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Published on December 8th, 2015 | by Guest Contributor

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You Won’t Believe What I Found in the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Regarding Climate Change – I Sure Was Surprised! (CleanTechnica Exclusive)

December 8th, 2015 by  

By John Perlin

I must warn you. The material I am about to describe would be forbidden by today’s Congress.

ronald reaganHere’s how I came upon it. I traveled not far from home, to Simi Valley, to visit the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library to research solar policy in the 1980s for my current book, Let It Shine: The 6000-Story of Solar Energy. It surprised me to uncover there probably the best single collection of solar material, especially the pieces critical of Reagan’s war against the sun, dating to those times. But that’s another story.

What amazed me more was finding a file marked “carbon dioxide – climate change” and discovering in its contents, the publication of the Reagan Administration–sponsored two day gathering – Carbon Dioxide, Science and Consensus, September 19-23, 1982. In his opening remarks, the Reagan appointee to the Carbon Dioxide Research Division, Frederick A. Koomanoff, stated, “The Executive Branch and the Congress clearly regard the CO2 issue as one deserving serious, sustained and systematic investigation. The credit for this lies in the good science and solid research that has and is being performed.”

Following Koomanoff’s affirmation of the joint executive and congressional commitment in resolving climate change, James C. Greene, Science Consultant to the Congress’ Committee on Science and Technology, provided the attending scientists with the urgency of their topic.

“A veil hangs ominously over the earth, from pole to pole, over all the continents, and over the oceans,” Greene noted, adding, “To a significant degree, man has put it there. It is called simply enough, carbon dioxide pollution. If today’s worst case scenario becomes tomorrow’s reality, it will be too late to reverse the atmospheric buildup or to ameliorate the severe adverse human and environmental impacts of this pollutant. However, if we quickly develop a sufficient research program to provide the necessary answers, there may still be time to rend the veil or at least keep it from reaching the dimensions of disaster. This is a major goal of the Federal carbon dioxide research program and it requires the cooperation of scientists, governmental officials, and the citizens.”

Greene also urged the scientists participating in the conference to become advocates, stating, “Involvement of scientists at all levels of public policy development is absolutely necessary if correct decisions are to be made — C.P. Snow expressed it best in his book Science and Government, when he wrote, ‘I believe scientists have something to give which our kind of society is desperately short of … that is foresight.’ That is why I want scientists active in all the levels of government. You must provide the information and the foresight — no one else can. The carbon dioxide issue is a case in point,” and then concluded, “Until recent years, scientists were not even certain if the carbon dioxide buildup would increase or decrease the Earth’s temperature. Now, the controversy is, what is of impact and how long before it will be felt worldwide?”

After reading this document, I wondered, why, with more than 30 years of even greater scientific evidence having been accumulated supporting the global warming carbon dioxide connection, have so many regressed to the earlier skepticism level?

Sometimes you have to go back in time to discover the truth.

Image by Spacedust Design (some rights reserved)


About the Author: John Perlin is author of four books: “A Golden Thread: 2500 Years of Solar Architecture and Technology;” “A Forest Journey: Wood and Civilization;” “From Space to Earth: The Story of Solar Electricity;” and his latest book, “Let It Shine: The 6000-Year Story of Solar Energy.” Harvard University Press Chose “A Forest Journey” as one of its “One-Hundred Great Books” published by the press, as well as a “Classic in Science and World History.” The Geographic Society and the Sierra Club chose the book as their “Publication of the Year.” “Power of the Sun” and “Sunrise” are two documentaries for which I did the screenplays. “Power of the Sun” was done in collaboration with two Nobel Laureates at University of California, Santa Barbara, where I am now a member of the Department of Physics.


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  • Jens Stubbe

    Come on. Svante Arrhenius, wrote in 1896 in ”The London, Edinburgh and Dublin Philosophical Magazine and journal of Science” his article ”On the Influence of Carbonic Acid in the Air upon the Temperature of the Ground”. This 120 year old article is still spot on and UN acknowledged the theory as early as in 1951. You guys simply have to leave your US centric views and see the world is bigger and smarter than you take for granted.

