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by Richard C. J. Somerville

Download The Forgiving Air: Understanding Environmental Change eBook
Richard C. J. Somerville
University of California Press (April 1, 1996)
216 pages
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The Forgiving Air is also rich in historical anecdotes and information about the scientists whose work has advanced . Richard C. J. Somerville is Professor of Meteorology at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego.

The Forgiving Air is also rich in historical anecdotes and information about the scientists whose work has advanced our understanding. Somerville includes the fascinating story of the scientists who in 1974 predicted damage to the ozone layer from man-made chemicals. Their theoretical prediction, made a decade before the Antarctic ozone hole was discovered, caused intensive controversy in scientific circles and, especially, in the political world. He is also a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The Forgiving Air: Understanding Environmental Change. The Forgiving Air: Understanding Environmental Change. By Richard C. Somerville. A clearly written primer on the physics and chemistry of the earth's atmosphere and how they can produce such socially relevant phenomena as ozone depletion, acid rain, and global climate change.

Scientist Richard C. Somerville is a Distinguished Professor . Somerville is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, and one of the authors of the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.

Cite this article as: Perry, . 1023/A:1005401903128. Publisher Name Kluwer Academic Publishers. Print ISSN 0165-0009. Online ISSN 1573-1480. Reprints and Permissions.

In his book The Forgiving Air: Understanding Environmental Change, Richard .

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The Forgiving Air is an authoritative, up-to-date handbook on global change. Written by a scientist for nonscientists, this primer humanizes the great environmental issues of our time—the hole in the ozone layer, the greenhouse effect, acid rain, and air pollution—and explains everything in accessible prose. A new preface takes into account developments in environmental policy that have occurred since publication. Highlighting the interrelatedness of human activity and global change, Richard Somerville stresses the importance of an educated public in a world where the role of science is increasingly critical.
  • Justie
Do you know that the atmosphere remembers our past behavior? And there is a limit to the forgiveness of the air. Another popular question is whether we can say that people are changing the climate? The actual language on the December 1995 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports is that "The balance of evidence suggests that there is a discernible human influence on global climate." Another common question is that suppose human beings are warming the Earth, what should we do? Richard C.J. Somerville's "The Forgiving Air: Understanding Environmental Change" suggests the following: (1) stabilizing and reducing emissions of greenhouse gases, (2) developing renewable forms of energy, and (3) protecting the atmosphere. The world population is another factor.

My primary interest on the book is weather computing. According to the author, computing weather is a calculus problem. To be specific, it is an initial value problem. Many problems involving calculus are too complicated to be solved exactly. Fortunately, there exists method to find an approximate solution.

We can predict weather for three days or up to a week now. The limit on weather prediction is about three weeks due to the system is sensitive dependence on initial conditions. Thunderstorms and hurricanes are still too small to be resolved by the weather model's grids. A weather service would reduce the grid size of its model for better predictions when a faster computer is available. But models are not yet realistic enough to reproduce droughts or monsoons.

