Fly on a spaceship with an overheating air control system?
Source: The Discovery of Global Warming by Spencer R. Weart, 2003, Harvard University Press, page 43.
Notes: Roger Revelle, Director of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, gave this new metaphor ("the earth is a spaceship") while testifying to Congress in 1956 and 1957.
According to Spencer Weart in his book, The Discovery of Global Warming on page 43, Roger Revelle took the lead (in 1956 & 1957) in suggesting that a CO2 levels were likely rising. He sounded a warning that it could cause trouble ahead because someday "the CO2 greenhouse effect might turn Southern California and Texas into 'real deserts.'"
Spencer Weart also writes Roger Revelle and US Geological Survery chemist, Hans Suess, wrote a landmark paper in 1957 that is "now widely regarded as the opening shot in the global warming debates." In the 1940s and early 50s, scientists assumed the immense mass of the oceans quickly absorbs whatever excess carbon dioxide coming from human activities. Roger Revelle discovered the peculiar chemistry of sea water prevents it from quickly swallowing up human carbon emissions. Rather, it takes the oceans thousands of years to swallow up carbon dioxide emissions.
Roger Revelle then hired geochemist, Charles David Keeling, in 1958 to meticulously measure global carbon dioxide levels. Keeling started measuring it the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii, one of the best sites on earth to measure the undisturbed atmosphere, and the pristine Antarctic. From regular meaurements, "Keeling nailed down a remarkably precise and consistent baseline number for the level of CO2 in the atmosphere. His first twelve months of Antarctic data hinted a rise that could be seen in one year." (Weart, page 36).
Spencer Weart then wrote on page 38, "Within a few years, Keeling's inexorably rising CO2 curve was cited by scientific review panels and science journalists. It became the central icon of the greenhouse effect."
Thus, Roger Revelle by collaborating with Hans Suess and Roger Revelle all the way back to 1957, showed us that we must pay attention to our spaceship Earth's air control system. By dumping vast amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels, we are tinkering with our own life support system.
Image source: www.forum.nationstates.net
August 19, 2012