    • dRanger

      Americans oscillate between ignoring the rest of the world and wanting to take their oil, depending on the price at the pump this morning. We’re Exceptional, don’cha know, and science is hard, not to mention the disturbing questions it raises. As has been said often, for every complex question there is a simple, attractive wrong answer. We Americans excel at that too.

  • Robert Pollock

    Growing up in Canada, I first heard about “Green house gases, CO2 accumulations ” and what might be the consequences in the ’70’s. Anyone who talked about the subject urged more immediate attention, lots of people talked about it, but nothing was done almost until Kyoto, mid ’90s.

    • But some people didn’t present it well ,such as the late Jack Layton, former leader of the NDP Federal Opposition party. He was almost boasting about his knowledge about an impending doom and gloom as if we were dumb about it at a public meeting/with beers in our hands in the late ’90s

  • Dick Horton

    Could anybody tell me how much did the temperature razed in the last 33 years?

    • Otis11

      So far, not terribly much… it depends on who you ask, but generally around 0.75C (Please correct me if someone has more information?)

      The concern is, however, that much of these GHGs will be around for another 120+ years, continuing to contribute to this warming.

      The other issue, and the bigger one IMO, is that our world has all sorts of breaks to slow this temperature swing (CO2 Sinks, large thermal sinks in the form of ice, etc). Imagine a buffer solution in chemistry (A titration curve) – as each incremental drop of acid (CO2) is added to the solution (Atmosphere), very little change occurs in the ph (Global Temperature), but once the buffer is depleted (CO2/Thermal Sinks) each additional drop of acid (Ton of CO2) significantly impacts the final ph (Global temperature).

      While this may seem odd, with the feedback loops in permafrost melting/releasing methane and similar occurrences, it’s looking like a more and more apt metaphor. We won’t know for sure for a few decades, however.

      For better or worse, we shall see!

      • Nice analogy.
        So is the ’82 retro article.
        There’s a taxi strike in full swing in Vancouver Canada right now in response to the Uber taxis gaining strength there.

      • dRanger

        The atmosphere is very sensitive to CO2 concentrations. We are presently at 400 ppm but I recently read that if the CO2 suddenly disappeared, the average temperature would drop 33 degrees C and the oceans would freeze. This is quite a science experiment we are running on the planet.

        • Bob_Wallace

          We’ve got a pretty good idea what CO2 levels were during most of human existence. That level worked out pretty good for us. Putting things back where we found them wouldn’t be a bad goal.

          • dRanger

            I would normally totally agree, except in this case we had passed the interglacial peak temperature and were on our way back down. Maybe we should leave enough CO2 to avoid that whole mile-high ice thing?

          • Bob_Wallace

            That might be a good idea. ;o)

            Might we want to cool things down enough to rebuild land ice and lower the ocean levels to where they were?

            (We’re talking as if we had the technology to pull huge amounts of carbon from the air. Perhaps this conversation should be paused for a few decades….)

  • Dick Horton

    And how much did the temperature changed in the last 33 years?
    Carbon Dioxide is a pollution? Hmmm… This is new…
    This must be the most entertaining side I discovered on this subject so far… full of thinkers, amazing!!!
    The question I have, where would you be without the photosynthesis, mortons…?

    • gigglehertz

      You’re a “morton” if you think too much of a good thing can’t be bad at some point.

  • Carl Raymond S

    If anyone is wondering what the Australian Government knew and when, here’s a couple of links.

