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Today in Science History - Quickie Quiz
Who said: “I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, ... finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell ... whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”
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Climate Quotes (97 quotes)

...He cannot conclude however, without observing, that from the contemplation of so great a variety of extraneous fossils discovered in the cliffs which were evidently the produce of very different climates, he thinks himself rationally induced to believe that nothing short of an universal deluge could be a cause adequate to this effect.
Plantae Favershamiensis, Appendix, 'Establishing a short view of the fossil bodies of the adjacent island of Sheppey.' Quoted in David Beerling, The Emerald Planet: How Plants Changed Earth's History (2007), 145.
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...[T]he natural history of the rat is tragically similar to that of man ... some of the more obvious qualities in which rats resemble men — ferocity, omnivorousness, and adaptability to all climates ... the irresponsible fecundity with which both species breed at all seasons of the year with a heedlessness of consequences, which subjects them to wholesale disaster on the inevitable, occasional failure of the food supply.... [G]radually, these two have spread across the earth, keeping pace with each other and unable to destroy each other, though continually hostile. They have wandered from East to West, driven by their physical needs, and — unlike any other species of living things — have made war upon their own kind. The gradual, relentless, progressive extermination of the black rat by the brown has no parallel in nature so close as that of the similar extermination of one race of man by another...
Rats, Lice and History(1935)
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Question: Why do the inhabitants of cold climates eat fat? How would you find experimentally the relative quantities of heat given off when equal weights of sulphur, phosphorus, and carbon are thoroughly burned?
Answer: An inhabitant of cold climates (called Frigid Zoans) eats fat principally because he can't get no lean, also because he wants to rise is temperature. But if equal weights of sulphur phosphorus and carbon are burned in his neighbourhood he will give off eating quite so much. The relative quantities of eat given off will depend upon how much sulphur etc. is burnt and how near it is burned to him. If I knew these facts it would be an easy sum to find the answer.
Genuine student answer* to an Acoustics, Light and Heat paper (1880), Science and Art Department, South Kensington, London, collected by Prof. Oliver Lodge. Quoted in Henry B. Wheatley, Literary Blunders (1893), 183, Question 32. (*From a collection in which Answers are not given verbatim et literatim, and some instances may combine several students' blunders.)
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A tree is beautiful, but what’s more, it has a right to life; like water, the sun and the stars, it is essential. Life on earth is inconceivable without trees. Forests create climate, climate influences peoples’ character, and so on and so forth. There can be neither civilization nor happiness if forests crash down under the axe, if the climate is harsh and severe, if people are also harsh and severe. ... What a terrible future!
In letter to A.S. Suvorin (18 Oct 1888).
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As geologists, we learn that it is not only the present condition of the globe that has been suited to the accommodation of myriads of living creatures, but that many former states also have been equally adapted to the organization and habits of prior races of beings. The disposition of the seas, continents, and islands, and the climates have varied; so it appears that the species have been changed, and yet they have all been so modelled, on types analogous to those of existing plants and animals, as to indicate throughout a perfect harmony of design and unity of purpose. To assume that the evidence of the beginning or end of so vast a scheme lies within the reach of our philosophical inquiries, or even of our speculations, appears to us inconsistent with a just estimate of the relations which subsist between the finite powers of man and the attributes of an Infinite and Eternal Being.
Concluding remark, Principles of Geology(1833), Vol. 3, 384-5.
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But poverty, though it does not prevent the generation, is extremely unfavourable to the rearing of children. The tender plant is produced, but in so cold a soil, and so severe a climate, soon withers and dies.
An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776). In The Works of Adam Smith (1812), Vol. 2, 120.
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By felling the trees which cover the tops and sides of mountains, men in all climates seem to bring upon future generations two calamities at once; want of fuel and a scarcity of water.
In Alexander von Humboldt, Aimé Bonpland and Thomasina Ross (trans. and ed.) Personal Narrative of Travels to the Equinoctial Regions of America: During the Years 1799-1804 (1852), Vol. 2, 9. (Translated from the original in French.)
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Climate change threatens every corner of our country, every sector of our economy and the health and future of every child. We are already seeing its impacts and we know the poorest and most vulnerable people in the United States and around the world will suffer most of all.
In Hillary Clinton, 'Hillary Clinton: America Must Lead at Paris Climate Talks', Time (29 Nov 2015).
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Coal … We may well call it black diamonds. Every basket is power and civilization; for coal is a portable climate. … Watt and Stephenson whispered in the ear of mankind their secret, that a half-ounce of coal will draw two tons a mile, and coal carries coal, by rail and by boat, to make Canada as warm as Calcutta, and with its comforts bring its industrial power.
In chapter 3, 'Wealth', The Conduct of Life (1860), collected in Emerson’s Complete Works (1892), Vol. 6, 86.
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Curiously enough man's body and his mind appear to differ in their climatic adaptations.
The Red Man's Continent: A Chronicle of Aboriginal America (1919), 10.
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Each pregnant Oak ten thousand acorns forms
Profusely scatter’d by autumnal storms;
Ten thousand seeds each pregnant poppy sheds
Profusely scatter’d from its waving heads;
The countless Aphides, prolific tribe,
With greedy trunks the honey’d sap imbibe;
Swarm on each leaf with eggs or embryons big,
And pendent nations tenant every twig ...
—All these, increasing by successive birth,
Would each o’erpeople ocean, air, and earth.
So human progenies, if unrestrain’d,
By climate friended, and by food sustain’d,
O’er seas and soils, prolific hordes! would spread
Erelong, and deluge their terraqueous bed;
But war, and pestilence, disease, and dearth,
Sweep the superfluous myriads from the earth...
The births and deaths contend with equal strife,
And every pore of Nature teems with Life;
Which buds or breathes from Indus to the Poles,
And Earth’s vast surface kindles, as it rolls!
The Temple of Nature (1803), canto 4, lines 347-54, 367-74, 379-82, pages 156-60.
