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Release of Fossil CO2 and Climate Change: 1977 memo to the President

On July 7, 1977, Frank Press wrote an interesting memo to Jimmy Carter, then President of the United States. The memorandum is titled “Release of Fossil CO2 and the Possibility of a Catastrophic Climate Change”.

Frank Press (1924-2020) was an American geophysicist, advisor to four U.S. presidents, member and president of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and author of 160 scientific papers. Source: Wikipedia.

Putting into perspective, at that time, a few years after the Oil Crisis of 1973, global population was around 4 billion people, considering that the number now doubled to 8 billion people.

Back to the 1977 memorandum, it is quite a historical document.

And deserves translation to other languages. Below, 4 selected parts.

“Fossil fuel combustion has increased at an exponential rate over the past 100 years. As a result, the atmospheric concentration of CO2 is now 12 percent above the pre-industrial revolution level and may grow to 1.5 to 2.0 times that level within 60 years. Because of the “greenhouse effect” of atmospheric CO2 the increased concentration will induce a global climatic warming of anywhere from 0.5° to 5° C.” …

“A rapid climatic change may result in large scale crop failures at a time when an increased world population taxes agriculture to the limits of productivity. The urgency of the problem derives from our inability to shift rapidly to non-fossil fuel sources once the climatic effects become evident not long after the year 2000; the situation could grow out of control before alternate energy sources and other remedial actions become effective” …

“As you know, this is not a new issue. What is new is the growing weight of scientific support which raises the CO2-climate impact from speculation to a serious hypothesis worthy of a responde that is neither complacent not panicky” …

“However, I believe that we must now take the potential CO2 hazard into account in developing our long-term energy strategy. Beyond conservation, we must be prepared to exploit nuclear energy more fully. As insurance against over-reliance on a nuclear energy economy, we should emphasise targeted basic research which could lead to breakthrough for solar electric, biomass conversion or other renewable energy sources.”

Below the full memo.


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“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”

“I am among those who think that science has great beauty”

Madame Marie Curie (1867 - 1934) Chemist & physicist. French, born Polish.

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