Throughout this course, we’ve been inundated with so many different kinds of “revolutions”, it is hard to pinpoint what the term means exactly. In the case of the Climate Revolution, it seems more a series of scientific developments towards the end goal of learning why the climate around us is the way it is. Kerry Emanuel went through the history of climate studies and how we got to the point where we can predict weather patterns, explain natural phenomena, and (so importantly) understand why our world is warming and put it into the context of historical climate change and what it means for our world today. But was this development truly revolutionary?
I am perhaps fortunate that I am taking a course on climate and weather in society because otherwise I would have been left to believe that the greenhouse effect was only identified recently. In reality, the warming of our climate as a product of human actions has been known for a couple hundred years. It is only more recently that worldwide notice has been given to the subject. Our increased means to accrue observational data has made it easier to come to conclusions about climate change and try to establish policy working against it. But I tend to believe “revolutionary” includes a definite change in the way people think and see the world, so the more recent environmental revolution fits into the spectrum of the long-term climatic revolution, only it has been aided by technological revolutions running contemporaneously with it.
It is also important to note that “Climate revolution” deals with more than just climate change. The climate revolution deals with any scientific development that has improved our understanding of climate and the natural world. This can include studying everything from volcanic activity to solar radiation to hurricanes and typhoons. For that reason, it is difficult to pin down “climatic revolution” in simple terms. It is hardly one occurrence, as research into all that makes up our understanding of climate goes back hundreds if not thousands of years. Learning that the world was round and the angle and duration of sunlight determined the length of seasons is part of the climatic revolution. The publication of Silent Spring and finding out how pesticides have an impact on our environment and contribute to our changing climate falls into the spectrum as well. In this sense, the climate revolution was not a revolution, but rather an evolution – a series of events and scientific discoveries, each coinciding with a number of alternate revolutions that aided our understanding of climate in some way. But it did, undoubtedly, change the way people perceive the world. I think if I were to pin down the climate revolution accurately I would say it was an evolutionary process with revolutionary results.