Abstract: Large amounts of data are generated in chemistry labs—nearly all instruments record data in a digital form, yet a considerable proportion is also captured non-digitally and reported in ways non-accessible to both humans and their computational agents. Chemical research is still largely centred around paper-based lab notebooks, and the publication of data is often more an afterthought than an integral part of the process. Here we argue that a modular open-science platform for chemistry would be beneficial not only for data-mining studies but also, well beyond that, for the entire chemistry community. Much progress has been made over the past few years in developing technologies such as electronic lab notebooks that aim to address data-management concerns. This will help make chemical data reusable, however it is only one step. We highlight the importance of centring open-science initiatives around open, machine-actionable data and emphasize that most of the required technologies already exist—we only need to connect, polish and embrace them.
Here’s an easy rule of thumb when it comes to sustainable food: What we eat matters more than how it is produced. For example, a plant-based burger patty with ingredients sourced from around the world will most likely have a lower environmental footprint than a local and organic beef patty.
Yet, the traditional focus of food companies’ sustainability programs has been on uncovering and improving the way ingredients were grown and products manufactured. Sustainability only enters the conversation after an existing product has been on shelves for years or after new products have successfully passed the innovation process. This is a big missed opportunity.
He showed that land temperatures had increased over the previous half-century, and he theorized that people were unwittingly raising Earth’s temperature by burning fossil fuels in furnaces, factories and even his beloved motorcycles.
When Callendar published his findings, it set off a firestorm. The scientific establishment saw him as an outsider and a bit of a meddling gentleman scientist. But, he was right.
His theory became widely known as “the Callendar Effect.” Today, it’s known as global warming. Callendar defended his theory until his death in 1964, increasingly bewildered that the science met such resistance from those who did not understand it.
Building on over a century of climate science
A theoretical basis for climate change had been developed over the 114 years leading up to Callendar’s research.
Scientists including Joseph Fourier, Eunice Foote, John Tyndall and Svante Arrhenius had developed an understanding of how water vapor in the Earth’s atmosphere trapped heat, noted that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere also absorbed large quantities of heat and speculated about how increasing fossil fuel use could raise Earth’s temperature and change the climate.
However, these scientists spoke only of future possibilities. Callendar showed global warming was already happening.
An engineer runs his own climate experiments
Callendar received a certificate in mechanics and mathematics from City and Guilds College, London, in 1922 and went to work for his father, a well-known British physicist. The two shared interests in physics, motorcycles, racing and meteorology.
Callendar would later join the U.K. Ministry of Supply in armament research during World War II and continued to conduct war-related research at Langhurst, a secret research facility, after the war.
But his climate change work was done on his own time. Callendar kept journals with detailed weather data, including carbon dioxide levels and temperature. In an innovative paper published in 1938, he claimed there was an “increase in mean temperature, due to the artificial production of carbon dioxide.”
He also calculated how much carbon dioxide humans were putting into the atmosphere – the annual net human addition. In 1938, it was about 4.3 billion tons, which compares well with current estimates for that year of about 4.2 billion tons. Note that global carbon dioxide emissions in 2018 were about 36 billion tons.
Gathering published data on carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, Callendar created a graph correlating temperature increases over time with increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.
In the period before Callendar’s paper, key scientists thought the huge volume of water vapor in the atmosphere, one of the “greenhouse” gases that keep Earth warm, would dwarf any contribution by carbon dioxide to Earth’s heat balance. However, heat is radiated out to space as waves, with a range of wavelengths, and water vapor absorbs only some of those wavelengths. Callendar knew that recent, more precise absorption data showed that carbon dioxide absorbed heat at wavelengths that water missed.
Callendar also considered different layers in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide concentrates at a higher altitude in the atmosphere than water vapor. Atmospheric water vapor evaporates and then precipitates out of the atmosphere as rain or snow, but adding carbon dioxide severely upsets Earth’s energy balance because it stays in the atmosphere for hundreds of years. Carbon dioxide forms a heat-trapping layer high in the atmosphere, absorbing heat that radiates upward from Earth’s surface and then emitting it back towards Earth’s surface. Callendar’s paper provided insight into this mechanism.
After Callendar published his paper, global warming caused by human activities generating carbon dioxide was widely referred to as the “Callendar Effect.”
However, his 1938 view was limited. Callendar did not foresee the magnitude of temperature rise that the world now faces, or the danger. He actually speculated that by burning carbon we might forestall “the return of the deadly glaciers.”
His paper projected a 0.39 degree Celsius temperature rise by the 21st century. The world today is already 1.2 C (2.2 F) warmer than before the industrial era – three times the magnitude of the effect Callendar predicted.
Backlash to the human connection
The “Callendar Effect” faced immediate resistance. Comments of initial reviewers questioned his data and methods.
By the late 20th century, reviews of climate science held stark warnings about the path the world was on as humans continued to burn fossil fuels. The debate Callendar triggered is long since over.
Scientists from around the world, brought together by the United Nations and the World Meteorological Organization, have been reviewing the research and evidence since 1990. Their reports confirm: The science is clear about humans’ role in climate change. The danger is real and the effects of climate change are already evident all around us.
Neil Anderson, a retired chemical engineer and chemistry teacher, contributed to this article.
The USGS Water Science School offers information on many aspects of water, along with pictures, data, maps, and an interactive center where you can give opinions and test your water knowledge. The site includes multi-lingual resources for all ages.
Norfolk Southern has launched a new online carbon calculator to help customers measure and mitigate carbon emissions resulting from their supply chain decisions.
NS, which first introduced a carbon calculator in 2008, says its new version is more accurate because it captures the full cycle of fuel usage, with fuel consumption from locomotives applied to each railcar based on weight and distance traveled, as well as fuel used in yard and local operations, and container handling of intermodal traffic. The calculator offers fuel efficiency information for 18 railcar types and 30 commodities, plus intermodal.
Users enter the type of commodity they want to transport, shipment weight and frequency, then choose from over 75,000 origins and destinations in the U.S. The calculator provides data on estimated and avoided emissions, carbon dollars saved, highway miles avoided, trucks and cars taken off the road, and other carbon equivalents.
Many clean energy industries and companies, including Tesla, rely on green skills to produce their products and services. With the transition to zero emissions underway, more and more companies will need a workforce with green skills, which will require support across a variety of sectors.
The 2050 Co., a Seattle-based sustainable food startup, has created a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter to support the expansion of its product line. The company, which focuses on achieving zero waste, zero hunger and zero plastic by 2050, has developed a range of plant-based pasta dinners formulated with soy protein plus imperfect or surplus vegetables.
The 2050 Co. also offers smoothie mixes made with misfit fruit, which it debuted two years ago after raising more than $40,000 through the Kickstarter platform. The company uses a drying technology similar to freeze drying to remove nearly all the water in fresh produce while retaining the flavor, nutrients and fiber.
Apple unveiled today significant progress to eliminate emissions across its value chain, announcing commitments from dozens of manufacturers in its supply chain to source clean energy for the production of Apple products, and investments in renewable energy to address the climate impact of the use of its products.