Climate Change Slow Learners #1

36 years ago UK Doco Warned of Consequences

Collectively what a bunch of idiots we humans are.  We ignored the warnings about global warming and climate change made almost 40 years ago in 1981 – yes – 1981.   

In 1981 UK’s commercial TV channel, ITV, broadcast an hour-long documentary, Warming Warning. Follow the link to watch excerpts now available on YouTube.  

It was described as “a documentary about the serious effects our polluting of the atmosphere with carbon dioxide will have on the climate.”  “Scientists are worried that at the present rate the Earth will be 2°C warmer by the middle of the next century with disastrous consequences for the polar regions.”  This was back in 1981.

To put this in perspective – the documentary was broadcast seven years before Dr. James Hansen’s famous it is already happening now” Senate testimony in 1988, nine years before the first Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment report was published, and 25 years before Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth was released.

There were clear and precise warnings about the effects on the global climate – “by the middle of next century, when we might have twice as much carbon dioxide than in 1900, it may rise by an average of 2-3°C, but in the polar regions 5 or 10°C, which becomes a very large change and would change the whole character of the polar regions.”

The doco foretold exactly how there would be “difficulties” with “a  call for restraint in a society built on the exploitation of energy may meet irresistible forces.”  There is, for example, the vested interests that many of the world’s great corporations have in fossil fuels and the power they could wield on their behalf. International agreement will be needed to control the use of fossil fuels. 

It predicted precisely how “Electorates are unlikely to be seduced by policies of restraint, constraint and self-denial … To apply the brake now, to introduce policies and avert the possibility of a crisis ahead, demands a vision across decades among politicians who rarely hold office for more than a few years. “

And concluded, “we’re mortgaging the world against the future to be paid by our descendants, our children.”

But we ignored the 1981 warnings.  We had the warnings of significant sea level rise repeated in the first IPPC Assessment in 1990 and with increasingly more severe warnings ever since.   Here on the Coromandel Peninsula, we have continued as if the science of climate change did not exist.  Right up to the present day we have allowed new development on land less than 1.0 m above sea level, including housing, subdivisions, waterways projects and retirement villages. 

Even now, nearly 40 years later with undeniable evidence of –

  • a warming planet,
  • an accelerating rate of sea level rise,
  • more frequent severe storms and sea flooding of low-lying towns and cities,
  • acidification of the oceans,
  • and more severe and frequent wildfires,

this madness continues even today on the Coromandel with still no assessment and mapping of sea flooding hazards and no adaption planning.

Co2 emissions are now 73% higher than in 1981. 

emssions since 1981

How dumb is that? Well so dumb that Thames for example now faces the prospect of the lower areas of the town being submerged in decades to come.  Nice work humankind! This map of sea flooding is taken from the Waikato Regional Council’s “Coastal Inundation Tool.  It shows the approximate area submerged with just 0.5m of sea level rise and a mid-range storm tide

Thames Storm surge median .5m 3.2

(In the next blog I will show how as far back as 1999 – nearly 20 years ago – we had clear and specific advice given by experts to the Regional Council that we needed to urgently map coastal flooding hazards and engage with affected communities. “Climate Change Slow Learners #2”)