A Brief History of Global Warming

How did people come to realize global warming was a reality?

[I prefer the phrase ‘global warming’ rather than its euphemism ‘climate change’. The euphemism was coined, I suspect, for political purposes.]

John Tyndall, a scientist in the Victorian era, proved that a greenhouse effect exists, but failed to make any strong connection with CO2 or with global warming. Other scientists (Arhennius, Calendar) early in the 20th century made these connections, but thought the effects would be beneficial.

In 1972, electrochemist John Bockris – who coined the phrase ‘hydrogen economy’ – warned that global warming was hazardous to life on this planet. Given the scant evidence available at this time, his alarmist message was somewhat of an exaggeration. Scientists, like all of us, are prone to use hype and spin to get their message across.

Bockris’ line was that hydrogen should replace fossil fuels in our energy mix because fossil fuels, and the CO2 they emit, were a serious global risk. The hydrogen was to be produced using nuclear energy. He did not consider renewable energy was yet up to the task. It did not stack up economically, but nuclear was a certain contender both technically and economically.

I played a small part in this drama around the time Bockris made his pitch. I wrote a review paper concluding that we should continue to gather evidence because the world could not afford to get this one wrong. For the time being, however, we should stick with fossil fuels rather than go over to nuclear on a grand scale.

Things have changed. There is now more than enough evidence showing fossil fuels to be a fatal choice for this planet. Renewable energy with battery storage now has an advantage over fossil fuels in an increasing number of sectors of our economic life. And there has been a succession of major major nuclear accidents.

The global warming deniers no longer have a case. Post haste, we must make the transition from fossil fuels to renewables and embrace a hydrogen economy. Australia can export hydrogen just like it now exports coal. And if loss of Australian jobs is considered the problem, bear in mind the number of jobs that would be created by constructing and running renewables and hydrogen plants on our soil.

And while you’re here, why don’t you buy my book?