“As you know, this is not a new issue.”

Recently, I cited this April 1979 report, The Long Term Impact of Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide on Climate, from the Jasons to the DOE.

That same year saw the publication of Carbon Dioxide and Climate: A Scientific Assessment, by the Ad Hoc Study Group on Carbon Dioxide and Climate. It’s conclusion: “It appears that the warming will eventually occur, and the associated regional climatic changes so important to the assessment of socioeconomic consequences may well be significant, but unfortunately the latter cannot yet be adequately projected.”

Two years earlier, Frank Press penned this letter to President Jimmy Carter. He wrote: “The potential effect on the environment of a climate fluctuation of such rapidity could be catastrophic and calls for an impact assessment of unprecedented importance and difficulty.” Press served four presidents as a science advisor; he was director of Carter’s Office of Science and Technology Policy. The title of today’s post also comes from this letter. Carter was a fairly insipid neocon abroad and a neoliberal at home. His redemptory glow stems from his post-White House career. He didn’t do diddly about Press’s letter, or the other reports (noted above) during his administration, in fact, quite the opposite, and one assumes that that is what he will be remembered for in 2100, if anything.

Decades before all this, Svante Arrhenius made the first quantitative predictions for the greenhouse effect. (As analogies go, the atmospheric greenhouse is one of my favorites.) He was, of course, preceded by others. For instance, in the 1820s, Joseph Fourier said the Earth should have been colder than it was because of its distance from the Sun; he postulated that our atmosphere was an insulator. Ding, ding! Claude Pouillet finessed Fourier’s work in the following decade. In 1856, Eunice Newton Foote’s paper at the AAAS (being female, she wasn’t allowed to read it herself) noted that the proportion of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would effect temperature.

Charles Keeling, who died in 2005, gave his name to the Keeling Curve, which charts the CO2 build up in the atmosphere. This has been measured at the base of Mauna Loa since 1958. The NSF stopped funding him in the early 1960s, although his work was cited in their 1963 report on the increasing amounts of heat-trapping gasses. In 1965, LBJ’s Science Advisory Committee produced a big report on pollution, including the hazardous increase of CO2 in the atmosphere. Some of the challenges in that report were met, even by the ghastly Richard Nixon. Before Trump, we’d done wonders to clean up our air, water, and food — but the atmosphere was left alone by the lot of them.

Today, a well-funded effort by the petroleum industry — whose own scientists were talking of all this half a century ago, — has sown doubt and confusion amidst the scientifically illiterate. (Speaking of which, did you see the news about the GOP Governor of Alaska demanding 41% evisceration of the U of Alaska’s budget: these fucks know ignorance pays off for them.) The fanaticism of true-believers in falsehood is manifest in the attempts to deny physics, and erase this science out of history. They’re doing this at Trump’s EPA, not Orwell’s Ministry of Truth.

But hiding data won’t change the facts, or the effects of those facts. Those are proceeding apace.

Next Sunday: that time a two degree change in the global average changed the world.

1 Response to ““As you know, this is not a new issue.””



  1. 1 Climate at B&B | Backyard and Beyond Trackback on September 22, 2019 at 8:01 am

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