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Can history help halt the runaway train?

Stonehenge Dec 12 043Is it possible to use the lessons of the past to combat the acceleration of global warming asks BBC History magazine? Dr Mark Levene, historian and climate change activist, Kate Prendergast and other historians and archaeologists give their views to Gail Dixon

Dr Spencer Weart says:

Some people think the climate change problem is so overwhelming that nothing effective can be done. Exposing them to the history of how people have responded to difficult problems should inspire them to a more hopeful view. It’s not so much responses to scarcity and adversity that we should be looking at but responses to the very greatest ‘security’ threats and moral failings. Holding climate change to a minimum, and adapting to the changes that it triggers, will be a challenge comparable to vanquishing fascism, communism and slavery... although in fact it can be done with a lot less expense and loss of life. Perhaps it’s more comparable to the victories over smallpox and prevention of nuclear war, which have relied on limited funds and international cooperation. Historians can show how all these problems originally seemed horribly insurmountable, but were solved, or at least held at bay, once people got to work.

Dr Spencer Weart is director of the Center for History of Physics, American Institute of Physics, Maryland, US