Brown Bag Lecture: “The European Air Chemistry Network and the Construction of a ‘Global’ Climate”

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Date: October 21, 2014
Time: 12:00 to 1:00 p.m.

315 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106

Event Type: Open to the Public
Fee: Free
RSVP Online: No Registration Required

A talk by Rachel Rothschild

In the late 1960s Swedish scientists at the European Air Chemistry Network (EACN) discovered that rainfall across Scandinavia had been increasing in acidity over the last several decades. They suspected that pollution from other European countries was causing the increase, with potentially serious environmental consequences for Scandinavian ecosystems. Although chemists had long known that fossil-fuel pollutants could lower the pH of rainfall, this was the first time scientists realized that acid rain was a regional rather than local phenomenon with the potential for global changes to the climate. Rothschild’s talk will examine the research and policy debates that emerged from the EACN’s work on acid rain through the lens of international cooperation on environmental policy. Coinciding with the emergence of the environmental movement and the desire of many European government officials to shift attention away from nuclear issues, the discovery of acid rain’s transnational impact soon came to serve as a rallying cry for global cooperation on environmental problems. Rothschild will argue that this shift in thinking about fossil-fuel pollution in a global scope sheds light on new pressures among intergovernmental organizations to incorporate scientific advising on pollution problems and the emergence of international cooperation on air pollution studies.

Rachel Rothschild is a PhD candidate at Yale University in the history department and the Program in the History of Science and Medicine. She specializes in research projects at the intersection of science, technology, and the environment, with particular attention to the use of scientific expertise in national and international policymaking. Her Brown Bag Lecture is drawn from her dissertation entitled “A Poisonous Sky: Scientific Research and International Diplomacy on Acid Rain,” which examines the history of scientific research and international policies on acid rain. She is a recipient of a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and has received support for her dissertation from the American Meteorological Foundation, the American-Scandinavian Foundation, the Chemical Heritage Foundation, the MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale, and the Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry. Her scholarship on the history of technology and the environment has also earned recognition from the Society for the History of Technology (SHOT), which awarded her the Joan Cahalin Robinson Prize in 2012.

About Brown Bag Lectures

Brown Bag Lectures (BBLs) are a series of weekly informal talks on the history of chemistry or related subjects, including the history and social studies of science, technology, and medicine. Based on original research (sometimes still in progress), these talks are given by local scholars for an audience of CHF staff and fellows and interested members of the public.

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