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

By Paul N. Edwards

The technology in the back of international warming, and its heritage: how scientists discovered to appreciate the ambience, to degree it, to track its previous, and to version its destiny.

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

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

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It captures an entire philosophy, complete with ontology, epistemology, and ethics, in a bumper-sticker slogan. It asserts an intimate relationship between two vastly different scales: macro, world-scale environmental and economic systems, on the one hand, and the micro sphere of individual choice and action, on the other. It extends an arrow of agency, comprehending macro effects as the results of vast aggregations of micro causes. Thus it locates the meaning of individual action in its relationship to the gigantic whole.

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. 75°C over the period 1906–2005. Models predict that we are in for much more warming (2–6°C) by 2100, depending on greenhouse-gas emissions, deforestation, and many other factors.

In the winter of 1981–82, the first year I lived in California, it rained in torrents all day, every day, for weeks. Huge mudslides ripped out mountain roads near my house. The San Lorenzo River overflowed, washing away whole neighborhoods. The next winter, I expected the same. It took me most of the decade to really understand that this wasn’t normal. Year to year, weather averages vary naturally. No extreme event or extreme season necessarily reflects a long-term climate change. Rising global average temperatures will not put an end to unusually cold winters, late-spring ice storms, or other episodes that seem to run against the trend.

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