by Alice Bell
1 Sept 2022
Did you know the link between carbon dioxide and global warming was first suggested in the 1850s? Climate change books are usually about the future, but Our Biggest Experiment turns instead asks how did we get into this mess, and how and when did we work out it was happening? Join Alice Bell on a rip-roaring ride through the characters, ideas, technologies and experiments that shaped the climate crisis we now find ourselves in. From an emerging idea of 'greenhouse gases' in the 19th century and, via scientific expeditions across oceans and ice caps and into space, the coining of the term 'global warming' in the 1970s, Bell explores how we began to realise that not only could human pollution dangerously warm the climate, but that it was already doing so. Drop by the first climate talks, weather forecasts and early experiments.
Watch excitement over solar and wind power start in the 1870s, only to be forgotten before being rediscovered a century later. See the monster of big oil slain by a plucky investigative journalist back in the 1910s, only tore-emerge more powerful than ever. However, this isn't a simple story with exploitative fossil-fuel baddies on one side and the goodies of renewable energy, environmentalism and climate science on the other.
It's more complex than that. As citizens of the 21st century, we've been left an almighty mess, but as this ultimately hopeful book argues, we've also inherited the tools for our survival.