1. Clair Cameron Patterson
2. The Earth
4. Fourth Grader
5. Iowa Correctional Institution for Women
6. Meteor Crater
7. Thomas Crapper
8. Robert A. Kehoe
9. Edmund Muskie
10. Frank Sherwood Rowland & Mario J. Molina
11. The Green Lantern
12. Ozone layer
13. Ozone layer protection
14. Sources of CFCs
15. The CFC industry ridiculed the work of Rowland and Molina by invoking Chicken Little, and labeling them “Doomsayers.”
16. Antarctic hole in the ozone layer
17. Joesph Farman , Brian Gardiner, and Jonathan Shanklin
18. Paul Crutzen
19. Svante Arrhenius
20. Guy Stewart Callendar
21. C. D. Keeling
22. The Keeling Curve
23. Wallace Smith Broecker
The seventh episode of the American documentary television series “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey,” hosted by astrophysicist, bon vivant, and friend of the Christian Right, Neil deGrasse Tyson, aired on Fox on April 20th of this year, entitled “The Clean Room,” and introduced me to the work of Clair Cameron Patterson, an American geochemist who discovered the age of the Earth by working with lead.
Lead of course, as any fourth grader knows, is one of the 118 known chemical elements (a pure chemical substance consisting of a single type of atom distinguished by its atomic number, which is the number of protons in its atomic nucleus), closely related to carbon, with an atomic number of 82.
Lead is a metal at normal temperatures and pressure (and I’ll qualify normal as being and average Earth room temperature at sea level). It is soft and can be molded easily. Exposed to air it’s color it a dull gray. Lead will turn into a liquid at a temperature of 621.5°F, at which point it will become shiny and look like silver or mercury.
Lead’s atomic number is the highest of all of the stable elements, stability meaning it will never, ever change. You take some of your basic unpolluted lead and hold onto that lead for literally billions of years and it will remain lead. Imagine that! A lot of elements won’t do that, for ya. They’ll change into something else, sometimes in a fraction of a second. Lead won’t though. You can depend on lead.
Isn’t it amazing what they teach fourth graders these days?
Lead is, and has been used for lots of useful things. It’s used in construction, lead-acid batteries, bullets, weights (because lead is relatively heavy, compared to hydrogen let’s say), as part of solders, pewters, fusible alloys, radiation shields for x-ray technicians, and it is the only substance, as far as can be ascertained, that Superman can’t see through.
I worked with lead quite a lot while I served in the Navy, in my important job as our ship’s Paint Locker person. I had buckets of what we called white and red lead all around me for 8 to 16 hours a day. White and red lead are paints with lead incorporated into them, and are used as a primer which will be painted over after it drys. The U.S. Navy usually paints over white and red lead with a paint called Haze Gray, which makes our ships hard to see in a fog, and carries with it no practical benefit that I can see. Yet what are we to do... paint them pink?
FYI, you look at our navel ships and that’s what color they are, Haze Gray.
FYI, you look at our navel ships and that’s what color they are, Haze Gray.
Prolonged exposure to lead can cause blood disorders in mammals. Human beings are mammals (sorry Bible people). Lead is also a neurotoxin which damages the nervous system, and like mercury, can accumulate in our bones and soft tissues, which causes what is called lead poisoning.
Be that as it may, Clair Cameron Patterson was born, on June 2nd, 1922, in Mitchellville, Iowa, home of the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women. He majored in chemistry at Grinnell College, 38.7 miles from Mitchellville. While there he met his lovely wife, Lorna (Laurie) McCleary. They both moved to the University of Iowa, 67.9 miles from Grinnell (if you take I-80E) where Clair received an M.A. in molecular spectroscopy (the study of the interaction between matter and radiated energy on a molecular level). Both were so good at what they did they were recruited to work on the Manhattan Project, which created the first atomic bombs, which whatever you may feel about nuclear weapons (and I certainly have some strong feeling about them), helped to save the lives of millions of Japanese and American people at the end of World War II (granted, at the cost of approximately 199,000 Japanese).