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Environmentalists may get off on climate porn, but most people just turn away. 'If it was really so bad, they'd do something,' says one colleague, without specifying who 'they' are. The human tendency to convince yourself that everything is OK, because no one else is worried, is deeply ingrained.
'Wake up and smell the smoke of disaster', The Times (8 Nov 2007).
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Fertile soil, level plains, easy passage across the mountains, coal, iron, and other metals imbedded in the rocks, and a stimulating climate, all shower their blessings upon man.
The Red Man's Continent: A Chronicle of Aboriginal America (1919), 87.
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For terrestrial vertebrates, the climate in the usual meteorological sense of the term would appear to be a reasonable approximation of the conditions of temperature, humidity, radiation, and air movement in which terrestrial vertebrates live. But, in fact, it would be difficult to find any other lay assumption about ecology and natural history which has less general validity. … Most vertebrates are much smaller than man and his domestic animals, and the universe of these small creatures is one of cracks and crevices, holes in logs, dense underbrush, tunnels, and nests—a world where distances are measured in yards rather than miles and where the difference between sunshine and shadow may be the difference between life and death. Actually, climate in the usual sense of the term is little more than a crude index to the physical conditions in which most terrestrial animals live.
From 'Interaction of physiology and behavior under natural conditions', collected in R.I. Bowman (ed.), The Galapagos (1966), 40.
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For the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change. Now, it’s true that no single event makes a trend. But the fact is the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, floods—all are now more frequent and more intense. We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science—and act before it’s too late.
From second State of the Union Address (12 Feb 2013) at the U.S. Capitol.
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Geologists are rapidly becoming convinced that the mammals spread from their central Asian point of origin largely because of great variations in climate.
The Red Man's Continent: A Chronicle of Aboriginal America (1919), 13.
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Global nuclear war could have a major impact on climate—manifested by significant surface darkening over many weeks, subfreezing land temperatures persisting for up to several months, large perturbations in global circulation patterns, and dramatic changes in local weather and precipitation rates—a harsh “nuclear winter” in any season. [Co-author with Carl Sagan]
In 'Nuclear Winter: Global Consequences of Multiple Nuclear Explosions', Science (1983), 222, 1290.
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How many times did the sun shine, how many times did the wind howl over the desolate tundras, over the bleak immensity of the Siberian taigas, over the brown deserts where the Earth’s salt shines, over the high peaks capped with silver, over the shivering jungles, over the undulating forests of the tropics! Day after day, through infinite time, the scenery has changed in imperceptible features. Let us smile at the illusion of eternity that appears in these things, and while so many temporary aspects fade away, let us listen to the ancient hymn, the spectacular song of the seas, that has saluted so many chains rising to the light.
Tectonics of Asia (1924), 165, trans. Albert V. and Marguerite Carozzi.
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How to start on my adventure—how to become a forester—was not so simple. There were no schools of Forestry in America. … Whoever turned his mind toward Forestry in those days thought little about the forest itself and more about its influences, and about its influence on rainfall first of all. So I took a course in meteorology, which has to do with weather and climate. and another in botany, which has to do with the vegetable kingdom—trees are unquestionably vegetable. And another in geology, for forests grow out of the earth. Also I took a course in astronomy, for it is the sun which makes trees grow. All of which is as it should be, because science underlies the forester’s knowledge of the woods. So far I was headed right. But as for Forestry itself, there wasn’t even a suspicion of it at Yale. The time for teaching Forestry as a profession was years away.
In Breaking New Ground (1947, 1998), 3.
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I won’t let anyone take us backward, deny our economy the benefits of harnessing a clean energy future, or force our children to endure the catastrophe that would result from unchecked climate change.
In Hillary Clinton, 'Hillary Clinton: America Must Lead at Paris Climate Talks', Time (29 Nov 2015)
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If enough of us stop looking away and decide that climate change is a crisis worthy of Marshall Plan levels of response, then it will become one.
From This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate (2014), 6.
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If we look round the world, there seem to be not above six distinct varieties in the human species, each of which is strongly marked, and speaks the kind seldom to have mixed with any other. But there is nothing in the shape, nothing in the faculties, that shows their coming from different originals; and the varieties of climate, of nourishment, and custom, are sufficient to produce every change.
In History of the Earth and Animated Nature (1774, 1812), Vol. 2, 154.
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In a world that is rightly so concerned about climate change and the atmosphere, to be so ignorant and neglectful of our oceans is deeply troubling. However, … having woken up to this living disaster and having realized that there are limits to how much abuse we can inflict, it’s not too late to turn things around.
In 'Can We Stop Killing Our Oceans Now, Please?', Huffington Post (14 Aug 2013).
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In India, rice is grown below sea level in Kuttanad in Kerala and at above 3,000 meters in Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh. The importance of rice as the mainstay of a sustainable food security system will grow during this century because of climate change. No other cereal has the resilience of rice to grow under a wide range of growing conditions.
In 'Science and Shaping the Future of Rice', collected in Pramod K. Aggarwal et al. (eds.), 206 International Rice Congress: Science, Technology, and Trade for Peace and Prosperity (2007), 4.
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In my position you can’t go out and just say, “I think,” because it’s a very serious thing. So if you get up and say climate is changing because of CO2 emissions, you better bloody well be right.
As quoted in interview with Joe Shute, 'David Attenborough at 90: ‘I think about my mortality every day’', The Telegraph (29 Oct 2016). Note: Elsewhere, Attenborough says that the evidence of climate change is now, in fact, “ironclad.”
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In our daily lives, we enjoy the pervasive benefits of long-lived robotic spacecraft that provide high-capacity worldwide telecommunications; reconnaissance of Earth’s solid surface and oceans, with far-reaching cultural and environmental implications; much-improved weather and climatic forecasts; improved knowledge about the terrestrial effects of the Sun’s radiations; a revolutionary new global navigational system for all manner of aircraft and many other uses both civil and military; and the science of Earth itself as a sustainable abode of life.
