Revolutions come in in many different forms as a way to bring about some type of change to the current system. The driving forces behind each revolution differ depending on the type of revolution and the circumstances. We have heard many lectures about scientific revolutions this semester. Keri Emanuel’s lecture this week summed up the motivating forces behind revolutions in climate science. The most important motivator for research in climate science has been curiosity. Without curiosity, what we know about the world and its climate would be very different.
Advances in climate research did not happen due to general curiosity about all aspects of the climate. Vital discoveries about our climate have come from very specific questions that scientists wanted to answer. For example, important discoveries about what determines the surface temperature of the Earth were driven by evidence found for large sheets of ice that once covered the earth. Scientists were driven to research climate as a way to explain strange geological occurrences for which they had no answer. These included boulders, or “erratics,” that seemed to have come from somewhere else and scratch marks on sheets of rock. Without the curiosity about these occurrences, we may have never been aware of the multiple ice ages that have happened in the past.
Interest in the Earth’s surface temperature has been around since at least the 19th century. Many scientists used their curiosity about this to drive their research and help to understand what exactly was going on with the Earth’s surface temperature. Scientists built up on the discoveries made before them to come up with the answer. This collaboration of sorts laid out the groundwork for theories about the Earth’s surface temperature, which were in turn tested. This collaboration of curiosities has helped to explain the Earth’s climate as we know it today.
Curiosities are not always popular with members of society. Many people were hesitant to believe that Earth could evolve geologically or that the climate could have changed over time. Following a curiosity and asking questions is generally not met with the support it deserves. However, the ability to overcome this disapproval and find undiscovered information about the world shows the resilience of climate scientists. This was true in the 19th century and is true today. There will always be people denying one’s curiosities, but it is important to follow them anyway.
Curiosity drove research about climate in the past, but now it seems like climate research is driven by necessity. Past research and curiosities have laid down the groundwork for future research and curiosities. Revolutions in geology, physics, and chemistry also made these discoveries possible. We do not know everything there is to know about the Earth’s climate, which means climate sciences will remain an important field of study that will be driven by curiosity. Climate research will also remain and important field of study due to climate change concerns. Without this curiosity, life on our planet as we know it is going to be altered forever.