The Fate of Greenland: Lessons from Abrupt Climate Change

Four authors – Philip Conkling, Richard Alley, Wallace Broecker, George Denton – are the recipients of the Phi Beta Kappa Book Award in Science for The Fate of Greenland: Lessons from Abrupt Climate Change (The MIT Press, 2011). This award is offered for outstanding contributions by scientists to the literature of science. Its purpose is to encourage literate and scholarly interpretations of the physical and biological sciences and mathematics.

The Phi Beta Kappa Book Awards are given each year for outstanding scholarly works published in the United States. These awards support the general mission of the Society to advocate for excellence in the liberal arts and sciences and to promote dialogue about important issues and ideas of our time in an environment of intellectual fellowship.


Geological evidence suggests that Greenland has already been affected by two dramatic changes in climate: the Medieval Warm Period, when warm temperatures in Northern Europe enabled Norse exploration and settlements in Greenland; and the Little Ice Age that followed and apparently wiped out the settlements. Greenland’s climate past and present could presage our climate future. The planet appears to be in a period of acute climate instability, exacerbated by carbon dioxide we pour into the atmosphere, and the melting of Greenland’s ice shelf would cause sea levels to rise twenty-four feet worldwide. As this book makes clear, it is in all of our interests to pay attention to Greenland.

Philip Conkling is Founder and President of the Island Institute in Maine. Richard Alley, a glaciologist, is Evan Pugh Professor of Geosciences and Associate of the Earth and Environmental Systems Institute at Penn State. Wallace Broecker, an oceanographer, is Newberry Professor of Geology at Columbia University and a winner of the Crafoord Prize in Geosciences. George Denton, a geologist, is Professor of Geological Sciences and Quaternary Studies at the University of the Maine.

Previous ΦBK book award winners have included Marjorie Garber, Harold Bloom, Robert Nozick, John Rawls, Robert Coles, Richard Hofstadter, Jared Diamond, Edward O. Wilson, Ernst Mayr, Stephen Jay Gould, and Linus Pauling, among others.

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