Tag Archives: Reiith Lectures

A #climate warning from the 1969 Reith Lectures

We knew.  We knew.  Don’t let anyone tell you that the failure of the human response to what is fairly clearly its terminal situation was down to ignorance or a lack of advance warning.  The standard narrative has the world first being told in 1988, thanks to prolonged work by scientists like James Hansen, Bert Bolin and some canny organisational entrepreneurs.  That’s true, but incomplete.  There were scientists, 20 years before, flagging the facts  (indeed, 30 years, but that’s for another time).

And I have a hobby, of looking back at the books published in the period 1968 or so onward.  It’s there.  Admittedly, a minor thing, compared to more photogenic and immediate problems (local air pollution, oil spills etc).

The latest find/confirmation is Wilderness and Plenty, by Frank Fraser-Darling.  What makes this one a bit different is that Fraser-Darling had done this book as the 1969 Reith Lectures. So, anyone who listened to it (and my understanding is that a very sizeable proportion of the British intelligentsia does) would have heard a warning on 30th November 1969.

1969 reith lectures fraser darling

He continued

“We are not yet at the end of this story. the warming oceans would alter considerably the distribution of marine fauna.  This has happened already in this century in the warming of the North Atlantic Ocean…. The warming oceans and atmosphere would mean a recession of the polar ice caps. Our ports would go under quite literally, and with them vast tracts of fertile soil.  What happens then to the swarming human population? I suppose they move upward and back, very slowly, of course, but surely. And what then?


We knew. We knew.