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The Discovery of Global Warming: Revised and Expanded Edition (New Histories of Science, Technology, and Medicine) Revised Edition
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Top Customer Reviews
I'm a scientist, and I use this book in a course that teaches different approaches to complex problems. Climate science is one heck of a complex problem, and the history of its science presents a fascinating introduction to how interdisciplinarity is necessary in some cases. Most of my students, many of whom are science phobic, enjoy the book and find it eye opening.
Pros: Really well written, accessible, easy to follow, and tells a fascinating history.
Cons: It may be a little dry to someone not that interested in science.
Bottom line: great intro to climate change science history.
Notwithstanding such difficulties, the process moved forward and the result was a resulting portrait of vast, chaotic weather systems that over time yielded an understanding of climate chance on Earth. He author insists that through concerted efforts over more than 150 years scientists came to a consensus that a number of human interventions, including the burning of carbon fuels and the use of aerosols, have created the current situation and some among them have been clamoring for a public policy response since the 1980s.
This only came about because of a long process of incremental research rather than through dramatic discovery. Weart quotes one climate scientist involved in this process as characterizing climate science as a "capricious beast" and "we were poking it with a sharp stick" (p. 141). It was much harder to understand and more wily than they first realized.Read more ›
The Discovery of Global Warming is a well-written, concise history of the science of climate change and the resulting discovery of global warming. From Arrhenius in 1896 breaking with the assumption of an unchanging Earth climate through to the politics of the Kyoto accords and New York Times headlines, Spencer Weart's book traces how science, often esoteric science, combines and builds a consistent overall view. Climate can and does change, and not merely over geological time scales but over the scale of a human lifetime. Understanding both the data and the models required to connect the data with natural processes has not been easy. The subtlety of data from ice cores, lakebeds, stratospheric winds, and local weather stations ultimately yields the punch line of "global warming" but it's the chase, not the capture, that is the heart of this book.
This chase has turned out to have far more twists, turns, and blind alleys than most would have guessed at the time. What controls the climate? Is it the variation of the Sun, as noted by Herschel in the eighteenth century? Is it the stability of the cold deep waters of the ocean? Or the transformation of old growth forests to grazing land? Greenhouse gases trapped in tropical forests? Or hidden away in blue-green algae? And what of the petrochemical haze of Los Angeles and the killing fog of London? What is a symptom and what is a cause? And further, what do the symptoms truly imply?Read more ›
One of the more interesting aspects Weart brings out is how early items such as soot, water vapor, climate cycles, sun spots, etc. were recognized as contributing elements and addressed.
CS began as an attempt to explain the ice ages, but early on CO2 was identified as a wild card that may affect the earth's climate. Weart identifies the various players in the early science, and the contributions of each.
CS picked up in the 1950's as a scientific field, and Weart covers this very well. It is interesting to learn that so much of CS was due to military research on climate and weather, stemming from the WWII experiences, and an appreciation of how a better understanding of how weather works could help shipping and possible military operations. Early attempts at climate modeling are covered, along with the struggle to determine causes of differing weather effects, and which agents would have a greater effect over the long term.
Overall, Weart covers CS from it's inception to the present, describing the major players, how the science evolved, how it became international in scope, and a broad look at political reaction. This is a good history that will inform on how climate science has developed. This book does not concentrate at all on the deniers, and the efforts by industry and some politicians, think tanks, etc. to subvert the consensus on global warming. Descriptions of the science are necessarily broad, this is not a technical manual on how the science works. If you want a book that will cover the overall arc of CS, from the beginning glimmers of an idea to the present, this is a well worthwhile acquisition.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
History of the discovery of global warming, as the title implies. I first read this book in a course on climate change I took to school myself as a journalist preparing to write... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Nellie Voratnatz
Quick service and item as described. Would recommend and use this provider again.Published 17 months ago by d.r.
I purchased this book for a class and I really didn't learn too much from it. I'm well educated in this background, but this book would be good for someone who would like to learn... Read morePublished on September 2, 2013 by S. Kroon
Spencer's book is a seminal work, one that lays out, for the layperson, a clear and easily-followed timeline of how we've come to know that anthropogenic climate change is A) a... Read morePublished on August 24, 2013 by Paul H. Wigton II
Conservative pundit George Will doesn't believe that humans are causing global warming. He often tries to discredit climate science by scoffing at the way a few climate scientists... Read morePublished on March 3, 2013 by not me
This book doesn't just talk about science but about how science is done. The truth doesn't have to win out in the end; there are many facts about the universe that we will never... Read morePublished on October 7, 2012 by Jordan Bell
I found the book well written and useful in understanding the facts about the history and current scientific reasoning regarding climate change. Read morePublished on September 3, 2011 by Keith