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