Advanced Readings


Alley, RichardThe Two-Mile Time Machine: Ice Cores, Abrupt Climate Change, and Our Future - Updated Edition (Princeton Science Library, 2014) 

In the 1990s Richard B. Alley and his colleagues made headlines with the discovery that the last ice age came to an abrupt end over a period of only three years. In this book, Alley tells the fascinating history of global climate changes as revealed by reading the annual rings of ice from cores drilled in Greenland.

Here is a very interesting lecture, not about Greenland, but about sustainability and energy.  Alley starts with an argument to counter the opinions, reflected in recent polls, that scientists can’t be believed and universities are harmful.  He lists the ingredients that go into making a cell phone: sand, oil, and rocks, and a bit of quantum mechanics, and a bit of general relativity, and . . .etc. . .and generations of university scientists who knew what they were doing. 

Be sure to check out Alley’s climate nuggets at How to talk to an ostrich.

Archer, DavidGlobal Warming: Understanding the Forecast (2011) 

A comprehensive introduction to all aspects of global warming. The book examines the processes that control climate change and climate stability, from the distant past to the distant future.

This is the textbook for a course for non-science majors at the University of Chicago. 

It assumes some familiarity with College Algebra and some understanding of, or willingness to learn, science at a (good) high school level. 

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

The IPCC has published five comprehensive assessment reports reviewing the latest climate science, as well as a number of special reports on particular topics. These reports are prepared by teams of relevant researchers from government nominations. Expert reviewers from a wide range of governments, IPCC observer organizations and other organizations are invited at different stages to comment on various aspects of the drafts. For more information on the IPCC process, see the Wikipedia entry here.

The IPCC assessment reports are the gold standard for understanding and referencing the latest scientific results and the consensus view of the world’s most qualified climate scientists. The most recent of these reports is the fifth assessment report, completed in 2014, and is a 4-part document, each of which can be downloaded piecewise or whole:

  •  AR5 Synthesis Report, Climate Change 2014

  •  AR5 Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis

  •  AR5 Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability

  •  AR5 Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change

Previous releases of the IPCC report are also available.

The view for years has been that limiting warming to 2º C would avoid the worst effects of climate change.  In 2016, the IPCC was invited to address the question of “What if we held warming to just 1.5º C? Would the benefits be significant?” This report, published in 2018, attempts to answer that question. An excellent “Summary for Policymakers” can be found here.

The National Climate Assessment, US Federal Government

The National Climate Assessment (NCA) is a comprehensive interagency report produced every four years by federal agencies and presented to the President and the Congress. It includes the findings of the review teams; analyzes the effects of global change on the natural environment, agriculture, energy production and use, land and water resources, transportation, human health and welfare, human social systems, and biological diversity. It analyzes current trends in global change, both human-induced and natural, and projects major trends for the subsequent 25 to 100 years. 

The most recent report discussed the foundational science, as well as the human welfare, societal, and environmental elements of climate change across geographic regions and national topics. It details observed and projected risks, impacts, possible risk reductions, and implications under different reduction strategies. NCA provides examples of actions underway in communities across the United States to reduce the climate change risks, increase resilience, and improve livelihoods. 

The National Climate Assessment website provides the full report and is excellent, but you can download the complete PDF report as one document, or piecewise, here.