Tottering Civilizations

The young radical scientist Desmond Bernal wrote that he lived in an age of “tottering civilizations. Seeing waste and ignorance, deliberate wrong from minds twisted by old ideas and ill adjusted lives…[But] I do know that I am happy to be born in my own time (b.1901), a time of stress, but a time of hope and of new born knowledge”

Biographical fragment “Microcosm” (about 1926)

Why Would Skies Turn from Blue to White?

Engineers are constantly devising ingenious mechanical solutions to global warming. One is to seed the atmosphere with millions of tonnes of sulphur dioxide which, they predict, will reflect the sun’s radiation back into space. This would cause global cooling. One unpleasant side-effect would be that it would alter the spectrum of light. So we would be living under a white sky instead of our normal blue sky.

[Elizabeth Kolbert, Under a White Sky]

Our Planetary Crisis: Will Blue Skies Turn White?

Elizabeth Kolbert’s new book Under a White Sky paints a scary picture of our world if we don’t solve global warming. As a Guardian review puts it:

“Thanks to humans, the planet is heating dangerously fast, there is now more CO2 in the atmosphere than at any time in millions of years, the extinction rate of other species is hundreds, maybe thousands, of times above natural levels, and just about every planetary warning gauge is heading further into the red”:

Guardian Weekly 12 March 2021, p. 40.

Even the Oil Industry Predicted Global Warming (1968)

The Stanford Research Institute for the American Petroleum Institute concluded:

If the earth’s temperature increases significantly, a number of events might be expected to occur, including the melting of the Antarctic ice cap, a rise in sea levels, warming of the oceans, and an increase in photosynthesis…. Significant temperature changes are almost certain to occur by the year 2000 and these could bring about climate change.

This was in 1968!

[“Smoke and Fumes” report 1968]

Can We Trust Earth System Models? Are the Climate Sceptics Right?

The distinguished climate scientists Thomas Anderson, Ed Hawkins and Phil Jones addressed this issue raised by some climate sceptics who thought that the climate system was too complex for meaningful analysis by ESMs. In a deeply researched paper Anderson, Hawkins and Jones totally repudiated such a view.

They concluded that ESMs were essentially trustworthy and had made a compelling case that global climate would continue to undergo significant warming in response to ongoing emissions of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. This was even in the best scenario of reducing emissions.

Endeavour, July 2016 (online)