The Changing Atmosphere


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A Global Challenge

John Firor

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We stand at the threshold of major changes in the earth's atmosphere, facing serious challenges from acid rain, ozone depletion, and global warming. Continually acted on by natural forces, the atmosphere has always been in a state of flux, but in the last decades the problems of atmospheric change have been gravely exacerbated by pollution resulting from human activities. In this important book, a widely known authority in atmospheric research describes the causes of acid rain, ozone depletion, and global warming and the evidence for each one's recent acceleration, and he provides practical and long-range suggestions for controlling these and other forms of atmospheric deterioration.
In clear and accessible language, John Firor discusses how the emission of sulfur and nitrogen substances into the air leads to acid rain, how the release of chlorine-bearing gases into the air causes destruction of ozone in the high atmosphere, and how the addition of infrared trapping gases to the atmosphere restricts the loss of radiation from the earth and thus leads to a heating of the climate. Firor argues that although it is almost impossible to bring the spread of chemicals into the air to a complete halt, steps to slow air pollution are technically feasible and in many cases economically beneficial. He describes these strategies, cautioning that they must be coordinated with a larger goal of lessening the toal impact human activities have on the earth. According to Firor, we can work toward this goal by attempting to stabilize populations (in the developed as well as the developing world), protect forests, encourage the use of modern energy-efficient technology in Third World countries (and the United States), and reduce poverty worldwide.

"The Changing Atmosphere is a valuable addition to the growing literature of our unique and scary moment in history. It is calm; it is reasonable; therefore it is frightening as hell. A good short introduction to the situation."—Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature

"The central fact of global ecology is that its great problems interlink. In this fine and helpful book, John Firor shows us why we cannot treat acid rain, ozone depletion, or global warming separately and what we can all do to deal with them together. The Changing Atmosphere gives us a steady, clear-minded introduction to some of the most urgent subjects on earth."—Jonathan Weiner, author of The Next One Hundred Years and Planet Earth

"Firor has for decades been an effective communicator of environmental science and policy issues to industry and government leaders. With The Changing Atmosphere he has increased his public visibility for which we all should be glad given the clear, balanced, and important message he presents."—Stephen H. Schneider, National Center for Atmospheric Research

"This little book does an admirable job of explaining the major driving forces behind global change. It is a readable and informative primer on atmospheric global change for educated laymen and professionals alike."—Joseph Pinto, American Scientist

"In this book, the author describes the causes of acid rain, ozone depletion, and global warming, and the evidence for each one’s recent acceleration. The author provides practical long-range suggestions for controlling these and other forms of atmospheric deterioration. This volume includes fourteen pages of notes and a complete index."—Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society

"This is a very good overview of the changes that man’s activities are imposing on the earth’s atmosphere. . . . John Firor does an excellent job of explaining these problems in a way that everyone can understand, while presenting much information that should provoke thought in all of us. I recommend it to anyone who is interested in how we are changing the atmosphere that supports our earth."—Frank P. Castelli, Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society

"A good overall introduction to the problems and possible solutions of important atmospheric problems, on that takes a welcome stand on issues of utmost importance in today’s more environmentally aware society."—Choice

"This short book does a huge job. . . . A good basic introduction to atmospheric pollution issues and their solutions. John Firor is a concise and thorough writer. . . . [His] well-balanced approach to these ideas should alienate no-one, and should appeal to academics and the general public alike."—Liz Peltz, Earth Matters (The Magazine of Friends of the Earth)

"Makes a complex and important subject available to the nonspecialist and . . . will raise the level of discussion concerning the appropriate interaction between humanity and Earth."—Thomas E. Graedel, Environment

"Firor writes prose that is remarkably clear in explaining complex atmospheric issues. . . . The Changing Atmosphere is a stark reminder that global atmospheric degradation is real, and is worsening. . . . Firor’s new book is . . . a worthy and elegant contribution to that effort."—Andrew Moyad, Environmental Forum

"A very interesting book, partly because it provides novel ways of describing concepts such as steady states, numerical modeling, and radiochemical dating to the nonscientist, but more importantly, because it discusses possible solutions to our dilemma. . . . Firor[’s] . . . analysis identifies the roots of the problems and provides with a starting point."—John W. Birks, Nature

"Mr. Firor’s book is persuasive because it is based more on evenhanded analysis than on advocacy. . . . Most of The Changing Atmosphere is devoted to clear explanations (illustrated by simple graphs) of the relationships between acid rain, climate warming and stratospheric ozone depletion, as well as to their causes and effects. This book could serve as a primer for anyone confused by the wealth of technical information that has been published about these complex atmospheric phenomena. Unlike many books about the climate, though, this one focuses sharply on some of the social mainsprings of atmospheric change, notably the population explosion. . . . The reader is left with a sense of astonishment that human intelligence could have permitted us to reach this predicament. But perhaps the era of complacency is ending and we have at last begun to think about saving ourselves."—Malcolm W. Browne, New York Times Book Review

"John Firor, one of America’s leading atmospheric scientists, provides a concise and highly readable explanation for three of the most grave environmental challenges facing the earth—acid rain, ozone depletion, and climate change. Dr. Firor explains not only what is known but how we came to know it. One of the best chapters, ’But is it True?’ should help remove some of the confusion and skepticism currently complicating public discourse on responses to environmental problems. Finally, Dr. Firor relates the changes in the atmosphere to the underlying economic causes and outlines a sensible strategy for solving these problems consistent with continued economic growth."—Alan S. Miller, Executive Director, Center for Global Change, University of Maryland at College Park

Winner of the 1992 Louis Battan Author’s Award given by the American Meteorological Society
ISBN: 9780300056648
Publication Date: September 26, 1990
5 1/2 x 8 1/4
The Crowded Greenhouse

Population, Climate Change, and Creating a Sustainable World

John Firor and Judith E. Jacobsen

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