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Historical Perspectives on Climate Change - James Rodger Fleming

Historical Perspectives on Climate Change


Published: 1st February 1998
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This book provides historical perspectives on the climate apprehensions of scientists and the general public from the Englightenment to the late twentieth century. Issues discussed include what people have understood, experienced, and feared about the climate and its changes in the past; how privileged and authoritative positions on climate have been established; the paths by which we have arrived at our current state of knowledge and apprehension; and what a study of the past has to offer to the interdisciplinary investigation of environmental problems. Chapters explore climate and culture in Englightenment 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. Although today's greatest climate debate concern is "global warming", the book points out that global cooling and global warming have been in the public spotlight atleast twice since the 1890s. The epilogue argues for a view of global change and its human dimensions rendered more complete by a study of the intellectual, social, and cultural changes that preceded the current environmental crisis.

"A lucid, well-written, and skillfully presented work; the bibliography is bountiful and sources of information are well-documented. . . . [for] General readers; faculty."--Choice "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 "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 "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 "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."--Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society "A lucid, well-written, and skillfully presented work; the bibliography is bountiful and sources of information are well-documented. . . . General readers; faculty."--Choice "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 "This little book is delightful for several reasons, particularly for those who wish to understand the current debate about climate change and global warming--and who doesn't? Also, it evokes the ghosts of so many characters of the past whose names are only vaguely familiar but who influenced the thinking of their times, such as Ferrel, Maury, Montesquieu, Langley, Humbolt, and Arbuthnot. Finally, it is well written and clear and represents an extremely well-researched study by a competent historian"--William W. Kellogg in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society "In a series of imaginative interrelated essays, [James Rodger Fleming] describes and examines historical perspectives on climate and climate change from the Enlightenment to the late twentieth century. Fleming's aim is not merely to record authoritative positions about climate and climate change, but also to trace their origins and development, in order to shed light on contemporary perspectives on climate. . . . Fleming's history of the genealogy of ideas about climate change shows decisively that intellectual shifts are not . . . necessarily as clear-cut, revolutionary or straightforward as many believe--are not the sole result of internal cognitive developments. Rather, they resonate with and respond to social and cultural factors . . . [F]amiliarity with past ideas can be instrumental in the construction of new knowledge, rather than an obstacle to scientific discovery . . . I am convinced that Fleming's book will serve this task in climate science rather well."--Earth Sciences History "[T]races the thinking on climate and climate change beginning with the mid-eighteenth century . . . and ending in the mid-twentieth century . . . European thinking on climate remained fairly stagnant from the Greek Classical Age to the European Age of Discovery. Early observations . . . led to the theory that climate was solely a function of latitude . . . The theory was dealt an injurious blow when the climate[s] of the American colonies at equivalent latitudes were found to be much colder than their European counterparts. . . . The final chapter brings the debate to the present as it . . . switches from concerns over global cooling . . . to global warming . . . [W]ill appeal to readers at all levels of knowledge who seek the historical roots of the current climate debate. Fleming's style is clear with minimal technical jargon. The essays read smoothly. No matter which side of the climate debate you favour, this book will help you understand the past."--The Weather Doctor "This remarkable book documents the history of ideas concerning climate change since the 17th century. The 10 chapters are arranged in historical sequence. The first two chapters describe the rise of climatic determinism . . . Chapters 3 and 4 describe the development of instruments for measuring temperature and pressure . . . Chapters 5 and 6 are devoted to history of the greenhouse concept . . . Chapter 7 discusses T. C. Chamberlain's application of ideas of climate change to the geological record. Chapter 8 describes the revival of climatic determinism by Ellsworth Huntington . . . Chapters 9 and 10 are devoted to the changing ideas concerning global warming during this century . . . This book is a must for anyone who teaches about climate change and the possibility of human influence on climate. It provides a sobering historical perspective. It deserves to be read and reread, especially before discussing our changing ideas about climate change with students and colleagues."--GSA Today "Fleming is an historian at Colby College in Waterville, Maine. He has used a sabbatical year to sift the sediments of history for nuggets of insight into how our ancestors allowed their observations of weather and climate to affect their lives. He covers the period from the Enlightenment to the late twentieth century. . . . He observes the coupling of climate and culture . . . through the writings of the French Academician Abbé Jean-Baptiste DuBos and Charles Louis de Secondat Baron de Montesquieu. . . . Fleming continues through a score of contributors including Fourier, Svante Arrhenius, Callendar, Suess and Revelle. . . . I enjoyed and appreciated this wide-ranging book that rings true in the main as history to one who has been more than casually engaged in the topic for over four decades. I found myself puzzling over his science on occasion, but willing to accept puzzlement for the details of history he has assembled here. A good job."--The Quarterly Review of Biology "This is a book that should be read by everyone engaged in this endeavor, from the student intent on mastering any of the climatically-related disciplines involved, to senior researchers who are concerned with the wider and social and cultural context of their work." - John Tyrrel, Royal Meteorological Society "Few historical studies are as timely as James Fleming's comprehensive exploration of attempts to detect, explain, predict, and warn of salient trends in atmospheric temperature. In examining popular and elite perspectives on climate change, Fleming provides a historical context for the global warming controversy and offers insight on how scientific institutions and individual investigators cope with uncertainty . . . [His] accessible prose and well-documented research make this delightfully engaging volume informative and insightful. Tables provide concise summaries of the emergence and diversity of atmospheric theories, and facsimiles of carefully selected maps, graphs, and cartoons illustrate the variety of visual propaganda focused on climate change. Especially interesting to historians of science is Fleming's comprehensive examination of the varied succession of privileged viewpoints and the profound influence of new data and innovative measurement techniques on accepted wisdom."--Isis

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 Index

ISBN: 9780195078701
ISBN-10: 0195078705
Audience: Professional
Format: Hardcover
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 208
Published: 1st February 1998
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 23.39 x 15.6  x 1.27
Weight (kg): 0.49