Climate change historic prediction

Climate change historic prediction

Dec 4th, 2019

In 1938 the Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society published a Climate change historic prediction.

Glacier du Rhône 19th Century Glacier du Rhône in 2019

An article by Guy Steward Callendar discussed the artificial production of carbon dioxide and its influence on atmospheric temperature.

Artificial production of carbon dioxide and its influence on temperature

That paper is reportedly the first alert about a phenomenon that has since preoccupied scores of researchers and is becoming main stream reason for ubiquitous protests and even riots.

I do not know if Mr Callendar knew about the Roman warm period, or prior cold bouts (perhaps due to super-volcanos. However, and very incidentally, François E. Matthes defined in 1939 the Little Ice Age (LIA) as a period of cooling that occurred after the Medieval Warm Period.

Nevertheless Callendar started suspecting that the earth was, perhaps, warming. Thus Callendar collected and sorted-out data from around the world, no internet then, remember! He finally announced that the mean global temperature had risen between 1890 and 1935, by close to half a degree Celsius. In addition, he claimed that carbon dioxide was responsible for the temperature rise. His data showed a 10% increase of carbon dioxide between pre-1900 and 1935.

That increase corresponded to the carbon-dioxide likely produced by the industrial revolution (and WWI).

An eighty years old warning simply forgotten

Callendar explained that man-made changes to the composition of the atmosphere were happening at exceptional rate on geological time scale.

He went on predicting that doubling the carbon dioxide would increase by two degrees the world temperature.

That was eighty years ago, just before the world erupted in WWII and humanity merrily produced huge amounts of carbon dioxide trying to kill each-other.

That could be the reason why we forgot Guy Stewart Callendar’s name and his astonishingly right predictions. Or perhaps it was because he did not belong to the elite world of scientific research. Indeed, he was self-taught.

Friendly advice

So, next time you go to a conference or you hear someone talk about “emerging” risks, remember Callendar’s 1938 paper.

Very often what we consider new is simply “forgotten”. History is more important than we think and its in-depth knowledge a treasure.

Risk Assessment and Climate change historic prediction

Indeed, a risk assessment should always start by looking at what is available in the archives and in the literature. This helps starting to form an understanding and craft questions directed to the people working on the site. As a matter of fact at Riskope we do not like to start with the classic workshops with numerous participants. The resources needed for these are staggering and their efficiency dubious. We also found out over the years some counter-productive traits:

  • The alpha dog will monopolize the discussion and silence others opinion.
  • Some people will not talk openly.
  • People will try to divert the discussion to irrelevant points
  • Attendees will already bias the debate on what is risky and what should be censored. That’s a very dangerous attitude if the final result need to be a convergent, rational risk assessment allowing for risk-informed decision-making.

Closing remarks

The figure shows the flow chart of the ORE (Optimum Risk Estimates approach ©Oboni Riskope Associates Inc. 2014-*).Climate change historic prediction

As we see in the picture  (top left) interview or worst, ill-informed workshops cannot alone replace the rich data context in all it’s forms. We saw too many times people proceed into workshops without even asking themselves what the system under consideration was. Workshops are necessary but perhaps only for a few tasks such as data validation. Hazard identification needs to combine available literature, expert model, monitoring and questionnaire to users.

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Category: Consequences, Hazard, Risk analysis, Risk management

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