Published: May 24, 1953Copyright © The New York TimesHow Industry May Change ClimateThe amoWlt of carbon dioxide in 1the a...
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NYT 1953: How Industry May Change Climate


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And I thought that Waldemar Kaempffert's 1956 article on CO2 and climate was prescient. This one came three years earlier. Both pieces center on the work of Gilbert Plass. Here's a link to a Dot Earth post on Plass, with more on the 1956 piece, as well:

Pioneering Greenhouse Analyst Appraised

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NYT 1953: How Industry May Change Climate

  1. 1. Published: May 24, 1953Copyright © The New York TimesHow Industry May Change ClimateThe amoWlt of carbon dioxide in 1the air will double by the year 2080 jand raise the temperature an average ·of at least 4 per cent. The burningof about two billion tons of coal and .oil a year keeps the average ground. /temperature . so.mewhat higher than. it jvould otherwxse be. If industnal 1grovth extended over several thousandyears instead of over a century only,the oceans would have absorbed mostof the excess carbon dioxide. Seascirculate so slowly that they have had1ittle effect in reducing the amount orJthe gas as mans smoke-making abili-1ties multiplied during a hundred years. IAll this and more came out in the 1course of a paper that Dr. Gilbert N. ;Plass of Johns Hopkins presentedbefore the American Geophysical Un- Iion. He found that mans industrieg !add six billion tons of carbon dioxide ;to the atmosphere. •Heat Is RetainedLike glass 1n a greenhouse, carbondioxide in the air prevents the escapeof long-wave radiation (heat) from theground but allows short wave-lengthradiation from the sun to pass through.When the amount of the gas increases,the atmospheric blanket holds moreheat near the earths surface. At thesame time, the tops of clouds are pre-vented from losing heat into space asrapidly as before. The drop in tem-1 perature, variation between the top and1 bottom layers of clouds prevents thefonna.tion of strong convection cur-rents necessary for the onset of precip-itation. This may mean less rainfalland cloud cover, so that still more sun-light can reach the earths surface.Thus man tends to make his climatewarmer and drier; should there be adecrease in carbon dioxide, a coolerand wetter climate would result.Theory Applied to GlaciersAll this reinforces a theory advancedin 1861 that decreases ~ carbon diox-ide explain the growth and advanceof glaciers a.t various intervals in theearths history. Dr. Plass finds thetheory plausible. If the theory is cor-rect, millions of years of mountain-building preceded each glacial period.During these l:ong periods large quan-tities of exposed fire-made rock weath-ered during the uplift of the land, withthe result that the amount of freecarbon dioxide in the air was greatlyreduced. If reduction amounted to onlya factor of two, the gas in the atmos-phere would have been reduced five-fold. The consequences have beenheavier rainfall and a temperaturedrop of more than seven degrees.As the weathering process slove4down, mountains were leveled and gaafrom inside the earth made its wayinto the atmosphere, the temperaturerose, the climate became drier and theglacier receded. 1n the future, as inthe past, important changes in tem-perature and rainfall will result fromvariations ln the supply of carbondioxide. W.K.