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The Inquisition of Climate Science$
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James Powell

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780231157193

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231157193.001.0001

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Discovery of Global Warming

Discovery of Global Warming

(p.36) 4 Discovery of Global Warming
The Inquisition of Climate Science

James Lawrence Powell

Columbia University Press

This chapter discusses the historical development of the theory of global warming. The origins of our understanding that gases in the atmosphere influence climate can be traced back to 1824, when a French polymath named Joseph Fourier recognized that atmospheric gases trapped heat, raising the surface temperature enough to allow us to inhabit the planet. In 1896, Swedish chemist and eventual Nobel Prize winner Svante Arrhenius calculated that if the amount of carbon dioxide gas in the atmosphere were to double, global temperatures would rise 5–6°C (9–11°F). By 1960 the greenhouse effect had evolved from theory to observational fact to dimly perceived threat. Research showed that it was possible to measure carbon dioxide concentrations accurately and that they were rising.

Keywords:   global warming, climate change, scientists, scientific consensus, Svante Arrhenius, atmospheric carbon dioxide, Joseph Fourier, greenhouse effect

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