Roger Revelle’s 1980 Discussion of CO2 and Climate Risks

Jun 3, 2012 by

May 31, shop patient 2012, 7:07 pm

Roger Revelle’s 1980 Discussion of CO2 and Climate Risks


Roger Revelle, one of the pioneering researchers in the study of the human influence on the atmosphere, carbon cycle and climate, gave a prescient lecture on carbon dioxide, climate and the oceans in 1980 that was recorded by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and now surfaces via the Web site Climate Science TV.

Revelle is best known for the comment he added late in the drafting of a seminal 1957 climate paper co-authored with Hans Suess: “Human beings are now carrying out a large scale geophysical experiment of a kind that could not have happened in the past nor be reproduced in the future.”

In part one of the video of his talk he explores the basics:

Part two describes what was clear about carbon dioxide’s impacts and energy trends 40 years ago, but also the “morass of uncertainties,” many of which remain unclear today:

For example, Revelle explores the role of clouds and water vapor. “We don’t really know whether clouds will be good or bad, whether they’ll be a negative or a positive feedback,” he says. (Sound familiar?) while adding that the water cycle, overall, will intensify and that “precipitation overall will also increase.”

In the third video excerpt (below) he stresses how the slow nature of transitions in energy technologies requires prompt attention to address a long-term risk Some of his points on nuclear power and other technologies are dated, but the lecture is well worth reviewing when you have time. It would also be a great classroom resource.

Here’s part of the transcription produced by the folks at Climate Science TV: Read more…

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