While working on the project he encountered mass spectrometry (an analytical chemistry technique that helps identify the amount and type of chemicals present in a sample by measuring the mass-to-charge ratio and abundance of gas-phase ions. I hope this definition clears things up).
After the war Clair attended the University of Chicago (really? you want this? Okay, approximately 228.15 miles from Iowa City) where he worked on his Ph.D, after which he and Laurie moved to Pasadena, California, where I used to work, and which is about 2,007 miles from Chicago.
Clair worked in Pasadena for the rest of his life (he died of natural causes on December 5th, 1995, at the age of 73, in Sea Ranch, CA, 483.3 miles north of Pasadena via I-5. He and Laurie had four children), at the California Institute of Technology, Division of Geology, and in 1952 as a founding member of its geochemistry program.
Mr. Patterson’s mentor in Chicago was Harrison Brown, a physicist and geochemist. He developed a brand new method of counting lead isotopes (variants of a particular chemical element, in this case lead, that have different amounts of neutrons in their atoms. Atoms, of course consisting of protons, neutrons, and electrons. All the variants have the same number of protons) in igneous rocks (rock that is formed through the cooling and solidification of magma or lava), and assigned it’s use to Clair as a dissertation project in 1948.
So what, you say. This kind of thing probably goes on all of the time behind closed doors.
You may be right, dear readers, but at the time it was assumed that some meteorites (a solid piece of space junk, from sources such as asteroids or comets, that survive a collision and impact with the Earth's surface) are little pieces of igneous rock and remnants of the very early solar system, when it was forming a long time ago. But how long ago? Well, Patterson and Brown thought that by studying meteorites, and the radioactive decay (the process by which a nucleus of an unstable atom loses energy by emitting ionizing radiation (radiation that carries enough energy to liberate electrons from atoms or molecules, thereby ionizing (the process by which an atom or a molecule acquires a negative or positive charge by gaining or losing electrons to form ions (an atom or molecule in which the total number of electrons is not equal to the total number of protons, giving the atom a net positive or negative electrical charge), often changing their chemical composition)) of some of it’s components, in this case lead isotopes, after which their age could be determined (by knowing the rate of decay of said isotopes).
Clair collected meteor samples from Barringer Crater, what some people call the Canyon Diablo Crater, or the Winslow Crater (this is all so confusing), but what is now known simply as Meteor Crater (in honor of a nearby post office), in northern Arizona, and in 1953 took them to the Argonne National Laboratory, outside of Chicago, where he was granted time on a late model mass spectrometer, his goal being to get an accurate count of lead in zircon particles from his samples, and compare them to similar results being collected by geochemist George Tilton on uranium samples.
Patterson found that his results were contaminated by lead from the surrounding environment of the laboratory, compared to Tilton's results, so he had constructed the very first ultra-high cleanroom to remove all traces of the lead from the environment.
Soon afterward, Clair was able to revel his results, that the age of the Earth, and by extension, the solar system, is 4.550 billion years (give or take 70 million years).
Sorry Bible people, but I didn’t put the lead there... God did.
Throughout the years 4.5 billion still remains the definitive answer to the question of how old the Earth is.
One would think that was a pretty big discovery. One for the record books as a matter of fact. And it was, although generally speaking Clair Patterson’s name isn’t as well known as, let’s say, Thomas Crapper, who did much to increase the popularity of the toilet. However, Clair wasn’t satisfied with just discovering the age of the planet we live on, oh no. He was just getting started.
Patterson’s work with lead directed him to investigate sources of the element in the natural environment. He wanted to figure out what had caused his samples to be contaminated, as metallic lead does occur in the Earth’s crust, but is relatively rare. It is actually the 37th most abundant element in the crust, and since ancient times had to be mined and refined in order to be used industrially (as are most metals). So where was the lead that was contaminating his samples coming from?
