Or so sez the Graun
. The substance of this comes from some long-lost words from Energy and Man: A Symposium
, held in 1959, apparently published in 1960. It looks like it would cost me $25 to actually read this, and my guess is that it will be a flash in the pan, so I'll have to reply on quotes from the Graun and one customer review from Amazon. That helpfully provides some context, so I'll quote from it:
the third speech beginning on page 53 in the middle of the book is of particular note. It was given by the real-life Dr. Strangelove, Dr. Edward Teller of thermonuclear bomb fame. His title was to be "Energy Patterns of the Future" and he spent most of his speech extolling the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and begging the public to allow nuclear research to continue until a truly clean fusion energy could be developed. He also foresaw the possibility of using readily-available nuclear explosives for large earth-moving jobs like canal and harbor creation, and underground explosions to break up or make impermeable rock formations to redirect water flows below the surface, and even considered mining the residual heat of deep underground nuclear explosions as geothermal energy. On pages 67-68 he even suggested using nuclear explosions for strip-mining oil shales or tar sands, and for underground fracking operations to release tight oil! But it was on pages 56-58 at the beginning of his speech that was most impressive/distressing. There, he clearly presented global warming, then newly researched by the Scripps Institute, as the main reason that nuclear research needed to progress.
So, this was Teller. Oddly enough, his main interest was in pushing nukes. He did present something about CO2 but - and I'm slightly guessing here - only because it pushed his favourite button, the big red one. Oddly enough the Graun's author Benjamin Franta, a PhD student in history of science at Stanford University doesn't consider that little detail worth mentioning.
OK, enough of that, "what did Teller actually warn us about CO2?", I hear you cry. And the answer is:
It has been calculated that a temperature rise corresponding to a 10 per cent increase in carbon dioxide will be sufficient to melt the icecap and submerge New York
Pretty devastating, huh? The Graun, as you'd expect, then segues into the usual "but the oil companies didn't listen, you know". Though for some odd reason they manage to avoid #exxonknew (I put it here for my own purposes so that searches will work). But, there are two obvious problems. The first is that although the Graun carefully sets this up as breathlessly secret stuff revealed only to the Oil industry, of course it wasn't: the symposium report was published publically. And of course wherever Teller got his wacky numbers from was probably public too: the Amazon review says Scripps.
But more importantly, he was wrong
. +10% CO2 isn't enough to submerge New York or melt "the icecap" (whatever he meant by "the icecap". Greenland? Antarctica? Who knows). At least, not within a plausible timeframe
. We're already at most of a 50% increase, and even that isn't enough - well, not yet. What should governments and oil companies have done when faced with new information that appeared to indicate a potential problem? Well, what you obviously shouldn't do is to rush to action in a panic because some famous and eminent person in a scientific field not particularly closely related to the issue at hand tells you to. Any more than you should pay much attention to Freeman Dyson
when off on one of his rants about GW. Instead, you should consider the issue and if warranted start proper study of the issue (this starts to go wrong about following IPCC One, when the results start coming in but the policy doesn't; but that is all in the future at this point).
It is useful to be aware of, say, Spencer Weart / the AIP's "discovery of global warming" timeline
* Update: 2018/11: Early oil industry knowledge of CO2 and global warming
- by Franta, in Nature; via Twitter