Publication Date: 01/09/2022 ISBN: 9781472974785 Category:


Alice Bell

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Publication Date: 01/09/2022 ISBN: 9781472974785 Category:
Paperback / Softback


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The history of climate change research – how the world became addicted to fossil fuels, how we discovered that electricity may be our saviour, and how renewable energy is far from a 20th-century discovery.

Did you know the link between carbon dioxide and global warming was first suggested in the 1850s? Climate change books are usually about the future, but Our Biggest Experiment turns instead asks how did we get into this mess, and how and when did we work out it was happening? Join Alice Bell on a rip-roaring ride through the characters, ideas, technologies and experiments that shaped the climate crisis we now find ourselves in.

From an emerging idea of ‘greenhouse gases’ in the 19th century and, via scientific expeditions across oceans and ice caps and into space, the coining of the term ‘global warming’ in the 1970s, Bell explores how we began to realise that not only could human pollution dangerously warm the climate, but that it was already doing so. Drop by the first climate talks, weather forecasts and early experiments. Watch excitement over solar and wind power start in the 1870s, only to be forgotten before being rediscovered a century later. See the monster of big oil slain by a plucky investigative journalist back in the 1910s, only tore-emerge more powerful than ever. However, this isn’t a simple story with exploitative fossil-fuel baddies on one side and the goodies of renewable energy, environmentalism and climate science on the other. It’s more complex than that.

As citizens of the 21st century, we’ve been left an almighty mess, but as this ultimately hopeful book argues, we’ve also inherited the tools for our survival.

Publisher Review

Alice Bell's Our Biggest Experiment reads like a "chocolate box of a book"-regaling readers with a curated history of the people, science, politics, and technology that have intersected with the current climate crisis. She deftly weaves subtle and lesser-known details about the brilliant (and sometimes eccentric) individuals who have worked out how to measure and describe what we, as a species, have wrought upon Earth. * Science * Bell's book is nuanced, which is welcome in an often oversimplified and polarising topic ... an insightful and informative read. * Geographical * A highly enjoyable rabbit hole of a book ... Alice Bell chronicles the science and history of climate change in an intuitive manner that glides easily from one episode to the next. It's a sweeping narrative of industry, energy and atmospheric science, and much of Bell's achievement lies in artfully assembling pieces of the climate puzzle scattered across time and space. * New Statesman * The climate crisis is so overwhelming it can be easier not to engage with the problem. However, Alice had me every step of the way. She guides the reader on an international journey through time, focusing not on statistics but the complex human story and fascinating characters that have led us to where we are now. * Maddie Moate * Our Biggest Experiment is a spectacular achievement - the definitive history of the most consequential issue of our time. Majestic in scope, it offers not one but two epic stories - how we changed the world, and how we came to realize what we've done - told through Alice Bell's charming, witty, and authoritative writing. * Ed Yong, The Atlantic * Vibrant and wonderfully detailed ... Alice Bell brings to life the characters and corporations from the past whose names we all know, from Tesla and Watt to Esso and Shell. You might think it's more important to focus on the future of our planet, but only by understanding our history can we start to shape what happens next. Read this and be energised to save the world. * Rowan Hooper, New Scientist *

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