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The 'Copernicus' of Global Warming

Joseph Fourier (1768 — 1830), the 'Copernicus' of global warming.

Bite Notes: Joseph Fourier was the first person to propose that the Earth's atmosphere might act as an insulator of some kind. Consequently, he is is widely recognized as the discoverer of what is now known as 'the greenhouse effect'. Some 30 years later (1864), John Tyndall used scientific experimentation to prove that Fourier was right.

Almost 300 years earlier (1532), Nicolaus Copernicus had first proposed that the Earth and other planets travelled round the sun (heliocentrism). This went against the Catholic church's view of the time and Copernicus' theory was not published until he was on his deathbed.

In 1610, Galileo championed and developed Copernicus' theory and suffered persecution for what was considered a heretical view.


Comment: Many sceptics like to see their views as paralleling those of Copernicus and Gallileo, ranged against the consensus of the day. However, unfortunately (for sceptics) it was Fourier and Tyndall who were the Copernicus and Gallileo of global warming. Over the last 180 years  'the greenhouse effect' has been confirmed by numerous lines of scientific evidence which confirm the theory.

Today it's the scientific consensus that Earth's atmosphere regulates temperatures on the planet—just as it's now the scientific consensus that the planets of the solar system orbit the sun. Members of the general public and the few climate scientists (around 1%*) who are sceptical of global warming are the equivalent of the people who fought Copernicus' view and persecuted Gallileo for the rest of his life.  

[*Research shows that 97% of climate scientists agree that human activities are causing climate change, 2% are 'don't knows' — which leaves only 1% of climate scientists as sceptics.]


Image Source: Wikijunior

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Bite Details

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byTom Smerling

September 3, 2011

1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Some would say that Guy Callendar's lonely stand -- in the 1930's -- against the prevailing scientific consensus at the time was climate science's "Galileo moment." As extensive research in the 40's, 50's and 60's produced more data, other scientists gradually came around and a new consensus formed.

In any event, the main thing that distinguished Galileo from the Church -- and, today, climate scientists from the skeptics -- is empiricism. Galileo drew conclusions from actual observations rather than starting with a priori truths (drawn the bible, the Greeks, etc.).

Today's climate scientists, following in Galileo's path, simply follow the evidence wherever it leads. Most climate skeptics, like the Church, seem to start with a pre-drawn conclusion -- "human-caused warming must be false, because we hate the solutions" -- then search for evidence to build their case.
byJohn Russell

September 3, 2011

1 of 1 people found this review helpful
I was having an internet argument the other day about fossil oil. I explained my view that we had reached the end of 'easy' oil and from now on the price of oil would rocket as demand outstrips supply. His assertion was that because so many important things are made of oil—from plastics to fertilisers—we just couldn't run out of it, it was just too important. My retort was that just because something is unthinkable does not make it impossible.

When challenged by something 'too horrible to contemplate' many people seem to turn to denial as a defence mechanism.
byMarc Hudson

September 18, 2011

1 of 1 people found this review helpful
I think we need to remember that the history of science is a pretty minority interest, sadly...

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