Clair went and measured the levels of lead in the common environment. He examined the lead in ocean sediment samples from the Atlantic and Pacific, and lead in and Antarctic ice. He was eventually able to show that anthropogenic (human caused) lead in the environment at that time was 80 times the amount found in the ocean sediment and ice.
He showed that atmospheric lead levels had begun to increase steadily soon after tetraethyllead (TEL) began to see widespread use in fuel, fuel for automobiles and trucks. Tetraethyllead, was mixed with gasoline beginning in the 1920s as a patented octane booster that allowed engine compression to be raised, which in turn increased vehicle performance and lowered fuel consumption. Patterson’s position was that lead pollution from engine exhaust was being dispersed into the environment, accounting for the high levels he had measured.
Patterson researched the effects of lead on people. He studied history. He examined the bones of 1,600-year-old Peruvian Indians. He found lead amounts in the human body had gone up between 500 and 1,000 times since the introduction of lead into gasoline. His research showed that everyone suffered. All humans were being contaminated in some way.
Robert A. Kehoe was an American so-called toxicologist (a branch of pharmacology concerned with the study of the adverse effects of chemicals on living organisms) and so-called leader in occupational health (an area concerned with the safety, health and welfare of people engaged in work or employment).
In 1924, he was hired by Charles Kettering (head of research at General Motors from 1920 to 1947) for General Motors to examine health issues related to the production of tetraethyllead. In 1925 Robert became the chief medical advisor of the Ethyl Corporation (a fuel additive company headquartered in Richmond, Virginia, and formed by E.I. DuPont and General Motors), a position he held until his retirement in 1965. In 1930, Kehoe became the director of the new UC Kettering Laboratory of Applied Physiology, the first university-based laboratory devoted to toxicological problems peculiar to industry. The laboratory was funded by companies such as GM, DuPont, and Ethyl Corporation.
He soon became the foremost medical authority and advocate for the position that use of TEL in gasoline was safe and gained prominence as the industry’s expert in government and public health hearings.
Almost all research concerning lead in gasoline came from the industries that benefited economically from it’s use, and most of that research originated, or was funneled through Kehoe, of which he held "an almost complete monopoly" on data for half a century.
Not surprisingly Kehoe believed the presence of lead in humans and other organisms was normal, and that exposure to low lead levels was not harmful, despite being placed in his position originally to investigate the illness and deaths of workers at Ethyl plants specifically from lead poisoning.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) we now know that “No safe blood lead level has been identified.”
In 1965, with the publication of “Contaminated and Natural Lead Environments of Man,” Clair Patterson tried to draw the public’s attention to the problem of increased lead levels in the environment and the food chain due to lead from industrial sources (lead found in food containers. In one study he showed an increase in lead levels from 0.3 to 1400 nanograms per gram in certain canned fish compared with fresh fish). Perhaps partly because he was criticizing the experimental methods of other scientists, he encountered strong opposition from recognized experts including Robert A. Kehoe.
“I should let the man, with his obvious faults, speak in such a way as to display these faults... The inferences as to the natural human body burden of lead, are I think, remarkably naive... It is an example of how wrong one can be in his biological postulates and conclusions, when he steps into this field, of which he is so woefully ignorant and so lacking in any concept of the depth of his ignorance, that he is not even cautious in drawing sweeping conclusions. This bespeaks the brash young man, or perhaps the not so young [Patterson was 43 at the time] passionate supporter of a cause. In either case hardly the mark off the critical investigator.”
Kehoe claimed that humans had adapted to the levels of lead in the environment. Patterson’s direct point was that this exposure was new, introduced within the past 50 years, a fraction of an evolutionary second, nowhere near the time needed to develop adaptive responses, if adaptive responses were even possible to the known toxicity of lead.
Clair Patterson continued his research and advocacy efforts, and industry retaliated. He was excoriated, his supporters were excoriated, he was bribed with research grants. His research was discredited. Toxicologists focused on Clair for his audacity in stepping outside his own field to talk about people instead of rocks. He was refused contracts with many research organizations, including the United States Public Health Service. He was excluded from a National Research Council panel on atmospheric lead contamination, even though he was the foremost expert on the subject at that time. The celebrity status that he gained from discovering the age of the Earth probably saved him from being flat out killed, or disappeared.
