Historical Perspectives on Climate Change

Historical Perspectives on Climate Change

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This intriguing volume provides a thorough examination of the historical roots of global climate change as a field of inquiry, from the Enlightenment to the late twentieth century. Based on primary and archival sources, the book is filled with interesting perspectives on what people have understood, experienced, and feared about the climate and its changes in the past. Chapters explore climate and culture in Enlightenment thought; climate debates in early America; the development of international networks of observation; the scientific transformation of climate discourse; and early contributions to understanding terrestrial temperature changes, infrared radiation, and the carbon dioxide theory of climate. But perhaps most important, this book shows what a study of the past has to offer the interdisciplinary investigation of current environmental problems.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 208 pages
  • 154 x 232 x 14mm | 322.06g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 11 line illus.
  • 0195189736
  • 9780195189735
  • 1,311,858

Review quote

A series of interrelated essays on elite and popular understanding of climate and climate change offers historical perspectives dating from the period of Enlightenment to the late 20th century. * Environmental Science & Technology * A lucid, well-written, and skillfully presented work; the bibliography is bountiful and sources of information are well-documented. . . . General readers; faculty. * Choice * While other recent books on climate change have focused on current theory and potential impact, Fleming has studied and written on the history of the concepts * how we got here and what we might learn from the past. This well-documented book starts with reflections of learned men on climate and culture during the age of enlightenment and speculations on climate impact of American colonization. The following chapters are on important scientists: Fourier, Tyndall, Arrhenius, Chamberlin, and (a maverick) Huntington, who provided a foundation for studies of climate change and effects of carbon dioxide. The last two chapters bring the reader up to the middle of the twentieth century as global temperature trends (most up, some down) sought explanation and carbon dioxide became implicated. A wide variety of atmospheric scientists and those curious about global climate change will find this of interest. * Fleming has studied the history of science and of weather, and in his book, 'Historical Perspectives on Climate Change,' published in September by Oxford University Press, he discusses the human understanding and response to the Earth's changing climate. 'Our understanding of climate dynamically changes as fast or faster than the climate itself,' he said. The book looks at weather in America beginning in 1720 and ending in 1988, the start of what he calls the 'new era of global warming,' and discusses humans' reaction to the climate around them. During the colonial period, for instance, the Europeans who came to America viewed this as a cold continent. They believed that cutting trees and clearing swamps would warm it up. Nineteenth-century climatologists claimed this view of the Earth's climate was wrong, and the discovery that there had been Ice Ages in the planet's past fueled a move toward a global view of temperature and climate. * Ellsworth American * I have read the book with great interest. It is a clear and scholarly exposition of a topic which is not well understood. The book places the current debates over global warming and other fears about climate change in their historical context. * Marc Rothenberg, Smithsonian Institution * The debate over global warming is far from new; in fact, science historian James Fleming has just published a scholarly treatise on the historical debate over global warming entitled Historical Perspectives on Climate Change. I would highly recommend this interesting book for an accurate account of who did what first and who proposed which hypotheses. These things have been muddled in recent literature because very few researchers have taken the time to go back to the original resources. * Warren Washington in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society *show more

Table of contents

Introduction: Apprehending climate change ; 1. Climate and culture in Enlightenment thought ; 2. The great climate debate in colonial and early America ; 3. Privilieged positions: The expansion of observing systems ; 4. Climate discourse transformed ; 5. Joseph Fourier's theory of terrestrial temperatures ; 6. John Tyndall, Svante Arrhenius, and early research on carbon dioxide and climate ; 7. T.C. Chamberlin and the geological agency of the atmosphere ; 8. The climate determinism of Ellsworth Huntington ; 9. Global Warming? The early twentieth century ; 10. Global cooling, global warming: Historical dimensions ; Notes ; Bibliography ; Indexshow more

About James Rodger Fleming

James Rodger Fleming is Professor in the Science, Thechnology, and Society Program at Colby College.show more

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