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The Discovery of Global Warming: Revised and Expanded Edition Paperback – Nov 30 2008


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; 2 edition (Nov. 30 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067403189X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674031890
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 12.7 x 1.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 204 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #342,076 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents


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Format: Paperback
That scientists are human and politically engaged in issues of global importance shouldn't surprise the reader. You don't have to be a climatologist, physicist, chemist or any other kind of scientist to enjoy the book, but you would have to be a strange beast to finish it without a heightened concern for where we're headed. The author writes clearly about the history of atmospheric CO2 and its potential impact on climate. Highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback
A common remark I make about climate change books I like is that 'it wasn't like a textbook'. I like non-fiction books that I can carry around and read cover-to-cover just like I would a novel. I like them to draw me in and catch my interest as if they were a suspenseful PD James or just a comfortable Maeve Binchy.

The Discovery of Global Warming, by Spencer Weart, had all of these qualities and more: It contained as much information as a textbook, even if it didn't read like one. That, I think, is the benefit of science history. It can be written in a way that is compelling as fiction, but it's all true.

I think I will place this book near the top of my list of resources for concerned citizens who are looking for more information on climate change. It is so helpful because, instead of saying 'scientists are confident that humans are causing the Earth to warm', it traces back through history and follows this discovery all the way through, from Fourier to the AR4. We see the top of the credibility spectrum in action, and examine exactly where the conclusions of the scientific community came from.

There are lots of great details in this book to sink your teeth into. How did the Cold War pave the way for much of our knowledge about the atmosphere? Why does chaos theory apply to weather models much more than climate models? And, of course, my very favourite ' the 1970s aerosol debate. How did scientists realize that the warming force of greenhouse gases would overpower the cooling force of aerosols, long before the warming was actually observed?

All of this is written in an incredibly elegant and engaging tone.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Bucherwurm on June 30 2004
Format: Hardcover
This fairly slight volume is an important addition to the study of global warming. The book, easily understood by the average lay reader, recounts the history of climate change research starting in about 1896. I should point out that the reader will not take away a reasonably thorough knowledge of global warming science from the book. That is not its purpose. You do learn some elements of the science involved, but essentially you learn how our present day view of climate change came about.
Our knowledge of our climate chugged along at a fairly slow rate over the last 108 years for several reasons. A major problem was the essential need for the involvement of a wide variety of scientific specialties. In order to advance the study we have needed the input of physicists, oceanographers, geologists, chemists, meteorologists and even botanists. It is rare that such a diverse group of scientists are needed for an advance in a certain area. Weart describes how all of these researchers started working together in their search for answers to global climate change.
The second major difficulty was the lack of certain technologies necessary to achieve meaningful progress. Only recently have we had computers fast enough to process the data in climate modeling programs. Technological advances also had to be made in the equipment needed to take kilometers deep core samples from ice and other strata. Researchers had to learn the hard way that you can't even breathe on ice cores as your breath will contaminate the sample.
Weart brings us up to the present and discusses the roles of journalism and politics in advancing and often hindering the governmental support for the recommendations of scientists.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By C. Naylor on April 6 2004
Format: Hardcover
An excellent short summary of the rise of global climate concerns in the scientific, political and public awareness. Weart details the steps in the discovery of global warming as a concept, including the various transformations that climate theory went through on its way towards adequately explaining what has happened in the past and reliably predicting the general shape of things to come. He explains the science well for the beginner (that is to say, not too deeply) and covers many bases - including solar, atmospheric, oceanic and biomass inputs that shape our climate and the creeping realization that climate change can change (and has changed in the past) much faster than anyone suspected 100 years ago.
While covering the science and history in some detail, he also takes great care to acknowledge the inherent uncertainties of climate science, focusing his attention later in the book on the public and political interplay in the process of discovery and discussion about climatic change. He also leaves room for continued debate, although it's clear that he has been convinced of the potential dangers of global warming by the available evidence. For those who find the book short on scientific material, a link is included to a website maintained by the author which contains much more material and data. The author also lists links to other prominent sites for climate change information, including sites which argue against its existence. Overall, I appreciate both the passion and the evident fairness that the author brings to his subject which leads me to give it 5 stars.
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