    Here is a transcript of a Four Corners program (current affairs show by independent national broadcaster), titled ‘The Hot Debate’, which aired in August 1997. It was about Australia playing spoiling games to prevent Kyoto protocol adoption. To my great shame, this country continued playing Kyoto spoiling games till the election of Kevin Rudd in 2007.

    http://www.abc.net.au/science/news/eureka/transcripts/hot.htm

    And here’s a book which was published locally in 1989.

    http://trove.nla.gov.au/work/17468346?selectedversion=NBD6791715

    “The greenhouse challenge, what’s to be done”, by Australians Jim Falk and Andrew Browlow. It contained the following chapters:

    Atmospheric brinkmanship
    The greenhouse syndrome
    Searching the symptoms
    If the earth warms
    In pursuit of a prognosis
    Hard solutions-soft alternatives
    Under the weather
    The role of nations
    Securing the future

    Don’t underestimate the role Australia played, particularly during the John Howard years, in 25 years of misinformation, interference and delay. And they knew exactly what the stakes were.

  • solarone

    Contrast the above message of inclusion of science to the politics of today. Lamar Smith has upped the attempted suppression of climate science by the heavy handed Mcarthyistic use of the subpoena to intimidate researchers. Have no doubt that this has cast an ugly chill across the scientific community and is a short jump to Soviet style Lysenkoism, where politics determines what is a scientific fact.

    • Robert Pollock

      Mitch McConnel, Lamar Smith, not all but quite a few Republicans are personally responsible for the unnecessary suffering of millions of Americans. Cheney, Rumsfeld, Bobby Jindal, so many come to mind. Best thing for America is for those people to just go away, forever.

  • josetony

    Stop giving subsidies to the petroleum industry and start incentivating the renewable energy in a massive way and we could see a great change for the better in the climate situation in the next 10 years. But the reality is that the US government is controlled by big corporations.

  • Martams

    We should sue all the Republicans for hypocrisy!!!

    • Martin

      Add Exxon for their hidden the facts for over 30 years as well.

      • Robert Pollock

        What about the religious leaders? Some of their ‘facts’ are out of this world.

      • neroden

        The Exxon execs who concealed the information need to be shot dead for treason. Public executions will help prevent this sort of treasonous activity in the future.

        • dRanger

          No No No – no advocating for violence. Follow the laws and if those are wrong, change them. We’re getting more than enough of these trans-constitutional “solutions” from Trump.

          • neroden

            I’m absolutely advocating for legal violence. Charged with treason (which they are guilty of), convicted, then executed.

            No, I don’t oppose the death penalty… why do you ask?

          • Esperiel

            That’s a rather fascinating flow of reasoning. I share your outrage, but differ on method of justice (I’d prefer life imprisonment, stripping of wealth (redirected to those suffering)) but the issue is there’s too many layers of indirection. I can see them being guilty of amoral quasi-sociopathic profit driven abandonment of care of humanity (criminal willful negligence or manslaughter … or at least them not possessed by direct intent to kill…)

            The only appealing solution (no mob justice etc) is obviating the whole situation by advancing renewable energy & sustainable transport (and non-FF fertilizer, plastics, rubber, etc) so rapidly and ubiquitously that the FF entities would be forced to join the renewable economy or be naturally crushed by market forces.

    • Robert Pollock

      If the damage caused by hypocrisy could be evaluated…..

    • ByronBradley

      If Exxon is liable to civil and criminal charges for deliberately lying and denying global warming, and if Dick Cheney also knew when he assembled his high-level, secret energy meetings in the White House, then Dick Cheney should also be charged and put on trial.

  • cynthia shahan

    I loved Jimmy Carter and I could not believe anyone could trust Reagan or find any substance in his words at all… Right from the beginning I was shocked people trusted him. It was surreal for me. Much like some things now — People say to me — It this real?

    • Robert Pollock

      I watched the Carter presidency play out from Canada, I was late 20’s old. I couldn’t believe no one liked him and when I found out that it was because he wasn’t a capitalist bull, I shook my head and thought there was no hope for America. They shot Kennedy because he didn’t want to implement their policies too, that’s obvious. Who is ‘they’? Only thing we know for sure is “they” are rich, and Republican, but it wouldn’t surprise me to find out that the ultra wealthy don’t care about party affiliations, only profits.

