1989: Isaac Asimov on climate change

Climate de-crocker Peter Sinclair directs us to this video from one of the greatest science writers of the 20th century:

Asimov is best known for his science fiction writing, but like millions of others, I also grew up on his wonderful science  books.

I can’t call the video ‘remarkable’ because, as Sinclair writes, “the broad outlines of the climate change story have been understood for decades by, well, intelligent people who are guided by science”:


17 Responses to 1989: Isaac Asimov on climate change

  1. Prokaryotes says:

    I highly recommend this book to every decision maker.

    You can find this as an audio book on the internet (nice to listen while sleepy) or order from amazon etc …

    Our Angry Earth

    Our Angry Earth: A Ticking Ecological Bomb, (1991) is a non-fiction book and polemic against the effects humankind is having on the environment by the science fiction writers Isaac Asimov and Frederik Pohl. In his last non-fiction book, Asimov co-writes with his long-time friend science fiction author Frederik Pohl, and deals with elements of the environmental crisis such as global warming and the destruction of the ozone layer.

    It suggests monumental disasters are threatening to destroy humankind and argues that “it is too late to save our planet from harm”. The book has four sections: “The Background”, “The Problems”, “The Technocures” and “The Way to Go”.

  2. Prokaryotes says:

    Isaac Asimov on the Greenhouse Effect: 1977

    Why is it called the greenhouse effect?
    Broadcast Date: May 21, 1977

    What does the greenhouse effect have to do with a greenhouse? And how does it work? In this 1977 clip from CBC Radio’s Quirks and Quarks, popular science author Isaac Asimov tells us all about the greenhouse effect and how it could be warming up the Earth. He also explains why we should care. “This greenhouse effect can be very serious,” says Asimov, “and it’s something that we have to take into account.”


  3. toby says:

    One science book I still have is a copy of Asimov’s New Guide to Science, a paperback first published in 1984. I have the 1987 Penguin edition.

    And yes, he does get global warming spot on.

  4. Jack says:

    This is great, Joe. Asimov, through his science books, was also a teacher and inspiration to me. Did he also write about this?

  5. Daniel J. Andrews says:

    Asimov’s book on physics (Understanding Physics, I think it was called) is very well written. I read the entire thing, cover to cover, in my late-20s and wished I’d had this book when I was struggling through physic classes years early. It all made sense–it was my “Sokath, his eyes uncovered” moment. I would very much liked to have met him.

  6. catman306 says:

    You and I don’t know nothin’ compared to Isaac Asimov !

    I’m pretty sue that back in the 60s I read one of his books that contained mention of global warming. It might have been the same book that addresses the damage a large meteor could inflict on our planet. I had hoped to find it, but his total catalog entries are 506. The world needs a searchable data base of his collected writings.

    I’ve read that except for his science textbooks, his writing was done on a typewriter at 80 words per minute, first draft ready for submission. They don’t make men with brains like that anymore.

  7. Chris Winter says:

    Isaac Asimov is sorely missed by many. His output was vast, and as free of errors as catman306 says. He was gracious about admitting his mistakes. In my days of awarding prizes at local science fairs, I gave one to a girl who found a mistake in one of his books. (He was off by a factor of two in something, maybe the number of stars in the Milky Way.) He wrote to her thanking her for the correction.

    AFAIK he wrote back to every fan who sent him a letter. That’s a lot of correspondence. Most of his letters were destroyed, but some are collected in the book Yours, Isaac Asimov, edited after his death by his brother Stanley.

  8. Rob C. says:

    Thank you for this Joe. I sat next to Dr. Asimov on a plane from Chicago to D.C. when I was 20 or so. I’m sorry to say I did not work up the nerve to speak to one of my favorite authors. After reading Chris’s comment I’m kicking myself again more than 20 years later.

    Our Angry Earth was a seminal book for me; I think it is due for a re-read. This remarkable man’s insight holds up to this day. Judging from the political news we may all want to read the Foundation series as well…

  9. toby says:

    There is something scary in the fact that one of Asimov’s greatest stories Nightfall is about a group of scientists in a distant galaxy, trying and failing to avert planetary-wide disaster.

  10. Steve Metzler says:

    toby (#9):

    One might even say… prophetic.

  11. Prokaryotes says:

    Isaac Asimov – How to Save Civilization Part 1

    Can We Save Earth For Humans? Asked and answered in 1989 by Isaac Asimov (author of over 500 science and science fiction books). Was he prophetic? Twenty years later it seems he was. See the entertaing complete talk

  12. Steve L says:

    Sounds like he says CO2 is 50% higher “now” (1989) than in 1900. Maybe he actually says 15%, which would be much closer to correct.

  13. Chris Winter says:

    Toby wrote: “There is something scary in the fact that one of Asimov’s greatest stories Nightfall is about a group of scientists in a distant galaxy, trying and failing to avert planetary-wide disaster.”

    You should try The Gods Themselves, about an energy source called the electron pump that is pumping the electrons from another universe and in the process altering the physical constants of both universes.

    It’s a close analogy to our current situation.

  14. The summers of 1988 to 1990 were especially hot in the eastern US, and 1989 and 1990 brought a significant wave of awarness about global heating, as evidenced (for example) by Bill McKibben’s “The End of Nature” (1990) and what I regard as still the best film treatment of the subject, James Burke’s “After the Warming.” Asimov was part of the growing chorus of that time.

    But the possibilities were of course known much earlier. I spotted an entry in playwright Arthur Miller’s memoir that mentioned a conversation in the 1960s with another science fiction/science smart writer, Arthur C. Clarke (Miller and Clarke lived in the same NYC apartment building at the time) who told him about the greenhouse effect and what it could portend–the end of civilization.

  15. Prokaryotes says:

    Asimov -Part 2 The Answer for Humanity

  16. Prokaryotes says:

    Climate Humanist?

  17. Jeff Huggins says:

    Try This Too

    Joe, if you don’t have this one already, it might be neat to try to get — in order to add it to your archived videos/links and build the time-line of historic warnings:

    CBS Evening News (still hosted by Walter Cronkite at the time), April 3, 1980

    You can borrow a copy from the Vanderbilt TV News Archive. It’s a great segment, shown on the CBS Evening News (nationwide) way back then, when the CBS Evening News had the highest rating of the three network news programs and cable news hadn’t even started quite yet. Indeed, given the number of people who watched CBS Evening News, and Cronkite, at the time, this segment was perhaps the most-watched of all of the early warnings regarding Climate Change. Many millions of people would have seen this, back on April 3, 1980. It’s worth getting, if you don’t already have it.