Back Forty

EPRI Journal looks back 40 years at the electricity sector and research

Early Perspectives on Climate Change

An article in the July 1978 issue of EPRI Journal reported on growing concern about the climate impacts of rising atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2). It cited various perspectives on the topic including a 1977 National Academy of Sciences study, which concluded that “the primary limiting factor on energy production from fossil fuels over the next few centuries may turn out to be the climatic effects of the release of carbon dioxide.” An EPRI-funded study at the time concluded that “the United States alone cannot solve the potential problem by unilaterally decreasing or eliminating CO2 emissions. An international effort will be required.” According to the EPRI Journal article, the U.S. Department of Energy launched a multimillion dollar program to investigate CO2 effects.

“It now appears that we are becoming a significant factor in the climate balance,” said the National Center for Atmospheric Research’s William Kellogg, who estimated that atmospheric CO2 would reach 400 parts per million by the year 2000. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, levels recorded at Mauna Loa Observatory reached 400 parts per million in 2015.