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Thursday, February 2, 2023

Strategic CSR - Climate science

I think the article in the url is worth sharing because it shows how much we knew about climate change in the 1960s and 1970s. Different decisions taken at that time could have produced such different outcomes, today (both in terms of overall awareness and reduced greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere). Specifically, this article focuses on a memo to the president (Jimmy Carter) in 1977, warning of the link between fossil fuels and "the possibility of a catastrophic climate change":

"By July 1977 the president, Jimmy Carter, had only been in office for seven months, but he had already built a reputation for being focused on environmental issues. For one, by installing solar panels on the White House. He had also announced a national renewable energy plan. … The climate memo arrived on his desk a few days after the Independence Day celebrations on July 4. … The memo's author was Frank Press, Carter's chief science adviser and director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy. … Before working with the Carter administration, he had been director of the Seismological Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology, and had consulted for federal agencies including the Navy and NASA."

The memo was specific in its analysis of the problem; it was also prescient:

"Fossil fuel combustion has increased at an exponential rate over the last 100 years. As a result, the atmospheric concentration of CO2 is now 12 percent above the pre-industrial revolution level and may grow to 1.5 to 2.0 times that level within 60 years. Because of the 'greenhouse effect' of atmospheric CO2 the increased concentration will induce a global climatic warming of anywhere from 0.5 to 5°C. … The potential effect on the environment of a climatic fluctuation of such rapidity could be catastrophic and calls for an impact assessment of unprecedented importance and difficulty."

The article also references the amount of carbon that was being produced, and the potential danger it presented, in the mid-1960s:

"These far-sighted assertions were in line with the climate science that originated the previous decade, when the US government funded major science agencies focused on space, atmospheric and ocean science. Research produced for President Lyndon B Johnson in 1965 found that billions of tons of 'carbon dioxide is being added to the earth's atmosphere by the burning of coal, oil, and natural gas.'"

Even further back, @BartAlexander shared this front page image of The Washington Post from 1951, titled "Balmy Weather Cited as Proof World Is Becoming Warmer." To repeat, that is 1951: While, clearly, none of this changes our current reality (in that we cannot change the past), you would think it would help us learn from our past mistakes and adjust our present/future actions and the urgency with which we are approaching the issue, … or not.

Take care

David Chandler
© Sage Publications, 2023

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The 1977 White House climate memo that should have changed the world
By Emma Pattee
June 14, 2022
The Guardian