As for the actual scientific debate about the net effect of aerosols and CO2, it was pretty well settled before the calendar flipped to 1980. Columbia University’s Wally Broecker wrote a 1975 paper (which was also covered in The New York Times) that argued that anthropogenic warming was due to resume; it even correctly estimated the amount of warming we would see before the close of the 20th century. A notable 1978 paper led by NASA’s James Hansen used the 1963 eruption of Mount Agung to refine models of aerosols.
And in 1979, the US National Academy of Sciences published a new report chaired by MIT’s Jule Charney. Rather than lamenting our inability to predict climate changes, this landmark “Charney Report” focused on quantifying Earth’s climatic sensitivity to atmospheric CO2.
The report stated, “We believe, therefore, that the equilibrium surface global warming due to doubled CO2 will be in the range 1.5°C to 4.5°C, with the most probable value near 3°C.” If that sounds familiar, it’s because the two most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports have said the same thing.
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