So I happened to be leafing through Fact and Fancy, a collection of Isaac Asimov’s science columns from 1958 to 1961, when I came across one called “No More Ice Ages?”. With his usual brio he elucidates an arcane subject – the flow of carbon dioxide in and out of the atmosphere. When I saw that in the first paragraph, my heart sank. This is no longer arcane.
He wrote about how CO2 is emitted by volcanoes, sequestered by the formation of coal, rapidly cycled by biological growth and decay, and slowly cycled by absorption and emission in sea water. Now homo sapiens is putting 6 billion tons a year of CO2 into the air. At that rate, the amount could double in 350 years! That would be catastrophic, causing maybe a 4º C temperature rise, melting the ice caps and flooding all the world’s coasts.
The current rate is 30 billions tons a year. When Asimov wrote that fifty years ago, there were 315 ppm of CO2 in the air; now there’s 385 ppm, 25% more.
Last Monday, 9/27, Los Angeles hit a record high temperature of 113° F. This in what’s officially autumn. Hurricanes are now making it up to Newfoundland -Tropical Storm Igor dumped 10″ of rain there on 9/21, the worst storm people there had ever seen. All summer people were dying of heat stroke in Moscow.
So 50 years ago a popular science writer could see the dangers of anthropogenic global warming, and now here we are. Fifty years of warnings, and now you can literally feel it in the air.