Atmospheric Pollution: History, Science and Regulation



There is no shortage of textbooks available for introductory courses on air pollution. However, finding a text that is ideally suited for a specific course can be nearly impossible, since the focus of the text never quite matches what you want to teach in the course. Atmospheric Pollution: History, Science and Regulation, by Mark Z. Jacobson, provides a novel perspective on air pollution by examining the historical developments of air pollution science and regulation prior to presenting information on the major air pollution issues of today.

The first two chapters set the stage for studying the atmosphere from a historical context. In the first chapter, the basics of atmospheric gases and particles are defined, and the topic progresses to a historical accounting of the discoveries of the important atmospheric chemicals. The author discusses the experiments that determined the composition of the various trace gases present in the atmosphere, and how the misinterpretation of some experiments led to incorrect conclusions about the makeup of atmospheric trace gases. The second chapter focuses on the evolution of the Earth's atmosphere, beginning at the time of formation of the Sun and Earth, the evolution of a pre-biotic atmosphere into an anoxic biotic atmosphere, and finally the evolution of oxygen through photosynthesis. This material provided new insight into how trace gases were first discovered and how the atmosphere evolved. While this might be fascinating to someone who has spent years studying the present-day atmosphere, it may not necessarily be important in an introductory course.