In 1966, future Presidential candidate Senator Edward Muskie, chairman of the Senate subcommittee on Air and Water Pollution, presided over hearings on the Clean Air Act (the enactment of the Clean Air Act of 1970 resulted in a major shift in the federal government's role in air pollution control. This legislation authorized the development of comprehensive federal and state regulations to limit emissions from both industrial and mobile sources). Again Robert Kehoe was the industry’s principal witness.
Muskie: Does medical opinion agree that there are no harmful effects and results from lead ingestion below the level of lead poisoning?
Kehoe: I don’t think that many people would be as certain as I am at this point.
Muskie: But you are certain?
Kehoe: It so happens that I have more experience in this field than any one else alive.
One week later Clair Patterson testified.
“It is not just a mistake for public health agencies to cooperate and collaborate with industries investigating and deciding whether public health is endangered... it is a direct abrogation and violation of the duties and responsibilities of those public health organizations. In the past these bodies have acted as though their own activities and those of the lead industries in health matters were science, and they could be considered objectively in that sense.
Whether the best interests of public health have been served by having public health agencies work jointly with representatives of the lead alkyl industries in evaluating the hazards of lead alkyl to public health is a question to be asked and answered.”
When Muskie asked him if his classification into natural, typical, and ‘‘contaminated’’ concentrations of lead in food and humans was a logical approach to follow, Patterson responded:
‘‘Not if your purpose is to sell lead.’’
Muskie: ‘‘Well, I don’t think it is the purpose of the Public Health Service to sell lead.’’
Patterson: ‘‘That is why it is difficult to understand why the Public Health Service cooperated with the lead industry in issuing this report which fails to make the distinction.”
In 1978 Clair was appointed to the NRC panel he had previously been excluded from, which accepted many of his conclusions and the need for reductions but argued for more research. His opinions were expressed in a report which argued that control measures should start immediately, including gasoline, food containers, paint, glazes and water distribution systems.
Thirty six years later, most of these measures have been accepted and implemented in this country and many other parts of the world.
. According to the CDC, beginning in the 1970s, lead concentrations in air, tap water, food, dust, and soil began to be substantially reduced, resulting in significantly lowered blood lead levels in children and adults throughout the United States.
This due to the work of one man (I’m sure Laurie helped out as well).
Robert A. Kehoe died in Cincinnati in 1992.
Around the world tributes to Clair Patterson include an asteroid named in his honor and a mountain peak in a remote part of Antarctica’s Queen Maude Mountains named after him.
That’s a whole lot more than Crapper ever got.
Tetraethyllead is still used as an additive in some grades of aviation gasoline, and some racing gasolines, and in some developing countries.
One of it’s manufacturers is the Ethyl Corporation.
Navel history researcher, avid tennis player, varsity basketball player, and obvious overachiever (he entered high school at the age of 12 and graduated a few weeks before his 16th birthday), Frank Sherwood Rowland had always been interested in the weather. During his high school science teacher’s two week vacations, “Sherry” was allowed to run the local weather station.
“This was my first exposure to systematic experimentation and data collection.”
Wow! I was 28 when I had my first.
Long time paramecia and amoebae voyeur, chemical engineering enthusiast, and violin virtuoso, Mario José Molina-Pasquel Henríquez of Mexico made a decision after completing his undergraduate studies to become a physical chemist. As every fourth grader knows that isn’t as easy as it sounds.
Yet he did it, and eventually came to University of California, Irvine, about 105.944 miles from Mexico, where on June 28th, 1974, he and Sherry Rowland published the first scientific paper warning that human-generated chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) could cause serious harm to Earth's ozone layer.
Ozone, or trioxygen if you prefer, is an inorganic molecule with the chemical formula O3. It is a pale blue gas that smells funny.