In 'Is Human Spaceflight Obsolete?', Issues in Science and Technology (Summer 2004).
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In the early days of dealing with climate change, I wouldn’t go out on a limb one way or another, because I don’t have the qualifications there. But I do have the qualifications to measure the scientific community and see what the consensus is about climate change. I remember the moment when I suddenly thought it was incontrovertible. There was a lecture given by a distinguished American expert in atmospheric science and he showed a series of graphs about the temperature changes in the upper atmosphere. He plotted time against population growth and industrialisation. It was incontrovertible, and once you think it’s really totally incontrovertible, then you have a responsibility to say so.
From interview with Brian Cox and Robert Ince, in 'A Life Measured in Heartbeats', New Statesman (21 Dec 2012), 141, No. 5138, 32.
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It is baffling, I must say, that in our modern world we have such blind trust in science and technology that we all accept what science tells us about everything—until, that is, it comes to climate science. All of a sudden, and with a barrage of sheer intimidation, we are told by powerful groups of deniers that the scientists are wrong and we must abandon all our faith in so much overwhelming scientific evidence. So thank goodness for our young entrepreneurs here this evening, who have the far-sightedness and confidence in what they know is happening to ignore the headless chicken brigade and do something practical to help.
Speech, awards ceremony for green entrepreneurs, Buckingham Palace (30 Jan 2014). As quoted in Benn Quinn, 'Climate Change Sceptics are ‘Headless Chickens’, Says Prince Charles', The Guardian (31 Jan 2014).
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It is hard to imagine while strenuously walking in the heart of an equatorial rain forest, gasping for every breath in a stifling humid sauna, how people could have ever adapted to life under these conditions. It is not just the oppressive climate - the tall forest itself is dark, little light reaching the floor from the canopy, and you do not see any animals. It is a complete contrast to the herbivore-rich dry savannahs of tropical Africa. Yet there are many animals here, evident by the loud, continual noise of large cryptic insects and the constant threat of stepping on a deadly king cobra. This was my first impression of the rain forest in Borneo.
The Humans Who Went Extinct
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It is interesting to transport one’s self back to the times when Astronomy began; to observe how discoveries were connected together, how errors have got mixed up with truth, have delayed the knowledge of it, and retarded its progress; and, after having followed the various epochs and traversed every climate, finally to contemplate the edifice founded on the labours of successive centuries and of various nations.
Description of Bailly’s plan when writing his history of astronomy books, quoted by François Arago, trans. by William Henry Smyth, Baden Powell and Robert Grant, in 'Bailly', Biographies of Distinguished Scientific Men (1859), Vol. 1, 114. Arago first presented this biography of Bailly when he read it to the Academy of Sciences (26 Feb 1844).
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It is our great collective misfortune that the scientific community made its decisive diagnosis of the climate threat at the precise moment when an elite minority was enjoying more unfettered political, cultural, and intellectual power than at any point since the 1920s.
From This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate (2014), 18.
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It was through living among these groups and much more I think, through moving regularly from one to the other and back again that I got occupied with the problem of what, long before I put it on paper, I christened to myself as the ‘two cultures’. For constantly I felt I was moving among two groups [scientists and literary intellectuals] comparable in intelligence, identical in race, not grossly different in social origin, earning about the same incomes, who had almost ceased to communicate at all, who in intellectual, moral and psychological climate had so little in common that instead of going from Burlington House or South Kensington to Chelsea, one might have crossed an ocean.
The Two Cultures: The Rede Lecture (1959), 2. The places mentioned are all in London. Burlington House is the home of the Royal Society and South Kensington is the site of the Natural History Museum, whereas Chelsea represents an affluent centre of artistic life.
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Knowing Pains
I studied parts
of a flower
to understand
its flowering.
I learned much
about my limits.
I had forgotten
Earth and climate.
Poem, in Starting Points: Poems (1971), 38. As quoted in Arthur Lerner, 'Poetry Therapy', The American Journal of Nursing (Aug 1973), 73, No. 8, 1338.
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Many climate sceptics seem to review scientific data and studies not as scientists but as attorneys, magnifying doubts and treating incomplete explanations as falsehoods rather than signs of progress towards the truth.
Editorial, Nature (28 Jul 2011), 475, 423-424.
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Many scientists have spent years collecting information about the effect of human actions on the climate. There’s no question that the climate is changing, I’ve seen it all over the world. And the fact that people can deny that humans have influenced this change in climate is quite frankly absurd.
From Facebook video 10155220356117171 (31 Mar 2017) posted by Dr. Jane Goodall.
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Men are weak now, and yet they transform the Earth's surface. In millions of years their might will increase to the extent that they will change the surface of the Earth, its oceans, the atmosphere, and themselves. They will control the climate and the Solar System just as they control the Earth. They will travel beyond the limits of our planetary system; they will reach other Suns, and use their fresh energy instead of the energy of their dying luminary.
In Plan of Space Exploration (1926). Quote as translated in Vitaliĭ Ivanovich Sevastʹi︠a︡nov, Arkadiĭ Dmitrievich Ursul, I︠U︡riĭ Andreevich Shkolenko, The Universe and Civilisation (1981), 104.
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My grandfather opened the first chapter of his story, A Smile of the Walrus, with an old nursery rhyme, “Did you ever see a walrus smile all these many years? Why yes I’ve seen a walrus smile, but it was hidden by his tears.” As we open this new chapter in the battle against climate change, I fear that if we do not take action, then the smiles of our children, like the walrus, will be hidden by the tears they shed as they pay the consequences of our inaction, our apathy and our greed.
In 'What do the Arctic, a Thermostat and COP15 Have in Common?', Huffington Post (18 Mar 2010).
