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Fixing the Sky: The Checkered History of Weather and Climate Control

Popular Science

By: James Rodger Fleming

352 pages, 43 illus

Columbia University Press

Hardback | Sep 2010 | #183809 | ISBN-13: 9780231144124
Availability: Usually dispatched within 4 days Details
NHBS Price: £21.99 $29/€25 approx

About this book

As the alarm over global warming spreads, radical ideas are taking hold such as the use of reflective nanoparticles to bounce sunlight directly into space or the launching of mirrors into orbit around the earth. While these proposals seem edgy and exciting, they often test the limits of scientific possibility and overlook the political, ethical and social consequences of climate management. Revisiting over a century of efforts at weather and climate control, the author shows what can happen when fixing the sky becomes a dangerous experiment in pseudoscience.

Weaving together stories from elite science, cutting-edge technology, and popular culture, Fleming examines issues of health and navigation in the 1830s, drought in the 1890s, aircraft safety in the 1930s, and world conflict since the 1940s. Killer hurricanes, ozone depletion and global warming fuel the fantasies of today.

"Current hopes for a technological answer to global warming are not an altogether new quest; they echo a rich history of attempts to work upon the weather. James Rodger Fleming explores this history thoroughly, parading a colorful variety of scientists, visionaries, and charlatans who reveal important lessons about our past-and possible future."
– Spencer Weart, author of The Discovery of Global Warming

"With humanity's planetary impact reaching a Richter scale equivalent, what seem to be quick fixes become exceedingly tempting. Fixing the Sky's historical insights are a revelation – an anchor and essential base from which to consider addressing the greatest challenge in the history of our species."
– Thomas E. Lovejoy, George Mason University and The H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics, and the Environment

"James Rodger Fleming's book is a kind of tour de folie, an authoritative recounting over two centuries of weather changers and climate controllers, rainmakers and rain fakers, and cloud seeders and fog dissolvers. All in all, an engrossing work about vain hopes and technological hubris – as well as a cautionary tale to anyone concerned with attempts to engineer the planet."
– Dan Kevles, Yale University

"Provides an essential foundation for understanding the long and dubious scientific tradition from which plans for climate control hail."
– W. Patrick McCray, Science 1/15/11

"Fixing the Sky is a very readable, in-depth popular account of the history of weather modification, ranging from myth and movies to experiments, commercial ventures, and propsals for the future control of weather and climate [...] Recommended."
Choice 3/1/11

"[Fixing the Sky] provides a detailed account of weather modification [...] The topic is an important one, and the book is relevant for scientists, stakeholders, policy makers and concerned citizens alike."
– Rasmus E. Benestad, American Scientist 5/1/11

"The topic is an important one, the book is relevant for scientists, stake-holders, policy makers, and concerned citizens alike."
- Sigma Xi (Reprint of American Scientist Review), May-June 2011

"I recommend this book to those interested in weather and climate modification and the history of applied meteorology."
- The Weather Doctor Blog 5/1/11

"Fleming has provided another valuable contribution to the still tiny but emerging historiography of global warming."
– Sam White, Monthly Review 8/8/11


PrefaceAcknowledgmentsIntroduction1. Stories of Control2. Rain Makers3. Rain Fakers4. Foggy Thinking5. Pathological Science6. Weather Warriors7. Fears, Fantasies, and Possibilities of Control8. The Climate EngineersNotesBibliographyIndex

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James Rodger Fleming is a historian of science and technology and professor of science, technology, and society at Colby College.

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