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One lifetime, three different climates (allegedly)


IN MY ninety-three years, though I have not noticed much difference, I have apparently experienced three vastly different types of climate. Each has been verified not by media snippets but by real books, carefully researched and packed with relevant detail by authors who were renowned in their field, or more recently by official websites.

Phase One 1931- 1961: A sleepy backwater

‘Through the first half of the twentieth century, climate science was a sleepy backwater . . . it was stable by definition . . . the field was rightly regarded as the dullest branch of meteorology.’

The Discovery of Global Warming, Spencer Weart; Harvard University Press 2008

‘This book has for its object the presentation and discussion of the main features of the climate of the British Isles.’

No mention of any change in the climate.

The Climate of the British Isles, E G Bilham; Macmillan 1938

‘The climate in a given place is more or less invariant.’

Introduction to Meteorology, Sverre Petterssen (Norwegian meteorologist prominent in the field of weather analysis and forecasting. and part of the D-Day meteorological team); McGraw Hill 1941

There is no mention of climate changing in all 608 pages of The Climates of the Continents, W G Kendrew; Oxford at the Clarendon Press 1961

Phase Two 1961-1989: Painting snowfields black

‘Mathematical models . . . should help to anticipate what would happen to the world’s weather if man diverted the Gulf Stream, dammed the Bering Strait, poured oil on the oceans, or blackened the Arctic ice.’ (Those projects had been proposed to stall the arrival of an ice age. See next item.)

Global Assault on the Weather, The Unesco Courier, November 1966

‘Very recent discoveries imply that the chance of the next ice age starting in our own lifetime is not zero . . . There are fears that the earth’s climate may be changing substantially and for the worse . . . Ice ages can start very suddenly – that is the implication of this research.’

The Weather Machine and the Threat of Ice, Nigel Calder (ex-editor New Scientist); BBC 1974

‘The next ice age is not so much a possibility as a certainty . . . Clearly, when the next ice age comes, it will come quickly.’

Ice, Fred Hoyle (Plumian Professor of Astronomy, Cambridge); Hutchinson  1981

‘The only safe prediction we can make about the weather of the next fifty years is that it will be different, but not very different, from that of the last fifty years. The odds are far too poor to justify a gamble on either warming or cooling.’

Future Weather, John Gribbin (ex-physics consultant, New Scientist); Penguin Books 1982

‘The instability already apparent in the climatic situation over the past twenty years has led to a position . . . in which the leaders of meteorological and climatic research have given conflicting advice about probable future trends . . . there is no necessary conflict in diagnoses which identify: (1) a cooling, especially in the northern hemisphere since 1950 and which may be expected to continue . . . for some decades further; (2) warming attributable to the increase of CO2 . . . this effect to become stronger over the next century or two and reach a peak around AD 2100 or some time after; (3) the progression towards the next ice age with the expectation of some abrupt cooling phases.’


‘The more grandiose schemes [to combat a possible ice age] such as diversion of the Gulf Stream or the Siberian rivers or abolition of the Arctic ice – should be approached not only with caution but with scepticism.’

Climate History and the Modern World, H H Lamb (founder of the Climatic Research Unit, University of East Anglia); Methuen 1982

‘Painting deserts and snowfields black would be one way to combat the next ice age,’ a United Nations Conference was advised in August 1982. ‘Other ideas included reversing the direction of rivers . . . and raising water vapour from the oceans with hydrogen bombs to create a greenhouse effect.’ Report in the Guardian, 20 August 1982

‘The next ice age will be a little early, according to the latest climatological thinking . . . from the Climatological Research Unit at the University of East Anglia.’ Report in the Guardian, 14 May 1984

Phase Three 1990-present: A rapidly closing window

‘One team, at the University of East Anglia . . . first reported their evidence of a warming trend in both hemispheres of the globe in 1986.’


‘By the end of the 1990s, summer drought and heat will make it difficult to grow traditional crops using conventional techniques in England and Wales, and much of continental Europe.’

Hothouse Earth, John Gribbin; Black Swan 1990

‘There is a natural greenhouse effect which already keeps the earth warmer than it would otherwise be.’ Emissions from human activities ‘will enhance the greenhouse effect, resulting on average in an additional warming of the Earth’s surface.’

Climate Change, the IPCC Scientific Assessment; Cambridge University Press, 1990

‘There is evidence from the British Isles that there has been a general warming of climate in this region over the last two or three centuries.’

Climates of the British Isles, edit Hulme & Barrow; Routledge 1997

‘Last year, the national academies of science in the 11 most influential nations came together to jointly call on every nation to “acknowledge the threat of climate change is clear and increasing” and declare that “the scientific understanding of climate change is now sufficiently clear to justify nations taking prompt action.” So the message is unmistakeably clear. This crisis means danger! Why do our leaders seem not to hear such a clear warning? Is it simply that it is inconvenient for them to hear the truth?’

An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore; Bloomsbury 2006

‘The 2010s were the decade of climate change consequences – when the clear signal of human-driven extreme events fully emerged.’

Washington Post, 1 January 2020

‘Some future changes are unavoidable and/or irreversible but can be limited by deep, rapid, and sustained global greenhouse gas emissions reduction. The likelihood of abrupt and/or irreversible changes increases with higher global warming levels.’


‘Climate change is a threat to human well-being and planetary health . . . There is a rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all . . . The choices and actions implemented in this decade will have impacts now and for thousands of years.’

Climate Change 2023, AR6 Synthesis Report, Summary for Policy Makers; Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, March 2023

Surely never before has any one person lived through three wildly different world climates.

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Ivor Williams
Ivor Williams
Ivor Williams is a freelance writer and has been a fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society since 1984.

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