The Discovery of Global Warming

The Discovery of Global Warming

The Discovery of Global Warming

The Discovery of Global Warming

Excerpt

One day as I was walking home after hours spent studying scientific papers on the possibility of climate change, I noticed the elegant maples lining my street, and wondered if they were near the southern end of their natural range. All at once, in my mind's eye I saw the maples dead—felled by global warming.

This book is a history of how scientists came to imagine such things: the history of the science of climate change. It is a hopeful book. It tells how a few people, through ingenuity, stubborn persistence, and a bit of luck, came to understand a grave problem even before any effects became manifest. And it tells how many other people, defying the old human habit of procrastinating until a situation becomes unbearable, began working out solutions. For there are indeed ways to keep global warming within tolerable bounds with a reasonable effort. It turns out that the trees on my street are red maples, a hardy species that will hold up if we choose the proper actions over the next decades.

The future actions we might take are not my subject. This book is a history of how we got to (and got to understand) our present situation. The long struggle to grasp how humanity could be changing the weather was an obscure effort. For many decades it was pursued by only a few individuals, scarcely known except to their immediate colleagues. Yet their stories may be as important for the future of our civilization as any history of politics, wars, and social upheavals.

If you discover that termites have infiltrated your house and . . .

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