In August 1974, the CIA produced a study on “climatological research as it pertains to intelligence problems”. The diagnosis was dramatic. It warned of the emergence of a new era of weird weather, leading to political unrest and mass migration (which, in turn, would cause more unrest). The new era the agency imagined wasn’t necessarily one of hotter temperatures; the CIA had heard from scientists warning of global cooling as well as warming. But the direction in which the thermometer was travelling wasn’t their immediate concern; it was the political impact. They knew that the so-called “little ice age”, a series of cold snaps between, roughly, 1350 and 1850, had brought not only drought and famine, but also war – and so could these new climatic changes.
“The climate change began in 1960,” the report’s first page informs us, “but no one, including the climatologists, recognised it.” Crop failures in the Soviet Union and India in the early 1960s had been attributed to standard unlucky weather. The US shipped grain to India and the Soviets killed off livestock to eat, “and premier Nikita Khrushchev was quietly deposed”. ...
This is a long-form piece with captivating detail of earlly recognition, and dismissal, of the risks of climate change and its potential for global destabilisation, dating to the 1960s. It's very much about 60 years of lost time in tackling the challenge. It covers the CIA, Stephen Schneider, Helmut Landsberg, Rafe Pomerance, Gordan MacDonald, The Jasons, Exxon, James G. Watt, and more.
The article itself is an except of a book just published by Alice Bell, Our Biggest Experiment: An Epic History of the Climate Crisis (the Guardian's bookshop link, purchases support The Guardian newspaper.)
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