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My sense is that the most under-appreciated–and perhaps most under-researched–linkages between forests and food security are the roles that forest-based ecosystem services play in underpinning sustainable agricultural production. Forests regulate hydrological services including the quantity, quality, and timing of water available for irrigation. Forest-based bats and bees pollinate crops. Forests mitigate impacts of climate change and extreme weather events at the landscape scale.
In 'Forests and food security: What we know and need to know', Forest News online blog by the Center for International Forestry Research (20 Apr 2011).
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Now it is a well-known principle of zoological evolution that an isolated region, if large and sufficiently varied in its topography, soil, climate and vegetation, will give rise to a diversified fauna according to the law of adaptive radiation from primitive and central types. Branches will spring off in all directions to take advantage of every possible opportunity of securing food. The modifications which animals undergo in this adaptive radiation are largely of mechanical nature, they are limited in number and kind by hereditary, stirp or germinal influences, and thus result in the independent evolution of similar types in widely-separated regions under the law of parallelism or homoplasy. This law causes the independent origin not only of similar genera but of similar families and even of our similar orders. Nature thus repeats herself upon a vast scale, but the similarity is never complete and exact.
'The Geological and Faunal Relations of Europe and America during the Tertiary Period and the Theory of the Successive Invasions of an African Fauna', Science (1900), 11, 563-64.
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Nowhere is water so beautiful as in the desert for nowhere else is it so scarce. By definition. Water, like a human being or a tree or a bird or a song gains value by rarity, singularity, isolation. In a humid climate water is common. In the desert each drop is precious.
Essay in Desert Images, collected in Beyond the Wall: Essays from the Outside (1984), 82.
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One of the most disturbing ways that climate change is already playing out is through what ecologists call “mismatch” or “mistiming.” This is the process whereby warming causes animals to fall out of step with a critical food source, particularly at breeding times, when a failure to find enough food can lead to rapid population losses.
In 'The Change Within: The Obstacles We Face Are Not Just External', The Nation (12 May 2014).
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Our problem is that the climate crisis hatched in our laps at a moment in history when political and social conditions were uniquely hostile to a problem of this nature and magnitude—that moment being the tail end of the go-go ’80s, the blastoff point for the crusade to spread deregulated capitalism around the world. Climate change is a collective problem demanding collective action the likes of which humanity has never actually accomplished. Yet it entered mainstream consciousness in the midst of an ideological war being waged on the very idea of the collective sphere.
In 'The Change Within: The Obstacles We Face Are Not Just External', The Nation (12 May 2014).
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Plants, in a state of nature, are always warring with one another, contending for the monopoly of the soil,—the stronger ejecting the weaker,—the more vigorous overgrowing and killing the more delicate. Every modification of climate, every disturbance of the soil, every interference with the existing vegetation of an area, favours some species at the expense of others.
(With Thomas Thomson) Flora Indica: A Systematic Account of the Plants of British India (1855), 41.
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Professor Whitehead has recently restored a seventeenth century phrase—"climate of opinion." The phrase is much needed. Whether arguments command assent or not depends less upon the logic that conveys them than upon the climate of opinion in which they are sustained.
In The Heavenly City of the Eighteenth-Century Philosophers (1932, 2003), 5
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Run the tape again, and let the tiny twig of Homo sapiens expire in Africa. Other hominids may have stood on the threshold of what we know as human possibilities, but many sensible scenarios would never generate our level of mentality. Run the tape again, and this time Neanderthal perishes in Europe and Homo erectus in Asia (as they did in our world). The sole surviving human stock, Homo erectus in Africa, stumbles along for a while, even prospers, but does not speciate and therefore remains stable. A mutated virus then wipes Homo erectus out, or a change in climate reconverts Africa into inhospitable forest. One little twig on the mammalian branch, a lineage with interesting possibilities that were never realized, joins the vast majority of species in extinction. So what? Most possibilities are never realized, and who will ever know the difference? Arguments of this form lead me to the conclusion that biology's most profound insight into human nature, status, and potential lies in the simple phrase, the embodiment of contingency: Homo sapiens is an entity, not a tendency.
Wonderful Life (1989), 320.
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Scientists can only carry on with their work, addressing legitimate questions as they arise and challenging misinformation. … Scientists work to fill the gaps in human knowledge and to build a theory that can explain observations of the world. Climate sceptics revel in such gaps, sometimes long after they have been filled.
Editorial, Nature (28 Jul 2011), 475, 423-424.
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Statements about climate trends must be based on, er, trends. Not individual events or occurrences. Weather is not climate, and anecdotes are not statistics.
In article, 'Dear Donald Trump: Winter Does Not Disprove Global Warming', on the Mother Jones website (2 Jan 2014).
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Such an atmosphere is un-American, the most un-American thing we have to contend with today. It is the climate of a totalitarian country in which scientists are expected to change their theories to match changes in the police state's propaganda line.
[Stinging rebuke of J. Parnell Thomas, Chairman, House Committee on Un-American activities, who had attacked Dr. Condon (1 Mar 1948) as a weak link in American atomic security.]
Opening address (13 Sep 1953) at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science where Condon would be elected as the new AAAS president. Obituary, New York Times (27 Mar 1974), 46.
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Suppose you had a small electrical fire and... a structural engineer [looked] at your home’s wiring [and] reports that the wiring is “shot” and there is a 50% chance that your house would burn down in the next few years unless you replace all the wiring. The job will cost $20,000... so you get an independent assessment. The next engineer agrees with the first warning. You can either continue to shop for additional evaluations until you find the one engineer in 1,000 that is willing to give you the answer you want, “Your family is not in danger” or you can change the wiring.
[Comparing the urgency of action on climate change to a problem with electrical wiring in a house.]
From press conference at National Press Club (17 Sep 2008), 'Basic Research: Fueling America's Future'. Quoted on the Science Coalition website.
