The Warming Papers

Last month, Wiley released The Warming Papers, a concise, comprehensive collection of scientific papers that make up the foundation of the global warming forecast. We sat down with Dr. David Archer, one of the book’s two editors (the other being Dr. Ray Pierrehumbert), to find out more about the planning processes behind this sort of collaboration, as well as his own thoughts on global warming.

  • Climate change science is notoriously complex, taking account of many factors. What strategy did you use to organize the content?

Generally there is a physical domain, concerning the energy balance of the Earth as it is affected by light and heat, and a chemical domain, concerning the carbon cycle and the possibility of human activity altering it.

  • How did you go about deciding which papers to include in this book?

We chose seminal papers, the first ones to explore big ideas, rather than, say, the most recent or most current paper on the topic. And we limited papers to those concerning global warming—a human impact on climate, in particular—rather than climate science more broadly.

  • You wrote The Long Thaw, about how humans have affected climate change. How would climate change have progressed differently without the interference of modern technology and industry?

It would be somewhat cooler today if not for human activity, and humans have the capacity to derail the glacial cycles, at least for a while (geologically speaking).

  • What advice would you give to a lay person confused by the conflicting claims of climate scientists on the one hand and climate skeptics/deniers on the other?

Follow the money.

  • What are your views on geoengineering?

Geoengineering could work as a temporary band-aid to cool things down for a few decades while we actively remove CO2 from the air. The U.S. will have to pay for a quarter of it, because that is how much of the mess we made. But since fossil fuel CO2 continues to warm the climate for hundreds of thousands of years after it is first released to the atmosphere, geoengineering is not a “fix” for global warming. It leaves the planet on life support, an unstable and unfair legacy for future generations.

  • If you could work in another field or discipline in science, what would you choose and why?

I love the natural stability that arises in Earth system processes. I could have gone in the direction of instrumentation and making measurements; it would be fun to remote-control fly an unmanned airplane in the Martian atmosphere, for example.

Check out another book by this author:
Global Warming: Understanding the Forecast

by David Archer

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