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Energy and Climate Change: An Introduction to Geological Controls, Interventions and Mitigations

Stephenson Energy Climate ChangeThis wide-ranging book starts by explaining how the carbon cycle links energy and climate change. It discusses the role of fossil fuels in the economy, examines some geological aspects of climate change impacts and mitigations, and concludes with the feedbacks and tipping points of both the Earth and energy systems. The author notes that his aim is to highlight the connections between the different topics, rather than provide in-depth analysis, and with such a range of topics covered in under 200 pages, the book can only provide a brief overview of each.

Geologically minded readers will be familiar with the first third of the book, and probably find the last third the most novel. The language and illustrations used assume more than a basic level of knowledge—the author does not shy away from scientific and technical language and makes extensive use of graphs and charts to demonstrate his points. Most graphs are from academic papers and some are hard to interpret for non-specialists.

Examples of climate change in the geological record, such as the Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), are used to demonstrate both the potential scope of climate change and its impact on life. However, the author makes the important point that attempts to model future climate change based on geological ‘deep time’ do not produce results on a scale that is useful to planners or policymakers. More detailed projections, for example that forecast potential changes to the UK climate (warmer and wetter winters, hotter and drier summers), are based on climate models that are more akin to complex weather forecasting.

Meteorologists and oceanographers have benefitted from technological advances in sensing and monitoring to collect data to inform their models. The author suggests the development of a geological ‘macroscope’ is needed to gather data on the whole Earth system. Better data and measurements of subsurface processes would allow improved modelling of geological impacts, such as groundwater flooding, cliff falls and erosion.

Many existing books on climate change and renewable energy provide more detailed information, and popular science books covering the same issues may be easier to read, but this book offers the serious reader a good opportunity to learn about a wide range of connected issues, with supporting data. There is a bibliography at the end of each chapter for the reader interested in further research.

Reviewed by Georgina Blair

ENERGY AND CLIMATE CHANGE: AN INTRODUCTION TO GEOLOGICAL CONTROLS, INTERVENTIONS AND MITIGATIONS by Michael Stephenson, 2018. Published by Elsevier 186 pp. ISBN: 9780128120217 (pbk.) List price: £88.95. W: https://www.elsevier.com/books/energy-and-climate-change/stephenson/978-0-12-812021-7