Springer, 2003. — 269 p.We live in unusual times. Greenhouse gas concentrations are increasing rapidly and are now much higher than they have been for at least 420,000 years. Global average temperatures exceed anything seen in the last thousand years. The evidence is now overwhelming that such changes are a consequence of human activities, but these are superimposed on underlying natural variations. Climate on Earth naturally undergoes changes driven by external factors such as variations in solar output and internal factors like volcanic eruptions. How can we distinguish the human from the natural impacts? And what might the changes herald for the future of human societies as population pressure grows, as fossil fuel consumption increases and as land cover is altered? Such questions are compelling, and the need for answers urgent. But the search for answers will only be successful when we have developed insight into the full range of natural variability of the climate system. That range is illustrated by the events of the past, and it is only by unravelling those events that we will be able to predict the future, and our place in it, with confidence.The Societal Relevance of Paleoenvironmental Research. The Late Quaternary History of Atmospheric Trace Gases and Aerosols: Interactions Between Climate and Biogeochemical Cycles. The History of Climate Dynamics in the Late Quaternary. The Late Quaternary History of Biogeochemical Cycling of Carbon. Terrestrial Biosphere Dynamics in the Climate System: Past and Future. The Climate of the Last Millennium. The Role of Human Activities in Past Environmental Change. Challenges of a Changing Earth: Past Perspectives, Future Concerns. Appendix. References.
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