Predicting climate is a new field. We don't even know what is predictable. Climate prediction may be a boundary-value problem. Anyway, temperature is the single most important indicator to represent all the complexity and severity of climate change. However, scientific research is time consuming. On the other hand, the second edition of the book is available. There may be good news on predicting climate.
  • artman
Everyone needs to read this.
  • Shadowredeemer
This book gives you all the scientific facts, evidences that " Warming of the climate system is unequivocal" without any technical terms, jargons, scientific formula .
It is worth to spend resources to read it.
  • Alsath
Excellent non technical explanation for the causes of climate change and its consequences from one of the world's leading climate experts.
  • Nilador
Has helped me to understand that there is more to climate change than CO2. I am afraid that man is going to screw up the climate by placing too much emphasis on CO2.
  • playboy
Environmental change is no longer an abstract concept. We know many of the causes and many of the observed (and potential) effects on the Earth of these changes. Global warming is happening, and the effects of it are much more widespread than just a temperature change. In his book The Forgiving Air: Understanding Environmental Change, Richard C.J. Somerville, one of the world's top climate scientists, illustrates climate change in a direct, easy-to-understand way by outlining the major aspects of climate change: the fact that humans are beginning to affect earth on a global scale, and the role that science plays in it all.
The reason climate change is so important at this point in history, according to the author, is that humans are beginning to affect Earth's climate on a global scale; when you consider Earth's entire history, humans have caused an immensely huge impact in an incredibly short period of time. Also, humans have only recently begun to realize the effects of certain things on the environment. The author effectively and completely summarizes four main aspects of climate change: the ozone hole, the greenhouse effect, air pollution, and acid rain.
The ozone "hole" was discovered by accident; a researcher was not specifically searching out this phenomenon in the atmosphere. This illustrates the author's emphasis on the role of science, including "big" and "little" science. Somerville points out that there needs to be a balance between big science (large, well-funded operations such as NASA) and little science (individual researchers). The fact that the ozone hole was discovered on accident by an individual scientist who was researching an entirely different thing shows that big science is not the only productive or efficient way to do research.
Without ozone, Earth would be much colder than it is, and therefore uninhabitable. However, one of the main points with ozone is that it blocks harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun that can cause skin cancer and other harmful effects for humans.
Harmful chemicals produced by humans, most importantly chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), break apart ozone and create a hypothetical "hole", which really just means the ozone layer is thinning. This is a big problem for humans because it means a rise in radiation from the sun and therefore many harmful effects. The production of CFCs began only in the mid-twentieth century, and already they are causing measurable effects with immense consequences. As the author writes, natural changes to the atmosphere happen over a long period of time, but changes by humans have occurred after only a few years, which is why the phenomenon is so alarming.
Scientists are researching the issue and working with policy makers to find a global solution to the problem. Many countries have signed the Montreal Protocol and met at the subsequent London and Copenhagen meetings to set goals for stopping CFC production globally. Unfortunately, even if they are all stopped now, we will continue to see the effects in the atmosphere for a long time to come. As the author states, "The atmosphere remembers our past behavior. There are limits to the compassion of the forgiving air" (p. 30).
While ozone depletion is one major aspect of climate change, the greenhouse effect (GHE) plays a role as well. According to the author, the GHE is a much more difficult problem to solve than the ozone hole. It involves a number of gases, including water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, CFCs, and even ozone, which all play a role in absorbing infrared radiation from Earth and trapping the heat in the atmosphere, thus acting like a greenhouse.
It is not a new concept, but the problem is that humans are vastly increasing the effect by putting more and more of these trace gases into the atmosphere. Alternatives to CFCs can be produced, but greenhouse gases are natural and therefore it is difficult to find substitutes. While some other possibilities have been offered up, essentially humans will have to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to move towards a sustainable future, and this means finding renewable sources of energy and not relying on fossil fuels. As the author says, it is important to distinguish between what we do not know how to do versus what we cannot bring ourselves to do, meaning that ultimately we need to stop using fossil fuels for this problem to be solved.
We must also work towards fixing the issues of acid rain and air pollution, which have more direct and local effects. Many aspects of weather work together to facilitate air pollution, such as smog, and acid rain, and these phenomenon can have negative effects for local communities as well as ones far away, which is what makes it difficult to solve. This fight is not as scientific as that of ozone and the greenhouse effect; it is a political and economic fight because we know what to do about it, but no one is eager to change and pay more money to get to that point.
Climate change is a global problem, and requires a global solution, which will not be easy. Somerville talks about the fact that developing nations have not yet had the chance to really use their abundant sources of fossil fuels, and so why should they not be allowed to utilize these sources if developed countries already had that chance and are wealthy because of it. This theme ties in with all aspects of climate change; it is hard to find a global solution, especially when it comes to looking at developed versus developing countries and their roles in climate change and their responsibility for the future of the environment.
While Somerville explains the economic and political aspects of climate change, he also emphasizes and offers insight into the ways scientists do research. Models are an important feature when it comes to predicting the future of climate change. The author notes that models are not certain, but they help us understand different aspects of climate change individually, which can then be put together to form a bigger picture of climate change. Models bridge the gap between scientific, quantitative language and qualitative language that anyone can understand. The author says that we must take models seriously, but not literally; we may not know the exact consequences and effects, but models show that climate change is going to be real and it is going to be significant.
A main component of science is that it informs policy. This is what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) does, without taking a specific policy stand. The IPCC assesses research relevant to climate change in order to inform policy and work towards solutions for climate change. An important question is why now? Well, humans are the cause of climate change, and incredibly rapid climate change at that. We must find a way to reverse this.
Overall, the role of science is central in understanding the consequences of today's actions. As Somerville states: "These environmental effects are all happening at the same time, in our lifetime, on a global scale. This is not by chance but rather because they have a common cause: the number of people on Earth, the way we live, the amount of energy we use, and the way we generate energy" (p. 154-155). We will have to work hard in the future toward acceptance of the idea of climate change on a global scale, and acceptance of the fact that we must find sources of renewable energy. We must work towards a sustainable Earth, or else the future is not so bright for humans or animals alike.
The author did a remarkable job of blending scientific instruction and everyday language to give a solid understanding of environmental change. The main concepts of climate change were covered in depth and were related to each other and to the issue of climate change as a whole. The author organized the book well, and did a great job of interspersing the role of science in climate change throughout. I would very highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn the basics of climate change in today's world, including students, educators, and informed citizens alike. Climate change is a complex concept, but Somerville, one of the world's leading climate scientists, is able to sum it up in one short book, while leaving the technical jargon out.