Science

The Coal industry was well aware of climate change predictions 50 years ago

A journal, originally published in the 1960s, was dredged up and rediscovered that highlighted that the coal industry was well aware of the dangers of human induced climate change for over 50 years.

It’s now clear that oil giant, Exxon was well aware of the effects that fossil fuels can have on the climate, however they deliberately mislead the public into thinking its innocuous. Evidence also showed that the coal industry was also aware of the harmful effects of global warning since the late 1960s.

James Garvey, president of the Bituminous Coal Research Inc. in the 1960s has expounded in an article in the August 1966 issue of Mining Congress Journal, about the pollutants and their governance in the industry at that time.

Whilst majority of the paper discussed the effects of Sulphur present in coal, it also threw light about the CO2 discharge and the pernicious effect it can have as an air pollutant and goes on to say that the amount of CO2 being dumped in the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels is in proliferation.

The paper also noted that the increase in the CO2 in the atmosphere will have a direct impact on the climate as it is known to trap the radiation reflected by the Earth, and as a consequence polar icecaps will melt, flooding coastal regions.

This article was a serendipitous discovery by an engineer Chris Cherry from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, as it was discovered in an old stock about to be expunged.

He told Elan Young from HuffPost that this paper showed that scientific awareness about climate change was rampant even back in the 1960s, before the organized denialism of human induced climate change became the norm.

Garvey’s article isn’t the only one from the 60s that highlighted the dangers increased levels of CO2 in the atmosphere could have on us; there was another piece from the combustion engineer, James Jones from Peabody Coal, which did not directly tackle the global warming issue, but admitted that CO2 can become a major air pollutant and can become a health hazard and was in favor of finding a solution to this problem.

Peabody Coal, contrary to Jones’ article, would emerge as a force to reckon with in the climate change denial movement later on, indulging in brinkmanship.

The rediscovered journal points to the fact that every player was already privy to what excessive amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere is capable of doing, as an year before, in 1965, a US science advisory committee advised the then president Lyndon Johnson of the same effects.

The report said we are burning and exhausting the fossil fuels at a rapid rate that have taken millions of years to accumulate, which could be harmful for us in the long run.

If this report is raising eyebrows that we have known about it for the past 60 years, prepare to be confounded as climate change made headlines as far back as 100 years ago. Though our understanding of climate science has evolved over the years, we have definitely nailed one thing right; that increase in CO2 can trap the heat inside the atmosphere and could be responsible for warming the planet.

James Jones has also posed a serious question as to what an individual can do when they have a vested interest in the future of the coal industry and proposed that the only way is educating the public about the importance of coal and also about the long term effects it can have on pollution and global temperatures and on finding constructive solutions to tackle them, words of wisdom from someone who has a personal stake in the industry.

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