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Our Biggest Experiment


Alice Bell



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28 September 2021
It was Eunice Newton Foote, an American scientist and women's rights campaigner living in Seneca Falls, New York, who first warned the world that an atmosphere heavy with carbon dioxide could send temperatures here on Earth soaring. This was back in 1856. At the time, no one paid much attention.

Our Biggest Experiment tells Foote’s story, along with stories of the many other scientists who helped to build our modern understanding of climate change. It also chronicles our energy system, from whale oil to kerosene and beyond -- the first steamships, wind turbines, electric cars, oil tankers and fridges. Alice Bell takes us back to climate change science’s earliest steps in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, to the advancing realisation that global warming was a significant problem in the 1950s and right up to today, where we have seen the growth of the environmental movement, climate scepticism and political responses like the UN climate talks.

As citizens of the twenty-first century, it can feel like history has dealt us a rather bad hand in the climate crisis. In many ways, this is true. Our ancestors have left us an almighty mess. But they left us tools for survival too, and Our Biggest Experiment tells both sides of the story. The message of the book is ultimately hopeful; harnessing the ingenuity and intelligence that has long driven the history of climate change research can mean a more sustainable and bearable future for humanity.

Imprint:   SIGMA
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Dimensions:   Height: 234mm,  Width: 153mm, 
Weight:   632g
ISBN:   9781472974778
ISBN 10:   1472974778
Pages:   384
Publication Date:  
Audience:   General/trade ,  Professional and scholarly ,  General/trade ,  ELT Advanced ,  Undergraduate
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Alice Bell is a climate campaigner and writer based in London. She co-runs the climate change charity Possible, working on a range of projects from community tree-planting to solar-powered railways. She has a BSc in history of science from UCL and a PhD in science communication from Imperial College. She was a lecturer in science communication at Imperial for several years where she also launched a college-wide interdisciplinary course on climate change. As an academic, Alice has also worked at Sussex's Science Policy Research Unit, City University Journalism School and UCL's Technology Studies Department. She's also written for a host of publications including the Guardian, The Times, The Observer, Mosaic and New Humanist, and was editor of the 'magazine for the future', How We Get to Next.

Reviews for Our Biggest Experiment: A History of the Climate Crisis – SHORTLISTED FOR THE WAINWRIGHT PRIZE FOR CONSERVATION WRITING

Alice Bell's Our Biggest Experiment reads like a chocolate box of a book -regaling readers with a curated history of the people, science, politics, and technology that have intersected with the current climate crisis. She deftly weaves subtle and lesser-known details about the brilliant (and sometimes eccentric) individuals who have worked out how to measure and describe what we, as a species, have wrought upon Earth. * Science, Gifford J. Wong * A highly enjoyable rabbit hole of a book [...] She chronicles the science and history of climate change in an intuitive manner that glides easily from one episode to the next. It's a sweeping narrative of industry, energy and atmospheric science, and much of Bell's achievement lies in artfully assembling pieces of the climate puzzle scattered across time and space. * Anjana Ahuja, New Statesman *

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