our age: the climate crisis. In 1856, American scientist and women's rights activist Eunice Newton Foote first warned the world that an atmosphere heavy with carbon dioxide could send temperatures here on Earth soaring. No one paid much attention. Our Biggest Experiment tells Foote's story, along with stories of the many scientists who helped build our modern understanding of climate change. It also tells the story of our energy system, from whale oil to kerosene and beyond, the first steamships, wind turbines, electric cars, oil tankers, and fridges. The story flows from the Enlightenment into World War II and later, tracing the development of big science and our advancing realization that global warming was a significant global problem. With precision and wit, Bell chronicles the growth of the environmental movement, climate skepticism, and political systems such as the UN climate talks. As citizens of the twenty-first century, it can feel like history has dealt us a bad hand with the climate crisis. In many ways, this is true. Our ancestors have left us an almighty mess. But they left us tools for survival too, and Our Biggest Experiment tells both sides of the story.


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Traversing science, politics, and technology, Our Biggest Experiment shines a spotlight on the little-known scientists who sounded the alarm to reveal the history behind the defining story of our age: the climate crisis. In 1856, American scientist and women's rights activist Eunice Newton Foote first warned the world that an atmosphere heavy with carbon dioxide could se Traversing science, politics, and technology, Our Biggest Experiment shines a spotlight on the little-known scientists who sounded the alarm to reveal the history behind the defining story of our age: the climate crisis. In 1856, American scientist and women's rights activist Eunice Newton Foote first warned the world that an atmosphere heavy with carbon dioxide could send temperatures here on Earth soaring. No one paid much attention. Our Biggest Experiment tells Foote's story, along with stories of the many scientists who helped build our modern understanding of climate change. It also tells the story of our energy system, from whale oil to kerosene and beyond, the first steamships, wind turbines, electric cars, oil tankers, and fridges. The story flows from the Enlightenment into World War II and later, tracing the development of big science and our advancing realization that global warming was a significant global problem. With precision and wit, Bell chronicles the growth of the environmental movement, climate skepticism, and political systems such as the UN climate talks. As citizens of the twenty-first century, it can feel like history has dealt us a bad hand with the climate crisis. In many ways, this is true. Our ancestors have left us an almighty mess. But they left us tools for survival too, and Our Biggest Experiment tells both sides of the story.

59 review for Our Biggest Experiment: An Epic History of the Climate Crisis

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy Williams

    Weaves together the story of fossil fuels, science and environmentalism into an ambitious, panoramic history of how climate change went from rumour to fact to emergency. If you enjoy popular histories or biographies, this is a really good way into the topic of climate change.

  2. 5 out of 5

    The Inquisitive Biologist

    Meticulous and tightly focused, Our Biggest Experiment draws out the individual strands that make up the complex texture and weave of the huge history of climate change research. See my full review at https://inquisitivebiologist.com/2021... Meticulous and tightly focused, Our Biggest Experiment draws out the individual strands that make up the complex texture and weave of the huge history of climate change research. See my full review at https://inquisitivebiologist.com/2021...

  3. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    An excellent historical overview of climate history. Alice Bell covers the developments that have led us to this situation in incredible clarity and engaging stories. A must read for those interested in how and why we find ourselves facing such an uncertain future.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Tabatha Shipley

    What I Didn’t Like: -Very dry. This one reads like a textbook. Lots of words on a page, lots of pages, and a lot to focus on. There’s a lot of facts, dates, names, places, and events to read through. That makes this one really hard to latch onto for continuous reading. -Lack of action-forward focus. This is a nonfiction history of the climate crisis. While it does a decent job of laying out the past, I would’ve liked to see more time spent on the history and actionable steps. Of course, that wasn What I Didn’t Like: -Very dry. This one reads like a textbook. Lots of words on a page, lots of pages, and a lot to focus on. There’s a lot of facts, dates, names, places, and events to read through. That makes this one really hard to latch onto for continuous reading. -Lack of action-forward focus. This is a nonfiction history of the climate crisis. While it does a decent job of laying out the past, I would’ve liked to see more time spent on the history and actionable steps. Of course, that wasn’t the point of the book, but it would’ve helped the downer mood. -Lack of focus in some chapters. There were definitely times when I felt like I was in a sort of rabbit hole, chasing the past of one person or another. I kept forgetting what the heck that person had to do with the topic at hand (energy and the climate crisis). What I Did Like: -Obviously well researched. No one could ever accuse this author of not knowing everything about these topics. The massive list of sources (both in the footnotes and in the appendix) make it VERY clear this one is carefully researched. I love that in nonfiction! -Laid back tone. The author writes this one almost as if she’s writing to a friend. There’s few (if any) multi-syllable scientific words. This was written as a way to show the average person that climate change is a very real thing and explain how we created this problem. Who Should Read This One: -Science minded curious readers who want to know about the history of energy in the world. It’s exactly the audience it was intended for! My Rating: 3 stars. The research is refreshing and well organized and the history is accurate.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Tutankhamun18