It is an allotrope (the property of some chemical elements to exist in two or more different forms, they are different structural modifications of an element; the atoms of the element are bonded together in a different manner) of oxygen breaking down in the lower atmosphere to normal dioxygen, or O2. Ozone is formed from dioxygen by the action of ultraviolet light from the Sun, and atmospheric electrical discharges, and is present in low concentrations throughout the Earth's atmosphere. In total, ozone makes up only 0.6 parts per million (ppm) of the atmosphere.
The Earth is protected from solar radiation (solar radiation is radiant energy emitted by the Sun, particularly electromagnetic energy. About half of the radiation is in the visible short-wave part of the electromagnetic spectrum, or visible light, without which we wouldn’t be able to see anything without a flashlight. The other half is mostly in the near-infrared part (heat), with some in the ultraviolet part of the spectrum) and cosmic rays (immensely high-energy radiation, mainly originating outside the Solar System, consisting mostly of high-energy protons and atomic nuclei, possibly originating from the supernovae of massive stars, or the hyper-active center of our own galaxy) by three things; our planets magnetic field, the ozone layer, and the Green Lantern.
I've just discovered that the Green Lantern doesn’t actually exist, so the Earth is only protected by two things.
The ozone layer is a region of the Earth's stratosphere that absorbs most of the Sun's ultra-violet (UV) radiation. It contains high concentrations of ozone relative to other parts of the atmosphere. The portion of ultraviolet radiation that is not absorbed by the ozone layer creates a suntan or a sunburn on people who have been in sunlight for long (or sometimes short) periods of time. Almost all skin cancers (approximately 99% of non-melanoma skin cancers and 95% of melanoma) are caused by too much UV radiation from the Sun or other sources such as sun beds, and sun lamps.
It is suspected that other biological consequences such as eye cataracts, damage to plants and animals, and a reduction of plankton populations in the ocean, could result from the increased UV exposure due to the loss of ozone as well.
Ozone is also a greenhouse gas, which helps to regulate the Earth’s temperature.
So when Rowland and Molina claimed chlorofluorocarbons could cause serious harm to the Earth's ozone layer, it was a fairly serious thing.
Wait a second, you say. What the heck is a chlorofluorocarbons anyway?
A chlorofluorocarbon is an organic compound that contains only carbon, chlorine, and fluorine, produced as a volatile derivative of methane, ethane, and propane. They are also commonly known by the DuPont brand name Freon.
Our friends from DuPont again! They certainly are busy, aren’t they?
CFCs were widely used as refrigerants, propellants (in aerosol applications), and solvents. The problem is that CFCs tend to leak into the atmosphere, which includes the protective ozone layer, where they have a deleterious effect upon the ozone.
What happens is this: When released from aerosol cans such as your basic asthma inhaler, or canned disinfectant, or from leaky refrigerators, CFCs would mosey on up from the surface into the ozone layer. Once there when ultra-violet radiation hits a CFC molecule it causes one chlorine atom to break away. The chlorine atom then hits an ozone molecule consisting of three oxygen atoms and takes one of the oxygen molecules, destroying the ozone molecule and turning it into oxygen. It is these chlorine and bromine atoms that actually destroy ozone, not the intact CFC molecule (other ozone depleting substances (ODS) include hydrochlorofluorocarbons, halons, methyl bromide, carbon tetrachloride, hydrobromofluorocarbons, chlorobromomethane, and methyl chloroform). It is estimated that one chlorine atom can destroy over 100,00 ozone molecules before it’s removed from the stratosphere.
Molina and Rowland calculated that if CFC production continued to increase the way it had been going, at the rate of about 10% annually until 1990, then remain steady, CFCs would cause a global 5 to 7 percent ozone loss by 1995 and 30-50% loss by 2050.
They also predicted what would happen if we lost all of that ozone, the skin cancer, cataracts and the cooling of the atmosphere. And even though no stratospheric ozone loss had been observed at that time, they advised that CFCs should be banned.
