Historical Perspectives on Climate Change

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Oxford University Press, Sep 10, 1998 - Science - 208 pages
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.

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Contents

Apprehending Climate Change
3
1 Climate and Culture in Enlightenment Thought
11
2 The Great Climate Debate in Colonial and Early America
21
The Expansion of Observing Systems
33
4 Climate Discourse Transformed
45
5 Joseph Fouriers Theory of Terrestrial Temperatures
55
6 John Tyndall Svante Arrhenius and Early Research on Carbon Dioxide and Climate
65
7 T C Chamberlin and the Geological Agency of the Atmosphere
83
8 The Climatic Determinism of Ellsworth Huntington
95
9 Global Warming? The Early Twentieth Century
107
Historical Dimensions
129
Notes
139
Bibliography
167
Index
190
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Page 3 - I have of late— but wherefore I know not— lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises; and indeed it goes so heavily with my disposition that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory; this most excellent canopy, the air, look you, this brave o'erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire, why, it appears no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours.
Page 46 - evidence of things not seen," in the fulness of Divine grace ; and was profound on this, the greatest concern of human life, while unable even to comprehend how the " inclination of the earth's axis to the plane of its orbit" could be the cause of the change of the seasons.
Page 73 - The aqueous vapour constitutes a local dam, by which the temperature at the earth's surface is deepened : the dam, however, finally overflows, and we give to space all that we receive from the sun. The sun raises the vapours of the equatorial ocean ; they rise, but for a time a vapour screen spreads above and around them.
Page 86 - Branscomb is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society...
Page 71 - No doubt, therefore, can exist of the extraordinary opacity of this substance to the rays of obscure heat ; and particularly such rays as are emitted by the earth after it has been warmed by the sun. It is perfectly certain that more than ten per cent of the terrestrial radiation from the soil of England is stopped within ten feet of the surface of the soil.
Page 143 - In 1811, he published, in one volume, 8vo., his Observations on the Climate in different Parts of America, compared with the Climate in corresponding Parts of the other Continent...
Page 39 - Jefferson and the Reverend James Madison, president of the College of William and Mary, are credited with making the first simultaneous meteorological measurements in 1778.
Page 51 - There is nothing in these curves to countenance the idea of any permanent change in the climate having taken place or being about to take place ; in the last 90 years of thermometric records, the mean temperatures showing no indication whatever of a sustained rise or fall.
Page 178 - Tables and Results of the Precipitation in Rain and Snow in the United States...
Page 71 - The warmth of our fields and gardens would pour itself unrequited into space, and the sun would rise upon an island held fast in the iron grip of frost. The aqueous vapour constitutes a local dam, by which the temperature at the earth's surface is deepened : the dam, however, finally overflows, and we give to space all that we receive from the sun.

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