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WHAT GOES UP by John J. Nance


The Global Assault on Our Atmosphere

by John J. Nance

Pub Date: July 17th, 1991
ISBN: 0-688-08952-6
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

There is no shortage of popular books dealing with the state of the world's ozone layer and with global warming. Serious readers on either the science or politics of these issues might well become impatient with Nance's (Blind Trust, 1986, etc.) personality profiles, dramatized moments of discovery or encounter, and general come-on-strong popularization. This is the kind of book in which several chapters open with one scientist or another leaning backward or forward in his or her chair, perhaps with ``coffee cup poised in midair'' to signal astonishment at some new finding or idea. But Nance does weave into his personalized account much clear, easy-to-understand explanation (replete with apt terms such as ``molecular plug'') of the theories, experiments, and arguments about such questions as: how chlorine (from chlorofluorocarbons) affects the ozone layer; how or whether the ozone concentration has in fact been falling; whether global temperatures and CO concentrations fluctuate in tandem; whether global warming has already begun; whether certain ``feedback mechanisms'' might ameliorate its effects...and what it all means. Throughout, Nance seems to deplore the wait-and-see position of government and industry figures who insist on waiting for scientific consensus; in any case, much scientific consensus already exists. In the end, however, he gets bogged down on a fine point of scientific communication and ends with a call for beefed- up science education and communication that seems secondary to the book's main thrust. Still: lucid, punchy popular science, and the personality- focused narrative does keep it moving. (Photographs—not seen.)