The year 2016 was the hottest year on record, and in recent months, drought and searing heat have fanned wildfires in Fort McMurray Alberta and in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Meanwhile, the Arctic has had record high temperatures, leading one climate researcher to warn the region is unraveling. Yet for the most part, these climate-related events and dire warnings from climatologists have fallen on deaf ears, especially in the United States, where climate-change denial is firmly entrenched, especially among Republican lawmakers. But why?
In his recent book, Behind the Curve: Science and the Politics of Global Warming
(University of Washington Press, 2016), historian Joshua Howe
seeks to answer this question. Howe traces the history of climate change from a scientific oddity in the late 1950s to a topic of fierce debate among politicians and environmental activists who fear that failure to tackle global warming will lead to stronger storms, fiercer wildfires, and rising seas. Scientists knew the most about the nuances of climate change, yet seemed unable to convince policy makers or the public to tackle the problem. Howe sees the climatologists narrow focus on the science of global warming as a partial reason for the inaction. Part history of science, part history of environmentalism, Behind the Curve
is a provocative book exploring one of the most vexing issues of our time.
Bob Wilson is an associate professor in the Department of Geography, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University. His research interests include historical geography and environmental history, animal studies, and climate change politics and activism. Wilson is also a former visiting fellow at Stanford University's Bill Lane Center for the American West and a Carson Fellow at the Rachel Carson Center in Munich.