Modern history

  • Home
  • Modern history
  • Fire and Flood: A People’s History of Climate Change, from 1979 to the Present

Fire and Flood: A People’s History of Climate Change, from 1979 to the Present

Fire and Flood: A People’s History of Climate Change, from 1979 to the Present

Eugene Linden wrote his first story on climate change, for Time magazine, in 1988; it was just the beginning of his investigative work, exploring all ramifications of this impending disaster. Fire and Flood represents his definitive case for the prosecution as to how and why we have arrived at our current dire pass, closing with his argument that the same forces that have confused the public’s mind and slowed the policy response are poised to pivot with astonishing speed, as long-term risks have become present-day realities and the cliff’s edge is now within view.

Starting with the 1980s, Linden tells the story, decade by decade, by looking at four clocks that move at different speeds: the reality of climate change itself; the scientific consensus about it, which always lags reality; public opinion and political will, which lag further still; and, perhaps most important, business and finance. Reality marches on at its own pace, but the public will and even the science are downstream from the money, and Fire and Flood shows how devilishly effective moneyed climate-change deniers have been at slowing and even reversing the progress of our collective awakening. When a threat means certain but future disaster, but addressing it means losing present-tense profit, capitalism’s response has been sadly predictable.

Now, however, the seasons of fire and flood have crossed the threshold into plain view. Linden focuses on the insurance industry as one loud canary in the coal mine: fire and flood zones in Florida and California, among other regions, are now seeing what many call “climate redlining.” The whole system is teetering on the brink, and the odds of another housing collapse, for starters, are much higher than most people understand. There is a path back from the cliff, but we must pick up the pace. Fire and Flood shows us why, and how.


Chapter 1. The Four Clocks

Part 1: Setting the Stage

Chapter 2. The Biggest Picture

Chapter 3. Science: The Dawn of the Modern Climate Change Era

Part 2: The 1980s

Chapter 4. Science in the 1980s

Chapter 5. The 1980s: A Distracted Public

Chapter 6. Business and Finance in the 1980s: Creating the Denial Playbook

Part 3: The 1990s

Chapter 7. Reality: Ominous Portents of Change

Chapter 8. Climate Science in the 1990s: A New Paradigm Emerges

Chapter 9. The Public: Stirred but Not Shaken

Chapter 10. Business and Finance in the 1990s: Mobilizing, but Against Climate Action

Part 4: The New Millennium

Chapter 11. Reality in the Oughts

Chapter 12. The Science of Climate Change in the Oughts

Chapter 13. Public Opinion in the Oughts: A Climate Denier in the White House

Chapter 14. Business and Finance in the Oughts: Stirrings of Change

Part 5: 2010s: Things Get Real

Chapter 15. The 2010s: Reality Bites

Chapter 16. The Climate Picture Comes into Focus

Chapter 17. The 2010s: The Public Realizes That Something Is Wrong

Chapter 18. The 2010s: Business and Finance Awaken to the Threat

Part 6: Where Do We Go from Here?

Chapter 19. The Trap We’ve Set for Ourselves

Chapter 20. A Narrow Path to a Livable Future

If you find an error or have any questions, please email us at Thank you!