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The advance from the simple to the complex, through a process of successive differentiations, is seen alike in the earliest changes of the Universe to which we can reason our way back, and in the earliest changes which we can inductively establish; it is seen in the geologic and climatic evolution of the Earth; it is seen in the unfolding of every single organism on its surface, and in the multiplication of kinds of organisms; it is seen in the evolution of Humanity, whether contemplated in the civilized individual, or in the aggregate of races; it is seen in the evolution of Society in respect alike of its political, its religious, and its economical organization; and it is seen in the evolution of all those endless concrete and abstract products of human activity which constitute the environment of our daily life. From the remotest past which Science can fathom, up to the novelties of yesterday, that in which Progress essentially consists, is the transformation of the homogeneous into the heterogeneous.
Progress: Its Law and Cause (1857), 35.
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The axe and saw are insanely busy, chips are flying thick as snowflakes, and every summer thousands of acres of priceless forests, with their underbrush, soil, springs, climate, scenery, and religion, are vanishing away in clouds of smoke, while, except in the national parks, not one forest guard is employed.
John Muir
From 'The American Forests', The Atlantic (Aug 1897), 80, No. 478, 157.
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The big concern is that we’re starting to see a new normal, where fires, deforestation, drought and climate change are all interacting to make the Amazon more flammable.
As quoted in Brad Plumer, 'Tropical Forests Suffered Near-Record Tree Losses in 2017', New York Times (27 Jun 2018).
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The big damages come if the climate sensitivity to greenhouse gases turns out to be high [causing greater global warming than current projections.] Then it’s not a bullet headed at us, but a thermonuclear warhead.
Quoted by Justin Gillis in 'Temperature Rising: Clouds’ Effect on Climate Change Is Last Bastion for Dissenters', New York Times (1 May 2012), A1.
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The California climate makes the sick well and the well sick, the old young and the young old.
Anonymous
American saying
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The Earth would only have to move a few million kilometers sunward—or starward—for the delicate balance of climate to be destroyed. The Antarctic icecap would melt and flood all low-lying land; or the oceans would freeze and the whole world would be locked in eternal winter. Just a nudge in either direction would be enough.
In Rendezvous With Rama (1973), 9.
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The human organism inherits so delicate an adjustment to climate that, in spite of man's boasted ability to live anywhere, the strain of the frozen North eliminates the more nervous and active types of mind.
The Red Man's Continent: A Chronicle of Aboriginal America (1919), 20.
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The importance of rice will grow in the coming decades because of potential changes in temperature, precipitation, and sea-level rise, as a result of global warming. Rice grows under a wide range of latitudes and altitudes and can become the anchor of food security in a world confronted with the challenge of climate change.
In 'Science and Shaping the Future of Rice', collected in Pramod K. Aggarwal et al. (eds.), 206 International Rice Congress: Science, Technology, and Trade for Peace and Prosperity (2007), 4.
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The less we do to address climate change now, the more regulation we will have in the future.
Bill Nye
In Harnessing Science to Change the World (2015), 275.
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The long summer was over. For ages a tropical climate had prevailed over a great part of the earth, and animals whose home is now beneath the Equator roamed over the world from the far South to the very borders of the Arctics ... But their reign was over. A sudden intense winter, that was also to last for ages, fell upon our globe.
Geological Sketches (1866), 208.
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The number of hypotheses and theories about climate change are numerous. Quite naturally they have caught the public attention, as any proof of past climactic change points to the possibility of future climate change, which inevitably will have significant implications for global economics.
'Klimaschwankungen seit 1700 nebst Bemerkungen fiber die Klimaschwankungen der Diluvialzeit' Pencks Geographische Abhandlingen (1890) 4,2. In Eduard Brückner, Nico Stehr (Ed.), Hans von Storch (Ed.) and Barbara Stehr, Eduard Brückner (2000), 11.
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The oceans are the life support system of this planet, providing us with up to 70 percent of our oxygen, as well as a primary source of protein for billions of people, not to mention the regulation of our climate.
In 'Why Exploring the Ocean is Mankind’s Next Giant Leap', contributed to CNN 'Lightyears Blog' (13 Mar 2012).
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The simple fact is that the world is not paying for the services the forests provide. At the moment, they are worth more dead than alive–for soya, for beef, for palm oil and for logging, feeding the demand from other countries. … I think we need to be clear that the drivers of rainforest destruction do not originate in the rainforest nations, but in the more developed countries which, unwittingly or not, have caused climate change.
Presidential Lecture (3 Nov 2008) at the Presidential Palace, Jakarta, Indonesia. On the Prince of Wales website.
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The stupidity of overfishing would have shocked Carson, herself a marine biologist. … Dredgers carve graveyards in seabeds, fertilisers fuel plankton blooms that result in oxygenless dead zones, and climate change threatens much sea life.
In 'Fifty Years On, the Silence of Rachel Carson’s Spring Consumes Us', The Guardian (25 Sep 2012). Griffiths also quotes a professor of marine conservation, Callum Roberts, from his Ocean of Life that “Since the 1950s, when she published her trilogy The Sea, two-thirds of the species we have fished have collapsed, and some species are down 99%.”
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The sun … is a body of great size and power, the ruler, not only of the seasons and of the different climates, but also of the stars themselves and of the heavens. When we consider his operations, we must regard him as the life, or rather the mind of the universe, the chief regulator and the God of nature; he also lends his light to the other stars. He is the most illustrious and excellent, beholding all things and hearing all things.
In The Natural History of Pliny (1855), Vol. 1, 20.
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The technologies which have had the most profound effects on human life are usually simple. A good example of a simple technology with profound historical consequences is hay. ... It was hay that allowed populations to grow and civilizations to flourish among the forests of Northern Europe. Hay moved the greatness of Rome to Paris and London, and later to Berlin and Moscow and New York.
[The year-round growth of green grass in the Mediterranean climate meant that hay was not needed by the Romans. North of the Alps, hay maintained horses and oxen and thus their motive power, and productivity.]
