Behind the Curve
Science and the Politics of Global Warming
Publication Year: 2014
Published by: University of Washington Press
Title Page, Copyright Page
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It has become one of the most consequential stories of the twentieth century. In 1956, a young chemist named Charles David Keeling joined the staff of the Scripps Institution for Oceanography in La Jolla, California. Keeling had been developing new instruments for measuring...
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This book began in the back row of a small lecture hall at Stanford University during a three-hour talk about sixteenth-century numismatics that almost made me quit graduate school. I was taking Jessica Riskin’s graduate seminar, “The Construction of Scientific Facts,” and...
List of Abbreviations
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Introduction: Telling Stories about CO2
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Few people who do not work in climate science or global warming advocacy recognize the Keeling Curve by name. Even for the well-informed, the name typically rings only a faint and distant bell. And yet, when you actually see the undulating, upward-sloping line running...
1. The Cold War Roots of Global Warming
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In the archives of the Scripp s Institution of Oceanography is a photograph of a young Roger Revelle— age twenty-seven or so— sorting specimens on the deck of the collecting vessel E. W. Scripps. The year is circa 1936, and Revelle’s setup looks decidedly ad hoc. He sits on what look...
2. Scientists, Environmentalists, and the Global Atmosphere
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If you look closely at the data behind the Keeling Curve, you will notice that the undulating line representing the annual cycles of atmospheric CO2 over time is not continuous. In the spring of 1964, there is a gap. In January of 1964, near the midpoint of the oscillation that peaks...
3. Making the Global Environment
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Two images of the Keeling Curve provide a visual understanding of how putting the curve into a new context can change the meaning of atmospheric CO2. One image is from the 1971 Study of Man’s Impact on Climate and the other was published in the best-selling mainstay of 1970s...
4. Climate, the Environment, and Scientific Activism
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In 1982, the Sierra Club’s executive director, Michael McCloskey, sent around “Criteria for International Campaigns” as a guide for developing international initiatives under the club’s growing International Program. McCloskey was the head of an organization that had made its name through...
5. The Politics of Dissent
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The annual oscillations of the Keeling Curve capture one of the more dramatic cycles of decay and renewal on earth. The curve is like a negative image of the earth’s plant life. At the annual peak of global atmospheric CO2, typically in May, the deciduous plants of the Northern...
6. The IPCC and the Primacy of Science
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In March of 1988, global atmospheric CO 2 oscillated through 352 ppm on its way to its May peak, this time at 354 ppm. With little fanfare, the Keeling Curve had turned thirty. For three decades, the Mauna Loa Observatory had collected and compiled measurements of atmospheric...
7. The Gospel of the Market
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At t he turn of t he twenty-first century, Jeremy Leggett, the geology professor and Greenpeace member who had found himself so overmatched by industry lobbyists during the first IPCC process, wrote an exposé on his role in international climate change politics. He begins...
Epilogue: Climbing Out from Behind the Curve
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Look again at the Keeling Curve. By now, the image should be familiar, not just as a measure of CO2, but as a narrative thread through the history of global warming. Imagine the undulating line that connects the monthly average of atmospheric CO2 weaving through a patchwork...
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Page Count: 323
Publication Year: 2014