cover image Our Biggest Experiment: An Epic History of the Climate Crisis

Our Biggest Experiment: An Epic History of the Climate Crisis

Alice Bell. Counterpoint, $27 (384p) ISBN 978-1-64009-433-8

The discovery of climate change arrived not with a bang but slowly over many centuries of lesser-known findings, writes activist and journalist Bell (Can We Save The Planet?) in this thorough and sweeping history of the climate crisis. Bell traces “how we built systems, technologies and deeply embedded cultures for the burning of coal, gas and oil at scale” to track “how we discovered the climate crisis was happening in the first place.” She begins in 1851, at England’s Great Exhibition, which was among the first events to rely heavily on coal-powered steam engines and marked “an age of prosperity” powered by fossil fuels. Subsequent biographies include John D. Rockefeller and his control of the oil industry and Eunice Newton Foote, who discovered the greenhouse effect in 1856. (Meanwhile, “the first recorded tree huggers” emerged in India in 1730.) Bell makes a convincing case that in order to effectively deal with climate change, people must understand how the world got to this point: “We’ve inherited an almighty mess, but we’ve also inherited a lot of tools that could... help us and others survive” through modern climate science. Impressive in scope, this deserves wide readership. Agent: Donald Winchester, Watson Little. (Sept.)