Well I don’t have to tell you dear readers, that this made the manufacturers of CFCs, like our DuPont friends, hopping mad. They were already eating the big one with lead, and now this?! At the time, the entire industry making CFCs was worth about $8 billion in the United States, employed over 600,000 people directly, and 1.4 million people indirectly.
Guess what? Industry spokespeople and scientists from conservative think tanks, immediately attacked the theory. Rowland and Molina had the backing of the scientific community, still the industry, aided by their powerful public relation mechanisms in the media, and with the help of sympathetic politicians (those receiving campaign contributions from CFC manufacturers no doubt), succeeded in delaying any major actions, any meaningful actions, on the control of CFCs for many years.
DuPont, which made one fourth of the world's supply of CFCs, spent millions of dollars running full-page newspaper advertisements defending their product in 1975, claiming there was no proof of what Molina and Rowland claimed was true. The company’s chairman, Irving S. Shapiro, commented that the ozone depletion theory was "a science fiction tale...a load of rubbish...utter nonsense." Other manufacturers around the world acted in kind. The CFC industry hired the world’s largest public relations firm, Hill & Knowlton, who organized a month long United States speaking tour in 1975 for British scientist Richard Scorer, author of several books on pollution, who attacked Rowland and Molina personally, calling them “doomsayers,” and stating, "The only thing that has been accumulated so far is a number of theories." Molina's response was, "The gentleman is good at attacking. But he has never published any scientific papers on the subject."
The aerosol industry also launched a public relations attack, issuing a press release stating that the ozone destruction by CFCs was a theory, not fact, and that there was no scientific consensus. This press release, and many other 'news stories' favorable to industry, were generated by the aerosol industry and printed in such established print media outlets as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fortune Magazine, Business Week, and the London Observer. The symbol of Chicken Little claiming that "The sky is falling!" was used by their campaign, and appeared in various newspaper headlines.
The CEO of Pennwalt, the third largest CFC manufacturer in the U.S., talked of "economic chaos" if CFC use was to be phased out.
On and on.
Reality however, has a way of popping up from time to time. In 1985 the discovery of a huge hole in the ozone layer in Antarctica by British Antarctic Survey scientists, Joesph Farman , Brian Gardiner, and Jonathan Shanklin was published, and proved the CFC industry loudmouths had been wrong.
The CFC industry still yelled and cried, but began to lose the public opinion battle.
The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer was opened for signature on September 16th, 1987, and entered into force on January 1st, 1989, followed by a first meeting in Helsinki, May of 1989. This international treaty was and is designed to protect the ozone layer by phasing out the production of ODSs. As a result of the Montreal Protocol the ozone hole in Antarctica is slowly recovering. Projections indicate that the layer will return to 1980 levels between 2050 and 2070.
Furthermore, due to its widespread adoption and implementation it has been hailed as an example of exceptional international co-operation, with former Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan saying that "perhaps the single most successful international agreement to date has been the Montreal Protocol."
In 1995, Molina and Rowland, along with the Dutch chemist Paul Jozef Crutzen for his work with nitrous oxide, which he discovered was also a major ODS, were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
Who was it that first discovered global warming?
Another fine question!
I’m not sure that one can say there was any one person or group of people associated with each other that can lay claim to the discovery of that phenomena. Rather, like so much in science, a clear understanding of global warming and climate change evolved over the years, one discovery being the basis for making the next and further discoveries.
That’s the way it usually works. The work and achievements of Patterson, Rowland, and Molina are exceptions to the norm.
Yet, if we want to pinpoint some who first brought about an awareness and greater understanding of this most pressing problem that humanity faces, perhaps the most pressing problem humanity has ever faced, then we can take a look at a few individuals who may be said to have discovered it.
Perhaps it was Svante Arrhenius, the Swedish physicist/chemist, one of the founders of the science of physical chemistry, the very discipline that preoccupied José Molina.
