Making Climate History

This new project is funded by a Leverhulme Trust research project grant and was awarded jointly to me (co-PI) with Dr Richard Staley (PI) and Professor Simon Schaffer (co-PI) from the Department of the History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge the period 2019-2024.  Dr Sarah Dry, an independent scholar and historian of science, is an associated researcher.

Summary: Two centuries after the emergence of steam technologies and 170 years after initial suggestions that the atmosphere keeps Earth warm, scientists proved human disturbance of the Earth’s carbon budget changes the world’s climate.  The work and timescales of making and knowing are decisively interrelated, yet still too little is understood about critical links between how imperial and global energy infrastructures have re-made climate and how scientists have known climate.    This project uses historical, oral and material methods to analyse the relation between making climates and knowing them.  Its guiding principle is that the conceptual and technical work required to create effective knowledge of changing climates is strongly connected to the material technologies and practices that produce and change physical climate regimes.  

I will shortly be hiring a research associate to work on the project alongside me to pursue two research objectives: i) through archival work, and in association with the project team, to source and critically analyse selected historical maps of global climate with respect to their design, salience and utility; and ii) to conduct a series of in-depth interviews with retired climate scientists and science administrators around the world and to liaise with oral history repositories for the curation of the acquired participant histories.