    • neroden

      Jimmy Carter was our last really good President. We elected another good President, Al Gore, but of course there was a coup and the Presidency was stolen by traitors who should still be executed for their treason.

    • eveee

      Hunter Thompson heard Jimmy Carter at a speech on Law Day at the University of Georgia. That was a bombshell and started his rise to the presidency.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8SLeFZFTIco

      • Bob_Wallace

        I think Thompson’s article in Rolling Stone was a great help to Carter in winning the election. I know that for those around me that was when we first became aware and interested in the man.

        • eveee

          Didn’t know about Thompson until I saw a documentary on him. He is a strange tale of incredible simultaneous improbable influence and whimsy.

          • Bob_Wallace

            You should have been around when he emerged. It was a strange new style of reporting where one started with at least one foot in reality and then spun off into a literary acid trip. Pared with Ralph Steadman’s art it was a real mind-blower.

  • Ivor O’Connor

    I voted early, often, and consistently against Reagan. See how well that turned out for me. Any creep that can broker deals behind the current presidents back with what we would call terrorists now. That would sell drugs for guns. That could take down all the solar panels Carter had put up. He was a total criminal. But he could smile, tell a joke, and disarm almost anybody that didn’t watch the facts.

    • Karl the brewer

      ‘You can’t polish a turd but you can roll it in glitter’ – I think this applies here.

    • Robert Pollock

      I think Nancy picked him out of the Hollywood set when she saw he was popular there but couldn’t act to save his life. She pushed him into becoming the Union leader, and started his political career. Probably just my suspicious character.

      • Ivor O’Connor

        I can’t say anything good about the guy. Snitch for the FBI to support McCarthyism. Supporter of hate groups like Goldwater. Dismantled as much as he could of the education system. Selling drugs so he could buy weapons for Iranians. The list goes on and on making him a hero to many of the Republican candidates currently running for president…

        • neroden

          Reagan is now known for a fact to have had Alzheimers for most of his political career.

          Reagan was first *genuinely demented* President. That’s something special. In a bad way.

  • dRanger

    Apparently with enough money, a company or group of companies can put off the day of reckoning for 30 years, even if it means subverting the scientific method itself. When I was in college in the 60’s I wouldn’t have believed that was even possible. Of course, I didn’t believe it was possible to suck the life-blood out of the middle class either. How naive.

    • Martin

      That sucking the life blood is for one very simple reason: corporate welfare.

    • neroden

      If you’d studied the history of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire and the beginning of the Dark Ages, you’d have understood how the life-blood is sucked out of the middle class. (First, a taxation system which only taxes the middle class and poor and does not tax the rich; second, debt for the middle class; third, debt slavery; fourth, serfdom).

      Since Reagan we’ve had the taxation system which taxes the middle class and does not tax the rich. Since GW Bush we’ve had debt slavery. What’s next?

      • dRanger

        I read the Rise And Fall of the Roman Empire back in college but all I took away from it was the orgies and wine drinking. Huh.

        • neroden

          What, not even the lead poisoning?

  • Kyle Field

    Gosh, that’s just terrible. Terrible to hear how long it has been know. Not theorized, but known. Oh well, we’re past that now and actually experiencing the effects of it and people still aren’t doing anything about it. I couldn’t imagine where we would be without Elon Musk. No, he’s not the savior…but Tesla and Solar City will have HUGE impacts (are having…) on clean tech and GHG emission reductions…

    • cynthia shahan

      To quote a speaker at the EV Summit in Florida, “Elon Musk has made driving electric ‘cool’ ” —- and that is a very good thing.

      • Indeed. Can’t even measure the ramifications from that (LEAF purchases, Volt purchases, i3 purchases, etc).

      • Ivor O’Connor

        Yes he has. But we’ll probably get somebody who insists we tax Tesla more because it has excessive power. We’ve seen postings on cleantechnica in the past stating things like that.

        • Simple Indian

          Agree with you, every one is not a Formula One of NASCAR driver on streets.

          Efficiency will rule the universe.

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