By Paul N. Edwards
The technology at the back of worldwide warming, and its background: how scientists realized to appreciate the ambience, to degree it, to track its previous, and to version its destiny.
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Extra info for A Vast Machine: Computer Models, Climate Data, and the Politics of Global Warming
Not only does this process reveal weaknesses in both models and data; it also creates a mechanism for surfacing, reviewing, and merging (wherever possible) every element of climate knowledge. Their very title, Synthesis Reports, represents their consolidating role. The ongoing cycles of IPCC assessment also promote increased coupling across domains as diverse as oceanography, ecology, agriculture, and demography. Today the practical outcomes of this coupling are typically suites of linked computer models, such as Earth system models and integrated assessment models, that combine the knowledge and techniques of many disciplines in a single, many-faceted simulation.
This labor and this learning included not only invention, exploration, and surveying but also the slow spread, through practical use and formal education, of the graphical conventions, iconography, and social meaning of global maps. Projections of Earth’s spherical surface onto a rectangular page, systems of latitude and longitude, the North Pole as the world’s “top,” ways of depicting geographical features—these conventions and many more evolved and spread along with Western empires. 2 World maps undergird our ability to conceive global space.
Some of this future warming is already “committed,” in this sense: even if all emissions of greenhouse gases were to cease tomorrow, warming would continue for several decades as the oceans come into equilibrium with the atmosphere. In 2007, the IPCC and former US Vice President Al Gore shared the Nobel Peace Prize for their work in creating knowledge and spreading awareness of the threat of global warming. “Consensus” does not mean that all scientists agree on every detail, and noisy protests of even the most basic facts continue.
A Vast Machine: Computer Models, Climate Data, and the Politics of Global Warming by Paul N. Edwards