Scientists searching looking for the source of air pollution and global warming only need to look as far as the journals they publish, especially the old ones in university archives. However, the source is the paper used in the journals, not the scientific reports inside them. Thus claims an Israeli scientist with a revolutionary method of using books to obtain information.

Professor Dan Yakir of the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, Israel is the first to forward such a theory. Yakir found a collection of old newspaper and books in the campus library and rather than search the text for information regarding atmospheric conditions, he decided to test the paper itself for clues into the history of the atmosphere and general pollution. According to him, “We went to the local library rather than forests all over the world.”

The test is revolutionary in that it does not require complicated trips to different areas of the planet in search of ice cores and tree rings that could fill in gaps of information. This method, which is the traditional method of research, has provided scientists with a clear geologic and ecological history of the earth. However, these traditional testing methods are time-consuming and the modern era is difficult to research, mainly because of the quick and sudden changes in modern atmospheric condition. Yakir’s tests could provide new insight.

Yakir’s tests consisted of testing old issues of volumes of the Science, Nature and Journal of the Royal Chemical Society dating to the late 1800s for the amount of carbon dioxide and radioactive Carbon 13 and 12 isotopes in them. Small samples from the margins were used from progressive issues through the present day. The paper showed increases in the amount of carbon that corresponded directly to the increase in industry in the 19th century and even differences between Europe and American records.

If Yakir’s counterparts around the globe can duplicate his tests and produce similar results, could change perceptions regarding global warming and the science surrounding the phenomenon. It also definitely proves that “One should not judge a book by its cover.”