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The Two-Mile Time Machine: Ice Cores, Abrupt Climate Change, and Our Future - Richard B. Alley

This is a fascinating chronicle of the Earth's climate, as subtly encoded in two miles of Greenland ice. Alley describes his work and that of fellow climate historians with clarity and infectious enthusiasm, painting a vivid picture of a violently fluctuating and generally inhospitable planet currently coasting through a rare period of warmth and stability that has enabled a sensitive species like us to thrive.

Alley's work makes some valuable sense of the Byzantine complexity of our climate, but while the correlations and causalities offer clues, he is too scrupulous to offer firm predictions of the consequences of humans releasing carbon into the atmosphere and pressurising other resources. However, he points out un-nervingly that the climate is 'like a drunk; left alone it sits; when pushed, it staggers'. If our climate's history has been a rough ride, there doesn't seem much hope we'll be spared the bumps in future, with ever more extreme weather on the cards: floods, droughts, hurricanes, sea level fluctuations, extreme heat and cold are all more likely in a warmer world.