AUTHORBadash, Lawrence
TITLEA Nuclear Winter's Tale: Science and Politics in the 1980s
PUBLISHERThe MIT Press
CITYCambridge, MA
DATE PUBLISHED2009
ISBN978-0-262-01272-0


This work provides an in-depth examination of the impact of the nuclear winter (NW) debate on scientific, social, and political communities in the U.S. during the 1980s. The first several chapters present background on nuclear weapons effects and the group of scientists, led by Carl Sagan, who produced studies on the global atmospheric consequences of nuclear war. After recounting the initial reactions to NW from scientists, the author discusses the group's efforts to inform the public and the resulting political and policy consequences. The heart of the book explores the events of 1984 and 1985, the years of greatest NW controversy, citing congressional hearings, public debates, computer models, and reports from then influential organizations. The final chapters address the larger context of NW and the role of scientific advice in politics and policy. The author, a historian of science, integrates science with politics, national security, foreign policy, environmental concerns, and media coverage, offering detailed descriptions of scientific methods and political negotiations to engage the reader. The contents highlight the broad range of disciplines required to address NW, such as physics, chemistry, meteorology, ecology, and weapons design. The narrative also provides insight into the personalities of key people on both sides of the debate, including Carl Sagan, Edward Teller, U.S. Senator William Proxmire, and U.S. President Ronald Reagan. Extensively researched, the book draws from interviews with key participants, obscure technical reports, and a variety of correspondence.


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