Climate change and its histories

Authored by: Hervé Le Treut , Claire Weill

Routledge Handbook of the History of Sustainability

Print publication date:  October  2017
Online publication date:  October  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138685796
eBook ISBN: 9781315543017
Adobe ISBN:


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Studying the development of the “climate change” issue requires an analysis of different histories, factors, and time scales. From the very outset, one needs to distinguish between three interlocking histories: the history of the climate system itself, the history of human impacts on the climate (and its subsequent changes), and the history of climate science. But addressing climate change policies also requires studies concerning a huge array of different environmental and societal risks, studies that have too often been developed in separate contexts. This complexity is itself the distinctive mark of all the debates and research on climate, and it must be reflected in the present chapter. That said, it is impossible to cover comprehensively in only a few pages such a large subject. The approach has therefore been to focus on a short period of time, mostly the decades after World War II. This post-war period was marked by the dramatic increase of human impacts on our environment, as well as unprecedented scientific attention on climate, all with the intention of evaluating and raising cautions about the risks of a rapidly changing climate. In the last decades, the search for solutions has become much more pressing, and has led to the development of new areas of research, expertise, and debates.

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