In 1896 he produced a theory of how changes in the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere may affect climate by warming it through the greenhouse effect. But he was influenced by the work of others, principally, the French mathematician and physicist Joseph Fourier, who pretty much came up with the idea of the greenhouse effect in the first place. In the 1820‘s he calculated that an Earth sized object should be much colder than it obviously was considering it’s distance from the Sun, if it’s only source of heat was solar radiation. Fourier suggested that the Earth’s atmosphere might be trapping infrared radiation, and so is recognized by many as the discoverer of the greenhouse effect. But as so often happens in science, he ultimately made a wrong turn in his deliberations and favored a theory that interstellar radiation was the source of the unexplained warm temperatures.
Arrhenius was also greatly influenced by the work of the Irish physicist, John Tyndall, who in 1859 considered the recent discovery of the ice ages, and studied how gases may block heat radiation and thus effect the global climate.
An English steam engineer and inventor, Guy Stewart Callendar, in 1938, was the first to demonstrate that global land temperatures had increased over the previous 50 years. He compiled measurements of temperatures from the 19th century on, and went on to evaluate old measurements of atmospheric CO2 concentrations, and concluded that over the past hundred years the concentration of the gas had increased by about 10%, and thus validated the work of Arrhenius.
The American geochemist C. D. Keeling utilized measurements he had gathered from the pristine air of Antarctica and on top of the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii, and using this data was the first to alert the world to the possibility of human caused contributions to the greenhouse effect and global warming. The Keeling Curve measures the progressive buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Many consider Wallace Smith Broecker as the “father,” if you will, of global warming. Not me, but many do. An American scientist studying geochronology, chemical oceanography, and the climate, Wally developed the idea of a global "conveyor belt" linking the ocean circulation, or thermohaline circulation, a part of the large-scale ocean circulation that is driven by global density gradients created by surface heat, to the totality of the theory of global warming, postulating that a reorganization of North Atlantic Ocean circulation can and does bring swift and radical climate change.
Clearly not one person is responsible for the theory of global warming, but many are, with accumulated knowledge handed down from one person to another since the early 1800s.
So if the global warming is some type of conspiracy theory, as the climate change deniers insist, it’s a very intricate one, which has been going on for a very long time.
Now why do we have climate change deniers?
Because oil and gas companies exist that pollute the Earth’s atmosphere, and it’s oceans and rivers... the environment as a whole, with volatile chemicals, oil, and greenhouse gases as a normal course of doing business. The advance of global warming evidence and science threaten their business, almost exactly as Clair Cameron Patterson threatened the lucrative lead industry, and Frank Rowland and José Molina threatened the interests of the chlorofluorocarbon industry.
This is not a coincidence. The same series of events, introduction of something into the environment by industry, the discovery of adverse effects on humans or the environment by that something, industries defense of that substance by any means including the discrediting of said discoverer, and hopefully, the eventual realization and implementation of policies to cease, or limit the use of the something by industry and the world’s governments, has happened over and over throughout modern history (a telling example, or symbol of this is that the same Chicken Little defense that was used against Rowland and Molina has been used to denigrate climate change proponents).
Dr William Edmund Cooke and asbestos. Dr. Jeffrey Wigand and tobacco. Rachel Carson and pesticides. Greenpeace and nuclear power. The victims of Sandy Hook and the NRA.
In industries happy world, they’d be perfectly willing to let humanity live with lead, mercury & pesticide poisoning, skin and lung cancer, oceans inundating Miami and L.A. (not to mention Bermuda and the Bahamas in the Atlantic, the Pacific Islands of Palmerston, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Vanuatu, Marshall Islands, Cook Islands, Fiji, Solomon Islands, and the Maldives in the Indian Ocean., etc.) more Hurricane Katrina’s and Sandy’s, bigger and better tornadoes, and the China Syndrome, as long as they can still make a buck.
Personally, I’d prefer to go another way.
Hopefully, as far as global warming is concerned, the time of denial, and the culture of denial, will end soon, and I mean very soon, for the time of irreversible damage to ourselves, to the planet, and to those who would follow us, is upon us.