Understanding Climate Change Historically

  • Richard StaleyEmail author


This chapter examines three perspectives on histories of climate change. Accounts of the discovery of global warming have shown that, until recently, generalisations about carbon dioxide proved vulnerable, requiring novel collaborations across physics, geophysics, meteorology and atmospheric sciences. Cultural histories of climate and the scientific community help show when and why they were successful. Accounts of the production of climate data establish how national and international data regimes incorporated new instruments and modelling practices, continually revisiting the past to establish new forms of data. Finally, climate debates have contested consensus, balance and regulation across scientific and political elites, illustrating how selective histories serve different futures. Examining the work of scientists and others, this chapter shows how historical perspectives deepen our understanding of controversial science.


Climate change History History of science Meteorology Scientific community 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of the History and Philosophy of ScienceUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK

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