In 'Quick is Beautiful', Infinite in All Directions: Gifford Lectures Given at Aberdeen, Scotland (1988, 2004), 135.
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The technologies which have had the most profound effects on human life are usually simple. A good example of a simple technology with profound historical consequences is hay. Nobody knows who invented hay, the idea of cutting grass in the autumn and storing it in large enough quantities to keep horses and cows alive through the winter. All we know is that the technology of hay was unknown to the Roman Empire but was known to every village of medieval Europe. Like many other crucially important technologies, hay emerged anonymously during the so-called Dark Ages. According to the Hay Theory of History, the invention of hay was the decisive event which moved the center of gravity of urban civilization from the Mediterranean basin to Northern and Western Europe. The Roman Empire did not need hay because in a Mediterranean climate the grass grows well enough in winter for animals to graze. North of the Alps, great cities dependent on horses and oxen for motive power could not exist without hay. So it was hay that allowed populations to grow and civilizations to flourish among the forests of Northern Europe. Hay moved the greatness of Rome to Paris and London, and later to Berlin and Moscow and New York. ... Great inventions like hay and printing, whatever their immediate social costs may be, result in a permanent expansion of our horizons, a lasting acquisition of new territory for human bodies and minds to cultivate.
Infinite In All Directions (1988, 2004), 135. The book is a revised version of a series of the Gifford Lectures under the title 'In Praise of Diversity', given at Aberdeen, Scotland.
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The value of fundamental research does not lie only in the ideas it produces. There is more to it. It affects the whole intellectual life of a nation by determining its way of thinking and the standards by which actions and intellectual production are judged. If science is highly regarded and if the importance of being concerned with the most up-to-date problems of fundamental research is recognized, then a spiritual climate is created which influences the other activities. An atmosphere of creativity is established which penetrates every cultural frontier. Applied sciences and technology are forced to adjust themselves to the highest intellectual standards which are developed in the basic sciences. This influence works in many ways: some fundamental students go into industry; the techniques which are applied to meet the stringent requirements of fundamental research serve to create new technological methods. The style, the scale, and the level of scientific and technical work are determined in pure research; that is what attracts productive people and what brings scientists to those countries where science is at the highest level. Fundamental research sets the standards of modern scientific thought; it creates the intellectual climate in which our modern civilization flourishes. It pumps the lifeblood of idea and inventiveness not only into the technological laboratories and factories, but into every cultural activity of our time. The case for generous support for pure and fundamental science is as simple as that.
In 'Why Pure Science?' in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 1965.
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The world's forests need to be seen for what they are—giant global utilities, providing essential public services to humanity on a vast scale. They store carbon, which is lost to the atmosphere when they burn, increasing global warming. The life they support cleans the atmosphere of pollutants and feeds it with moisture. They act as a natural thermostat, helping to regulate our climate and sustain the lives of 1.4 billion of the poorest people on this Earth. And they do these things to a degree that is all but impossible to imagine.
Speech (25 Oct 2007) at the World Wildlife Fund gala dinner, Hampton Court Palace, announcing the Prince's Rainforests Project. On the Prince of Wales website.
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There are those who will say “unless we announce disasters, no one will listen”, but I’m not one of them. It’s not the sort of thing I would ever say. It’s quite the opposite of what I think and it pains me to see this quote being used repeatedly in this way. I would never say we should hype up the risk of climate disasters in order to get noticed.
In Steve Connor, 'Fabricated quote used to discredit climate scientist', The Independent (10 Feb 2010).
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There can be no genuine security if the planet is ravaged by climate change.
In John Houghton, 'Global Warming is Now a Weapon of Mass Destruction', Guardian (28 Jul 2003).
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There once was a guy named Pruitt / Who said to the climate “Oh, screw it.” / The people said NO! / We will not give up SNOW. / The science is real and you knew it.
Anonymous
Sign carried by a protester during the People’s Climate March, Washington, D.C. (29 Apr 2017). Pictured on Twitter @123catherinep. Note: Scott Pruitt was the (very short term) then head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
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Truly, we do live on a “water planet.” For us, water is that critical issue that we need. It’s the most precious substance on the planet, and it links us to pretty much every environmental issue, including climate change, that we’re facing.
From interview by Kathleen Walter, Newsmax (28 Sep 2009).
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Under the... new hypothesis [of Continental Drift] certain geological concepts come to acquire a new significance amounting in a few cases to a complete inversion of principles, and the inquirer will find it necessary to re-orient his ideas. For the first time he will get glimpses... of a pulsating restless earth, all parts of which are in greater or less degree of movement in respect to the axis of rotation, having been so, moreover, throughout geological time. He will have to leave behind him—perhaps reluctantly—the dumbfounding spectacle of the present continental masses, firmly anchored to a plastic foundation yet remaining fixed in space; set thousands of kilometres apart, it may be, yet behaving in almost identical fashion from epoch to epoch and stage to stage like soldiers, at drill; widely stretched in some quarters at various times and astoundingly compressed in others, yet retaining their general shapes, positions and orientations; remote from one another through history, yet showing in their fossil remains common or allied forms of terrestrial life; possessed during certain epochs of climates that may have ranged from glacial to torrid or pluvial to arid, though contrary to meteorological principles when their existing geographical positions are considered -to mention but a few such paradoxes!
Our Wandering Continents: An Hypothesis of Continental Drifting (1937), 3.
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Unlike any creature that lived before, humans have become a geophysical force, swiftly changing the atmosphere and climate as well as the composition of the world’s fauna and flora. … Darwin’s dice have rolled badly for Earth.
In 'Is Humanity Suicidal?', In Search of Nature (1996), 184.
