Prior to this lecture, I was unfamiliar with the history of climate science. While I have been taking a Science, Technology and Society class this entire semester, we have not focused so much on the history of the discipline, more so the discipline itself. That is why I found Kerry Emmanuel’s lecture particularly interesting- it provided background on the history of the material I was learning in ST231.
Emmanuel opened his lecture with the idea that over the last 200 years, a number of small steps has been taken for the advancement of atmospheric science. Firstly, it was interesting to hear the contributions that the various scientists of old have made to the field. Jean Baptiste Joseph Fourier developed the idea of how heat flows through materials. Later in his discussion, Emmanuel spoke about Max Planck and his trying to explain blackbody curves, as well as John Tyndall and his discovery that Nitrogen, Oxygen and Argon are the gasses that make up 99% of earth’s atmosphere. This fact in particular was interesting to learn, as it then proceeded to appear on our STS midterm the following week!
The idea that the field of atmospheric science came about via a series of smaller discoveries reinforces that idea that Emmanuel mentioned in his talk: the sum of a series of small steps may outweigh the advancement of a single, larger jump. This idea is interesting because it is through this series of small steps that other scientists are able to do their work. The small steps that came before them create the basis for their current work.
Personally, the most interesting part of the lecture was hearing about how climate change is a serious problem that is impacting the earth. It is via a series of “small steps” that has driven us to our current predicament regarding climate change. We must all realize that it will take a large jump to fix the current state of the earth and the warming that is occurring on our planet.
However, this problem is not universally accepted. For example, one of the presidential candidates in the upcoming election does not believe that global warming is an issue. While it seems that atmospheric science has advanced in many ways, it definitely has some additional ways in which to develop, as everyone must believe that the Earth warming is a problem before the problem can be solved.
In a sense, the idea that we must begin to believe that humans have caused major and disproportionate issues in Earth’s climate is a major revolution. Just like all of the “revolutions” in atmospheric science that we saw from the first part of the lecture, this is yet the next logical step for the field to take. The time to be complacent has passed us. We must jump into fixing the problems with the earth.