Climate science in a social context the birth of environmentalism

The Cold War had implications for the larger social context of research. Specifically, the testing of nuclear bombs alerted the general public to the destructive power of technology and that human society could have a major impact on the environment. Moreover, it became clear that the effects could be geographically far-ranging. It was suddenly possible to think that human society could be a threat to itself.67 In the United States, protests against nuclear tests became an early embryo of the environmental movement to which Rachel Carson could appeal when she was protesting against the use of chemical pesticides in her seminal book Silent Spring.68 In the Arctic, the nuclear tests became a rallying point for local control of the environment when indigenous peoples in northern Alaska managed to stop the use of nuclear explosives to excavate a harbor. Moreover, there was concern about how the fallout from nuclear tests would affect reindeer and caribou. This sparked an initial awareness about contaminants in traditional foods.69

Even if climate change was not a major issue in this early phase of the environmental movement, a few seeds of recognizing its potential importance were there. The seeds included the new knowledge about the fate of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels, which Revelle conveyed to the US Congress. As early as 1959, there were news accounts in the New York Times about the thin ice in the Arctic Ocean.70 Most important was the growing awareness about potential long-range impact of technology and the framing of climate change as "a large-scale geophysical experiment." In 1963, a private conservation foundation issued a report about the potential for rising global temperatures, and in 1965 a sub-panel of climate experts were included on a panel on environmental issues formed by the Presidents' Science Advisory Committee. Again Revelle appeared as central knowledge broker. The presidential report was the first official recognition that climate warming could be caused by human activities and have important conse-

quences.71

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