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Very old and wide-spread is the opinion that forests have an important impact on rainfall. ... If forests enhance the amount and frequency of precipitation simply by being there, deforestation as part of agricultural expansion everywhere, must necessarily result in less rainfall and more frequent droughts. This view is most poignantly expressed by the saying: Man walks the earth and desert follows his steps! ... It is not surprising that under such circumstances the issue of a link between forests and climate has ... been addressed by governments. Lately, the Italian government has been paying special attention to reforestation in Italy and its expected improvement of the climate. ... It must be prevented that periods of heavy rainfall alternate with droughts. ...In the Unites States deforestation plays an important role as well and is seen as the cause for a reduction in rainfall. ... committee chairman of the American Association for Advancement of Science demands decisive steps to extend woodland in order to counteract the increasing drought. ... some serious concerns. In 1873, in Vienna, the congress for agriculture and forestry discussed the problem in detail; and when the Prussian house of representatives ordered a special commission to examine a proposed law pertaining to the preservation and implementation of forests for safeguarding, it pointed out that the steady decrease in the water levels of Prussian rivers was one of the most serious consequences of deforestation only to be rectified by reforestation programs. It is worth mentioning that ... the same concerns were raised in Russia as well and governmental circles reconsidered the issue of deforestation.
as quoted in Eduard Brückner - The Sources and Consequences of Climate Change and Climate Variability in Historical Times editted by N. Stehr and H. von Storch (2000)
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We are a plague on the Earth. It’s coming home to roost over the next 50 years or so. It’s not just climate change; it’s sheer space, places to grow food for this enormous horde. Either we limit our population growth or the natural world will do it for us, and the natural world is doing it for us right now.
As quoted and cited from Radio Times in Louise Gray, 'David Attenborough - Humans are Plague on Earth', The Telegraph (22 Jan 2013).
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We believe that biotechnology has a critical role to play in increasing agricultural productivity, particularly in light of climate change. We also believe it can help to improve the nutritional value of staple foods.
U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee. Hearing on the President’s FY2009 War Supplemental Request. (30 Apr 2009).
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We must reject the false choice between combating climate change and fostering strong economic growth. If any country can prove that, it’s the United States.
In Hillary Clinton, 'Hillary Clinton: America Must Lead at Paris Climate Talks', Time (29 Nov 2015).
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We should stop the non-scientific, pseudo-scientific, and anti-scientific nonsense emanating from the right wing, and start demanding immediate action to reduce global warming and prevent catastrophic climate change that may be on our horizon now. We must not let the [Bush] Administration distort science and rewrite and manipulate scientific reports in other areas. We must not let it turn the Environmental Protection Agency into the Environmental Pollution Agency.
Address to National Press Club, Washington, DC (12 Jan 2005). In Bill Adler (ed.), The Wit and Wisdom of Ted Kennedy (2011).
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We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires and crippling drought and more powerful storms.
In Second Inaugural Address (21 Jan 2013) at the United States Capitol.
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WEATHER, n. The climate of an hour. A permanent topic of conversation among persons whom it does not interest, but who have inherited the tendency to chatter about it from naked arboreal ancestors whom it keenly concerned. The setting up of official weather bureaus and their maintenance in mendacity prove that even governments are accessible to suasion by the rude forefathers of the jungle.
The Collected Works of Ambrose Bierce (1911), Vol. 7, The Devil's Dictionary,  362-363.
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We’re going to see public attitudes [on climate change] switch not in proportion to scientific findings or graphs, but in proportion to the stories they hear, the people they know whose lives have been touched by climate change or some environmental calamity. That’s what really changed public opinion.
From interview with Mark Tercek, 'Q&A With Ramez Naam: Dialogues on the Environment', Huffington Post (1 Jul 2013).
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What signifies Philosophy that does not apply to some Use? May we not learn from hence, that black Clothes are not so fit to wear in a hot Sunny Climate or Season, as white ones; because in such Cloaths the Body is more heated by the Sun when we walk abroad, and are at the same time heated by the Exercise, which double Heat is apt to bring on putrid dangerous Fevers? The Soldiers and Seamen, who must march and labour in the Sun, should in the East or West Indies have an Uniform of white?
Letter to Miss Mary Stevenson, 20 Sep 1761. In Albert Henry Smyth (ed.), The Writings of Benjamin Franklin (1906), Vol. 4, 115.
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Wherever we seek to find constancy we discover change. Having looked at the old woodlands in Hutcheson Forest, at Isle Royale, and in the wilderness of the boundary waters, in the land of the moose and the wolf, and having uncovered the histories hidden within the trees and within the muds, we find that nature undisturbed is not constant in form, structure, or proportion, but changes at every scale of time and space. The old idea of a static landscape, like a single musical chord sounded forever, must be abandoned, for such a landscape never existed except in our imagination. Nature undisturbed by human influence seems more like a symphony whose harmonies arise from variation and change over many scales of time and space, changing with individual births and deaths, local disruptions and recoveries, larger scale responses to climate from one glacial age to another, and to the slower alterations of soils, and yet larger variations between glacial ages.
Discordant Harmonies (1990), 62.
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While no one can ascribe a single weather event to climate change with any degree of scientific certainty, higher maximum temperatures are one of the most predictable impacts of accelerated global warming, and the parallels—between global climate change and global terrorism—are becoming increasingly obvious.
In 'Global Warming is Now a Weapon of Mass Destruction', The Guardian (28 Jul 2003).
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While we cannot accurately predict the course of climate change in the coming decades, the risks we run if we don’t change our course are enormous. Prudent risk management does not equate uncertainty with inaction.
In letter (1 Feb 2013) to Energy Department employees announcing his decision not to serve a second term.
