The more we debate about the catastrophic implications of climate change, the more fossil fuels we continue to burn. How did we get caught up in this mess? In this masterful new history, Malm claims that it all began in Britain with the rise of steam-power. So why did manufacturers turn from traditional fuels, notably water, to steam? Overturning established theories of the transition and offering a radically new view of our warming world, this study shows how steam was adopted as a superior source of power. Two centuries later, the inheritors of that power continue to profit from ‘business as usual’ as the world heads towards irreversible catastrophe. Malm examines the history of resistance to fossil fuels and offers suggestions for transitioning to alternative sources of power, such as a return to waterpower.