Download A Vast Machine: Computer Models, Climate Data, and the by Paul N. Edwards PDF

By Paul N. Edwards

The technology in the back of worldwide warming, and its historical past: how scientists realized to appreciate the ambience, to degree it, to track its earlier, and to version its destiny.

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Extra resources for A Vast Machine: Computer Models, Climate Data, and the Politics of Global Warming

Sample text

When Ruskin wrote, in 1839, that meteorology “desires to have at its command, at stated periods, perfect systems of methodical and simultaneous observations . . to know, at any given instant, the state of the atmosphere on every point on its surface,” he was only giving voice to his contemporaries’ grandest vision. By 1853 the Brussels Convention on naval meteorology had created a international standard meteorological logbook for ships at sea; these logs now constitute the oldest continuous quasi-global meteorological record.

Instead of thinking about knowledge as pure facts, theories, and ideas—mental things carried around in people’s heads, or written down in textbooks—an infrastructure perspective views knowledge as an enduring, widely shared sociotechnical system. Here is a definition: Knowledge infrastructures comprise robust networks of people, artifacts, and institutions that generate, share, and maintain specific knowledge about the human and natural worlds. 24 If you want to be a scientist, you probably are going to need some technological items, such as instruments and computers.

But the models have their own difficulties, and they depend significantly (for their parameterizations) on observational data. Thus assembling stable, reliable, long-term evidence of climate change is difficult indeed. Nonetheless, a consistent scientific consensus on climate change had developed by the early 1990s. Though some of the details have Thinking Globally 7 shifted since then, in general this consensus holds that some global warming has already occurred, and that human activities are responsible for a substantial part of it.

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