Greenhouse: The 200-Year Story of Global Warming

By Gale E. Christianson | Go to book overview

12

A TAP ON THE SHOULDER

While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly
there came a tapping,
As of someone gently rapping, rapping
at my chamber door.

-- Edgar Allan Poe, "The Raven"

While George Callendar sorted and totaled some fifty years' worth of temperature data, a bespectacled chemist living in Dayton, Ohio, was engaged in what at the time seemed a noble quest. Thomas Midgley Jr. had joined the staff of the General Motors Research Corporation, otherwise known as Delco, during World War I and quickly fulfilled his promise by developing lead tetraethyl, an antiknock agent that when combined with gasoline raised compression ratios in airplane engines, increasing power while reducing wear. The effervescent "Midge" became an instant hero and GM's profits soared when tetraethyl lead was added to the gasoline used in automobiles following the war.

Decades would pass before anyone realized that this major technological breakthrough had its dark and insidious side. Lead not only made its way into fuel but was added to paints and many other products harmful to the environment. Only with the advent of the catalytic converter was leaded gasoline banned in the United States, Canada, Japan, and much of Europe, while the battle to rid homes and apartments of toxic paint continues at untold cost.

With his star in the ascendant, Midgley was given another research challenge at the onset of the depression. Dr. Lester S.

-145-

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Greenhouse: The 200-Year Story of Global Warming
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Part One - The Time Travelers 1
  • 1 - The Guillotine and the Bell Jar 3
  • 2 - The Cryptic Moth 13
  • 3 - Endless and as Nothing 24
  • Part Two - The World Eaters 37
  • 4 - Quest for the Black Diamond 39
  • 5 - Cleopatra's Needles 54
  • 6 - Vulcan's Anvil 66
  • 7 - The Phantom of the Open Hearth 75
  • 8 - The Dynamo and the Virgin 92
  • Part Three - The Dwellers in the Crystal Palace 103
  • 9 - Native Son 105
  • 10 - Never a Man 116
  • 11 - Threshold 135
  • 12 - A Tap on the Shoulder 145
  • 13 - Pendulum 158
  • 14 - A Death in the Amazon 172
  • 15 - The Climatic Flywheel 192
  • 16 - Cassandra's Listeners 210
  • 17 - Signs and Portents 222
  • 18 - Scenarios 235
  • 19 - Kyoto 254
  • Coda 269
  • Bibliography 279
  • Acknowledgments 293
  • Index 295
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