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Why Become Extinct? Authors with varying competence have suggested that dinosaurs disappeared because the climate deteriorated (became suddenly or slowly too hot or cold or dry or wet), or that the diet did (with too much food or not enough of such substances as fern oil; from poisons in water or plants or ingested minerals; by bankruptcy of calcium or other necessary elements). Other writers have put the blame on disease, parasites, wars, anatomical or metabolic disorders (slipped vertebral discs, malfunction or imbalance of hormone and endocrine systems, dwindling brain and consequent stupidity, heat sterilization, effects of being warm-blooded in the Mesozoic world), racial old age, evolutionary drift into senescent overspecialization, changes in the pressure or composition of the atmosphere, poison gases, volcanic dust, excessive oxygen from plants, meteorites, comets, gene pool drainage by little mammalian egg-eaters, overkill capacity by predators, fluctuation of gravitational constants, development of psychotic suicidal factors, entropy, cosmic radiation, shift of Earth's rotational poles, floods, continental drift, extraction of the moon from the Pacific Basin, draining of swamp and lake environments, sunspots, God’s will, mountain building, raids by little green hunters in flying saucers, lack of standing room in Noah’s Ark, and palaeoweltschmerz.
'Riddles of the Terrible Lizards', American Scientist (1964) 52, 231.
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With every throb of the climatic pulse which we have felt in Central Asia,, the centre of civilisation has moved this way and that. Each throb has sent pain and decay to the lands whose day was done, life and vigour to those whose day was yet to be.
Final sentence in his book, The Pulse of Asia (1907), 385.
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Yes, gentlemen, give me the map of any country, its configuration, its climate, its waters, its winds, and the whole of its physical geography; give me its natural productions, its flora, its zoology, &c., and I pledge myself to tell you, a priori, what will be the quality of man in history:—not accidentally, but necessarily; not at any particular epoch, but in all; in short, —what idea he is called to represent.
Introduction to the History of Philosophy (1832), trans. by Henning Gotfried Linberg, 240.
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Yes, Shakespeare foremost and forever (Darwin too). But also teach about the excellence of pygmy bushcraft and Fuegian survival in the world’s harshest climate. Dignity and inspiration come in many guises. Would anyone choose the tinhorn patriotism of George Armstrong Custer over the eloquence of Chief Joseph in defeat?
…...
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Yes, we have to [do more to prioritise animals and the environment over human activity]. There are whole areas—the rainforest, for example—that have to be protected for the animals and for the whole of the climate of the planet. That’s a priority if ever there was one.
In Rowan Hooper, 'One Minute With… David Attenborough', New Scientist (2 Feb 2013), 217, No. 2902, 25.
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[I doubt that in today's world, I and Francis Crick would ever have had our Eureka moment.] I recently went to my staircase at Clare College, Cambridge and there were women there! he said, with an enormous measure of retrospective sexual frustration. There have been a lot of convincing studies recently about the loss of productivity in the Western male. It may be that entertainment culture now is so engaging that it keeps people satisfied. We didn't have that. Science was much more fun than listening to the radio. When you are 16 or 17 and in that inherently semi-lonely period when you are deciding whether to be an intellectual, many now don't bother.
(Response when asked how he thought the climate of scientific research had changed since he made his discovery of the structure of life in 1953.)
Quoted by Tim Adams in 'The New Age of Ignorance', The Observer (30 Jun 2007).
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[John] Dalton was a man of regular habits. For fifty-seven years he walked out of Manchester every day; he measured the rainfall, the temperature—a singularly monotonous enterprise in this climate. Of all that mass of data, nothing whatever came. But of the one searching, almost childlike question about the weights that enter the construction of these simple molecules—out of that came modern atomic theory. That is the essence of science: ask an impertinent question, and you are on the way to the pertinent answer.
The Ascent of Man (1973), 153.
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[My favourite fellow of the Royal Society is the Reverend Thomas Bayes, an obscure 18th-century Kent clergyman and a brilliant mathematician who] devised a complex equation known as the Bayes theorem, which can be used to work out probability distributions. It had no practical application in his lifetime, but today, thanks to computers, is routinely used in the modelling of climate change, astrophysics and stock-market analysis.
Quoted in Max Davidson, 'Bill Bryson: Have faith, science can solve our problems', Daily Telegraph (26 Sep 2010)
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[My] numberless observations... made on the Strata... [have] made me confident of their uniformity throughout this Country & [have] led me to conclude that the same regularity... will be found to extend to every part of the Globe for Nature has done nothing by piecemeal. [T]here is no inconsistency in her productions. [T]he Horse never becomes an Ass nor the Crab an Apple by any intermixture or artificial combination whatever[. N]or will the Oak ever degenerate into an Ash or an Ash into an Elm. [H]owever varied by Soil or Climate the species will still be distinct on this ground. [T]hen I argue that what is found here may be found elsewhere[.] When proper allowances are made for such irregularities as often occur and the proper situation and natural agreement is well understood I am satisfied there will be no more difficulty in ascertaining the true quality of the Strata and the place of its possition [sic] than there is now in finding the true Class and Character of Plants by the Linean [sic] System.
Natural Order of the Strata in England and Wales Accurately Delineated and Described, unpublished manuscript, Department of Geology, University of Oxford, 1801, f. 7v.
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[O]ur long-term security is threatened by a problem at least as dangerous as chemical, nuclear or biological weapons, or indeed international terrorism: human-induced climate change. … The impacts of global warming are such that I have no hesitation in describing it as a “weapon of mass destruction.” Like terrorism, this weapon knows no boundaries. It can strike anywhere, in any form…
London Guardian (28 Jul 2003)
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[The Royal Society] is quite simply the voice of science in Britain. It is intellectually rigorous, not afraid to be outspoken on controversial issues such as climate change, but it is not aggressively secular either, insisting on a single view of the world. In fact, there are plenty of eminent scientists – Robert Winston, for instance – who are also men of faith.
Quoted in Max Davidson, 'Bill Bryson: Have faith, science can solve our problems', Daily Telegraph (26 Sep 2010)
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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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- 90 -
Antoine Lavoisier
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Winston Churchill
- 80 -
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Bible
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- 70 -
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- 60 -
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- 50 -
Stephen Hawking
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- 40 -
Pierre Fermat
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- 30 -
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- 20 -
Carl Sagan
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- 10 -
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