1981 global warming predictions

In August of 1981, James Hansen and 6 other authors wrote a paper describing the projected impact of CO2 emissions on global temperatures. And now those predictions have once again come to light.

In the ongoing debate over climate change, it’s at times a good idea to check in with historial predictions made by climate modelers and see how well they have been able to predict global warming – which is exactly what a pair of researchers at the Koninklijk Nederlands Meteorologisch Instituut (KNMI) have done.

via The Register.

Check out the second graph in that article, where the actual warming trend is overlaid on top of the prediction by Hansen et al. It looks like they were actually a bit optimistic.

One correction, however: vocal denials by well-funded and profit-minded vested interests do not constitute any genuine “ongoing debate.” The science has been settled for a while. All the opposition has is propaganda at this point.


  1. StevoR says

    Interesting find – cheers.

    Optimistic yes.

    Apparently the Arctic ice – one key indicator of Human Induced Rapid Global Overheating (HIRGO) as I refer to call it – has been disppaearing much faster than predicted.

    See :


    Especially the graph at about the 2 min 40 sec – 3 minute or so mark.

    Which is pretty worrying in itself given the albedo feedback and thelikely tipping point consequences as permafrost melytying releases methane etc ..

    Jim Hansen reckons and makes a good case in his book Storms of my grandchildren’ that we need to keep Co2 levels below 350 ppm to avoid dangerous climate change. We’re now at 390 ppm or so. Which means we’re in very big trouble if Hansen is right.

    If he’s being an optimist .. whoah. Yeah, not good.

  2. Hunt says

    Ironically amusing is that libertarians almost to a man and woman think global warming is a “hoax.” Some of the most loony among them also plan to build floating libertarian nation states. The recipe libertarian + floating nation state + category 5 hurricane makes for fun!

    • TX_secular says

      I’ve wondered about who will be working in these floating cities? Who will provide public goods (like water/sewers/police, etc) ? Will it all be individual contractors paid for as needed?

      • M Groesbeck says

        I’ve heard some of the “floating city” types talk about bringing onboard a group of non-citizen workers (or nominal citizens who own no property share of the ship/island and thus have no de facto influence) to take care of all the things that the Randroids don’t think they should have to do for themselves. I always thought I was exaggerating a bit about Libertarians pushing to re-establish a feudal system or a permanent caste structure (both of which could easily arise when money=power and is regulated only to defend the advantage of the wealthy) until I read some of the “floating capitalist utopia” and “let’s buy a failed state in Africa” fantasists’ actual plans.

    • Hunt says

      You mean who will be cleaning John Galt’s toilet? I guess a guy who really, really believes libertarian ideology and also happens to be a glutton for punishment. Or perhaps when the plumbing contractor decides that $1000 per toilet is how he wants to be compensated, they’ll all decide to clean their own…and cook their own meals. Next they will organize themselves into shifts, and pretty soon it will evolve into a commune.

      Not saying the experiment shouldn’t be run (if only so they’ll shut the hell up once and for all), but maybe the high seas isn’t the safest place to attempt it.

  3. lordshipmayhem says

    I remember back in the early 1970’s being told to “beware of anthropogenic global cooling”. At the time, there was no Internet to go on and explore the right or wrong of the prediction, and so a lot of us were convinced that we were facing another ice age in the coming century.

    One music producer, it was noted when he passed away a few months ago, even went so far as to move to a tropical paradise in the hopes that he’d avoid the worst effects of the this predicted future ice age.

    So perhaps I could be excused for not believing the global warming predictions when they first came forward. It hadn’t been all THAT long since I’d been confronted by equally solemn warnings of ice sheets covering much of North America down to Virginia. I simply couldn’t check either side’s claims, as I had no instantly-updated library or encyclopedia.

    Finally, I was able to access the research without having to spend vast sums of time in a university or laboratory somewhere – this magical thing called the Internet had developed to the point where it was useful for research. I found the anti-global-warming skeptics’ arguments, and the pro-global-warming arguments, and the neutral data. I was forced (“reality doesn’t care what you believe”) to come to the conclusion that yes, it was happening. Despite the fearful claims of the early 70’s, despite the denials of the global-warming skeptics, it was happening.

    As to whether it was human or natural, frankly that didn’t matter. It was happening, just look at the measurements from NASA.

    Now, I’m concerned that it may be too late. I’m concerned that even if we stop all Earth-bound industry, we may find ourselves cooking in our own juices. We may have doomed ourselves, just by going forth and multiplying. I would like to hope that technology has an answer, but I fear that our own inertia is leading us to make the kind of poor decisions that we cannot recover from.

    Today, I accept anthropogenic global warming. But my acceptance would have come sooner without the global cooling advocates who were around in my youth.

  4. says

    You could do a simple enough experiment:

    Take two identical demijohns. Put some soil in the base of each and bury (1) a wirewound resistor (to be used as a heat source) and (2) a thermocouple probe in it. Fill demijohn #2 with carbon dioxide; leave ordinary room air in demijohn #1. Seal the demijohns and stand them on an insulating substrate. Shine a light of the same wattage onto the soil in each one (to represent the Sun) and connect suitable power supplies delivering equal wattages to the heaters (to represent heat given off by burning fossil fuels). Compare the trends of temperature inside and outside each demijohn over time. If an atmosphere richer in CO2 traps heat better, then demijohn #2 should be consistently warmer than #1.

  5. thisa says

    I think we need to spend more time, figuring out how we detect and determine there is any problem to address. First it was Ozone hole, which we were gonna fry because of the lack of greenhouse affect, (no sun light bounce of the atmosphere into space before getting into the green house), now Global warming reverse concept- oops no warming, let’s change it to climate change. What we have is a solution looking for a problem, for monetary and power objectives. Let’s look close, on the facts not the hype and bully tactics of the global warming frenzy.

    • Deacon Duncan says

      There’s no shortage of people who know how to detect and quantify the problem, at least scientifically. The political problem is that the “monetary and power” people are better funded and better empowered to propagandize their denial of a very real trend towards increasing average global temperatures. Denial doesn’t make the problem go away, however—it only weakens us and diminishes our chances of taking effective counter-measures while there is still time.

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