    Fantastic book that tells the story of climate change and the scientists and individuals who revealed it to themselves and to the world and the place in which society is placed when they heard that news. Very compelling and gives details and context that paint the picture of how we got to the year 2021 with 1.1degrees of warming (according to the IPCC Report 6). Also has a very extensive reading list that is connnected to the main text via footbotes throughout, making it a great starting point f Fantastic book that tells the story of climate change and the scientists and individuals who revealed it to themselves and to the world and the place in which society is placed when they heard that news. Very compelling and gives details and context that paint the picture of how we got to the year 2021 with 1.1degrees of warming (according to the IPCC Report 6). Also has a very extensive reading list that is connnected to the main text via footbotes throughout, making it a great starting point for anyone to engage with the topic. Both science and history, telling the story of consumerism, our addicition to energy, travel and plastics. Also fascinating conclusion about how climate change was discovered by geologists and metereologists - the military- and how this did not fit as well for WWF and Greenpeace ect who had biology, ecology and plant biology on their side. * Colonialism fuelled climate change. * Before we mined the earth for fossil fuels, we mined the ocean for whales. Humans problem with energy use is larger than fossil fuels. * Interesting charts the resistance to gas lighting rather than whale blubber. * Colonial expansion created the need and desire for weather predictions, especially in shipping. * 1912 and 1920s: atmospheric carbon dioxide not yet decisively linked to warming, but global cooling was a bigger fear to have another ice age. * In 50s and 60s people thought nuclear would usurp fossil fuels and so global warming would not be a problem.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Carlos Rodriguez

    This is a history book, about the evolution of the climate change science, full of nice details, written in a very street way, which I really liked. Alice tries to be very aseptic in her writing, and when she doesn't is because she shouldn't. I wish she could have pushed a bit further the envelope at the very end, it seems she was VERY eager to finish the book, I imagine she will come back with a more compact and recent version of the last years not included into this volume. BTW the book is fil This is a history book, about the evolution of the climate change science, full of nice details, written in a very street way, which I really liked. Alice tries to be very aseptic in her writing, and when she doesn't is because she shouldn't. I wish she could have pushed a bit further the envelope at the very end, it seems she was VERY eager to finish the book, I imagine she will come back with a more compact and recent version of the last years not included into this volume. BTW the book is filled with great book references, there is a nice source of boo to read, but maybe later, after my climate depression subside a bit. Worth reading!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    Library Journal Sep 2021, Vol. 146 no. 9

  8. 4 out of 5

    Alan Rawling

  9. 5 out of 5

    Morvial

  10. 5 out of 5

    Rajeev Pillai

  11. 4 out of 5

    Mansoor

  12. 5 out of 5

    Nop

  13. 5 out of 5

    Susi

  14. 5 out of 5

    Simon Gibson

  15. 5 out of 5

    Vlasta

  16. 5 out of 5

    Mark S.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Vex

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kirsty Connell-Skinner

  19. 5 out of 5

    Sam

  20. 5 out of 5

    Peter Beaumont

  21. 5 out of 5

    Cecilia

  22. 4 out of 5

    Dave

  23. 4 out of 5

    cindy

  24. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jenny

  26. 5 out of 5

    Bogdan Antonescu

  27. 4 out of 5

    Blake Cobainie

  28. 4 out of 5

    Aoife O'Leary

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sandra Padilla

  30. 4 out of 5

    Leo

  31. 4 out of 5

    Mairi

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    emmy

  33. 4 out of 5

    Jordan Foos

  34. 5 out of 5

    Emily

  35. 4 out of 5

    Gal Schwed

  36. 5 out of 5

    Carolina Lemanski

  37. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth Grisham

  38. 5 out of 5

    Nic

  39. 5 out of 5

    Megan

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    Emma

  42. 5 out of 5

    Jen

  43. 4 out of 5

    Lindsay

  44. 5 out of 5

    Karole

  45. 5 out of 5

    Greg Z

  46. 4 out of 5

    Meghan

  47. 5 out of 5

    Emily Schafer

  48. 4 out of 5

    Vickie Fan

  49. 5 out of 5

    Melissa Lee

  50. 4 out of 5

    Lori

  51. 4 out of 5

    Taila

  52. 4 out of 5

    Katie

  53. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Hudson

  54. 4 out of 5

    Ashley

  55. 4 out of 5

    Monica Harvey

  56. 4 out of 5

    Alyssa Wali

  57. 5 out of 5

    nothanku

  58. 4 out of 5

    Amy

  59. 4 out of 5

    Hidhaya

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