1981 “Warming Warning”

This article  from carbonbrief.org introduces a dcoumentary film made by ITV in the UK in 1981 – 36 years ago – more than a generation that sets out all the main issues and projections that now are more widely discussed but yet still denied by many corporate fossil fuel interests. one of the first treatments of the topic by the media.  “The clips provide a poignant, historical insight into what scientists knew about climate change almost four decades ago – and how the world was beginning to react in terms of the resulting geopolitical, technological and societal ramifications,” Carbon Brief’s Leo Hickman writes. “Many of themes still resonate strongly today.”

From the narration: “Uncertainty will permeate energy policy, if only because such a policy needs to be introduced before the irrefutable evidence that it is needed. They’ll be difficulties, too. The call for restraint in a society built on the exploitation of energy may meet irresistible forces. There is, for example, the vested interests that many of the world’s great corporations have in fossil fuels and the power they could wield on their behalf. International agreement will be needed to control the use of fossil fuels, but with the third world likely to benefit from climatic changes [one part of the film explores the idea of warming helping to grow crops in some famine-hit regions], and while China and Russia have vast reserves of coal, that seems unlikely.

 “Alternatives to fossil fuels, such as nuclear power, have their own dangers. Or, in the case of solar energy, present technical problems. Yet a serious policy of fuel conservation, which makes good sense for many other reasons, becomes imperative as a result of the CO2 problem.”

The narrator then ends the film with a concluding monologue:

“But to stop the easy flow of energy is difficult. We all enjoy it far too much…It is our wealth that has manufactured CO2. But, having created the problem, can we reasonably ask countries that have never enjoyed all this to exercise restraint?

“When economists argue that our industrial difficulties can only be relieved by promoting industry and creating growth, CO2 seems a remote problem. Yet more jobs, mean more power and increased CO2…Government today is not designed to deal with a problem of this dimension at such a timescale; a problem challenging the belief that more means better…

“The prospect of a warmer world may seem superficially attractive. Electorates are unlikely to be seduced by policies of restraint, constraint and self-denial…To apply the brake now, to introduce policies and avert the possibility of a crisis ahead, demands a vision across decades among politicians who rarely hold office for more than a few years. Economic imperatives, political realities and the very way our society is organised dictate that the power continue to flow. But now we know what this implies…

“Yet we’re mortgaging the world against the future to be paid by our descendents, our children. The carbon dioxide problem is a warning…

“Man has demonstrated he has the capacity to change one of the great natural systems of the world. The sheer weight of our presence is altering the planet. Our industry has now become part of the climate; a new intruder disturbing an old system. Most of the small group of scientists who really understand the interactions of the climate have now warned us in measured language of the prospects that we face.”

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