This is one of two volumes that provide more detailed scientific and technical information on global environmental problems than could adequately be summarized in the Report of the Study of Critical Environmental Problems (SCEP), Man's Impact on the Global Environment (MIT Press, 1970). SCEP presents the results of a one-month, interdisciplinary examination of the global climatic and ecological effects of man's activities which was sponsored by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and conducted during the month of July 1970 at Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts.
This and the companion volume, Man's Impact on Terrestrial and Oceanic Ecosystems, reproduce, supplement, and complement material found in the SCEP report and will serve as useful reference works for researchers and students in the many disciplines involved in solving the serious problems of environmental pollution.
Theories and speculations about the effects of environmental pollution warn of both imminent and potential global catastrophes from—among other things—the build up of CO2 from fossil-fuel combustion, the accumulation of DDT in both animals and humans, and the systematic release of such toxic materials as heavy metals, oil, and radioactive substances. Man's Impact on the Climate provides a much-needed overview of the present state of knowledge about the climate, the atmospheric processes that produce climate and climate change and the interaction of pollutants with these processes; the modeling and monitoring tools that are available for learning more about these areas; and actions that might be taken to ameliorate problems that are understood.
The book contains forty-eight chapters of varying length, scope, depth, complexity, and style—compiled from background materials prepared for SCEP, working papers written during the Study, and a few selected articles that have been previously published. SCEP Work Group reports that deal with climate and with atmospheric monitoring and the summary of those reports are reproduced in Part I. Part II provides a broad semitechnical view of the factors involved in determining climate and in changing climate and outlines the ways in which man might affect these processes by introducing pollutants into the environment.
Mathematical modeling and monitoring techniques that are necessary to understand the factors influencing climate conditions are introduced in Parts III and IV, respectively. The next five sections discuss specific pollutants and their effects on the climate: Carbon Dioxide and Atmospheric Heating, Particles and Turbidity, Particles and Clouds, Contaminants of the Upper Atmosphere, and A Nonproblem and a Potential Problem (oxygen depletion and clearing of the Amazon forest). Each section treats the theoretical and empirical evidence available on predicted or observed effects and indicates the monitoring and measurement methods that can be used to increase knowledge in these areas and/or alert man to his impact on the climate. Monitoring techniques that are applicable to most of these problems are covered in detail in Part X.
"More research" is not the simple answer to environmental issues. A final section of the book illustrates some of the complex social, political, and technical issues that the scientists and his fellow citizens must confront together if decisions that could avert potential disasters are ever to be made and implemented.