Global warming, greenhouse effect, ozone layer holes are widely debated and it seems a common wisdom that we are heading for worse. At least, that's what you hear if you listen to media, Green peace activists or watch movies such as "The Day after Tomorrow."
Well, things may not be that simple after all. A first step towards a more cautious stance was made with the release of Bjorn Lomborg's book The Skeptical Environmentalist. This book triggered a true worldwide controversy which is obviously not over yet. It is rather strange, indeed, that people tend to be willing to listen to Cassandras and not so much to observers with a more balanced view (any idea why is that?).
New intellectual blood has come to give more substance, more background to the debate. This was indeed badly needed. Spencer Weart who is Director of the Center for History of Physics at the American Institute of Physics, has published in 2003 a book entitled "The Discovery of Global Warming" where he tackles challenging questions:
"The story in a nutshell: From ancient times people suspected that human activity could change the climate. For example, in the 19th century many Americans believed that cutting down forests brought more rainfall to a region. The discovery of ice ages in the distant past proved that climate could change all by itself, and radically. But what caused these changes — was it variations in the heat of the Sun? Volcanoes erupting clouds of smoke? The raising and lowering of mountain ranges, which diverted wind patterns and ocean currents? Or could it be changes in the composition of the air itself?... Read more here
The great thing about Weart is his wllingness to share his knowledge beyond the boudaries of his book. To do so, he has implemented a virtual version of his book through a remarkable companion website. Would not it be great if Weart started a blog on the topic (admittedly he tells us why and how he started the site but, reading what he says I think he is ready for blogging!)
Now, if you want to debate on global warming, look before you leap. Spencer did it for you!
PS: Thanks to David Warsh for pointing out the reference. David, founder of Economic Principals (advice: subscribe to David's Economic Principals, this is first class reading!), wrote an in-depth review of the book, which he rightly rates as an antidote to sensationalism.