Jan 1, 1981: “Climate Change and Society” published

On Jan 1st 1981 a book called “Climate Change and Society” was published, authored by a natural scientist (William Kellogg) and a sociologist (Robert Schware).

Context: A year after the first World Climate Conference in Geneva, and after the Charney Report concluded that there was no reason to doubt that increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would spell trouble, Reagan had beaten Carter to the White House. The Cold War was going to heat up again. Climate change was barely a glimmer in the eye of the public.

Even more context: This seems to be the first effort by people across the social and natural sciences divide to write a book about climate change. It begins thus –

If the consensus of international climatological community is correct and if world fossil fuel use continues to increase atmospheric carbon dioxide, mankind will likely cause a significant average warming of the Earth’s surface within the next 50 years.

“However, for planning and management purposes it is not very useful just to know that a climatic change is in store. The political, economic, social, and ethical implications of a global environmental change must be considered. In this report, we address these issues and suggest some potential strategies to deal with the carbon dioxide problem.”

(Kellogg and Schware, 1981:1)

The framing of the climate change as the “carbon dioxide problem” was common back then. Although the existence of other greenhouse gases was well understood, the fact that they were just as important, taken together, as C02, awaited a 1985 paper, which nicely put the rocket up everyone attending the Villach conference. But that’s for another day…

Kellogg, who died in 2007 had “served on the National Academy of Science’s Space Science Board (teaming with Carl Sagan to review our knowledge of the atmospheres of Mars and Venus), the Atmospheric Science Committee, and the Polar Research Board. He also served on the President’s Science Advisory Committee, the USAF Scientific Advisory Committee, and the NASA Space Program Advisory Council.” [wikipedia]

jan01kellogschwareThe following year Kellogg and Schware condensed their book for an article in “Foreign Affairs”, the house journal of the US Foreign Policy elite; “Society, Science and Climate Change.”

In 1987 Kellogg published an excellent summary of the means by which global warming came to be understood. See “Mankind’s Impact on Climate: The Evolution of an Awareness” in Climatic Change April 1987, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 113-136.

What does all this mean? That before climate change could become an overnight sensation in June 1988, there were many, many attempts to get it onto the agenda. A small number of those will be honoured on this blog.

Kellogg, W. and Schware, S. (1981). Climate Change and Society: Consequences of Increasing Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide. Colorado: Westview Press.

See also: John Urry’s rather good 2011 effort of the same name, published by Polity.

Other things that happened on this day:

1917 Jule Charney born
1989 Ben Elton’s novel Stark published
2003 Greenhouse Gas Reduction Scheme (GGAS) launched in New South Wales, the world’s first mandatory emissions trading scheme.
2005 Uncertainty in Analyzing Climate Change: Policy Implications, Congressional Budget Office
2011 Australian Renewables target changed

As ever, see the disclaimers, help the project and comments policy.

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