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It took a century for scientists to agree that gases produced by human activity were causing the world to warm up. Now, in an engaging book that reads like a detective story, physicist Weart (Scientists in Power; Nuclear Fear) reports the history of global warming theory, including the internal conflicts plaguing the research community and the role government has had in promoting climate studies. Some researchers, he writes, pursued red herrings, while others on the right track often could not get attention or funding. Still others made classic errors but uncovered significant seeds of truth in the process. With just enough scientific detail and plenty of biographical narrative, Weart conveys the difficulties of studying vast, chaotic weather systems. As one of the profiled researchers puts it, the earth's climate is "a capricious beast"; instead of taking its threat seriously, he says, we have been "poking it with a sharp stick." Weart's goal is "to help the reader understand our predicament by explaining how we got here." Blending parallel stories, he implies that although geophysicists took a long time to understand the various elements of global warming, they were all working toward a common goal. Without resorting to fear-mongering, Weart gives an informed history and offers his readers solutions to consider.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
As Weart makes clear, global warming came to be accepted through a long process of incremental research rather than a dramatic revelation. The story goes back to the mid-nineteenth century, when a French scientist wondered why the earth didn't bake to a crisp, and proposed that the planet radiated infrared energy. But when the Frenchman crunched the numbers, the equations indicated that the earth should be frigid, demonstrating that something in addition to solar energy influenced climate. The search for that something over the past 150 years eventually included the gases and aerosols humanity produces, but interestingly, given contemporary awareness and anxiety about warming, cold was what initially gave scientists the shivers. Specifically, the cause of the ice ages was the target of many scientists' projects. Weart's presiding theme is how different disciplines, working on unrelated problems, have synthesized into the geophysics of cold and warm spells on a planetary scale. A soberly written synthesis of science and politics. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Discovery of Global Warming
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