Brian Switek author of the always-excellent blog Laelaps recently posted a review of Donald Prothero’s forthcoming Greenhouse of the Dinosaurs: Evolution, Extinction, and the Future of Our Planet.
In the review, Switek highlights Prothero’s emphasis on the importance of understanding climates of the past in understanding dramatic changes happening in our present climate. Switek writes, “By studying ancient climates and environments we can learn something about how the gases in the atmosphere, the constant shifting of the continents, and the paths of ocean currents influence the atmosphere. Fossils of extinct plants and animals also provide windows into these lost worlds, and while the triggers of ancient climate change might be debated these traces allow us to better understand how our planet has evolved.” Prothero’s focus counters those of figures such as Republican Representative Dana Rohrabacher who, as Switek points out, suggested that “dinosaur farts” were the cause of Eocene hothouse and that perhaps present rises in temperature could be explained by something besides human activity.
In addition to pointing to Prothero’s belief in the importance of paleontology in contemporary debates, Switek also praises Prothero’s insider and personal look at what it is like and what it takes to be a paleontologist.