”Intervention in atmospheric and climatic matters . . . will unfold on a scale difficult to imagine at present. . . . this will merge each nation’s affairs with those of every other, more thoroughly than the threat of a nuclear or any other war would have done.” — J. von Neumann
The theory of anthropogenic climate change began in the late 1800s, when the Swedish chemist and physicist Svante Arrhenius (1859-1927) presented his hypothesis that a doubling of carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere would lead to a global temperature rise of 5-6 degrees. Unlike later influential advocates, however, Arrhenius thought that this heating was a good thing because it would make it possible to avoid a new Ice Age, and that it would benefit vegetation and crops. Only several decades later would carbon dioxide emissions begin to be seriously discussed in the scientific community.
In 1938, the British engineer and inventor G. S. Callendar expanded on Arrhenius’ ideas and speculated that the human burning of fossil fuels could have given rise to the observed warming since 1880. His findings were met with skepticism. The theory was, however, developed further by German meteorologist Hermann Flohn (1912-1997) who published his article Die Tätigkeit des Menschen als Klimafaktor in 1941, while he served in the Luftwaffe High Command during WWII.
These theories at first had no impact whatsoever on the scientific community. This would, however, change by the sharp increase in research grants in the U.S. after 1945 when the military wanted to get a deeper understanding of the forces of weather and making funds available for proper studies and the development of climate modeling tools. Callendar’s claims could now be tested more thoroughly.
In 1946 the U.S. President Harry S. Truman (1884-1972) founded the Office of Naval Research (ONR) and the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), which in the 1950s became leading organisations in the financing of studies of carbon dioxide impact on climate. The climate agenda was originally a military project and was developed by interaction with institutions closely related to the Rockefeller family. The threat of nuclear war and climate change were intermingled. The former was considered to give rise to the latter, resulting in thorough studies on the effects of nuclear weapons on the climate.
As early as 1930, the Rockefeller Foundation funded the establishment of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.
The following year, Swedish meteorologist Carl-Gustaf Rossby became a research fellow at the institute. He had been a student of Svante Arrhenius (who had also served as a mentor to Rossby). Rossby had come to the U.S.A. in 1926 to work at the U.S. Weather Bureau. In 1928 he founded MIT‘s meteorological programs, where he stayed until 1939. 1940-41 he organized and became head of the newly established Department of Meteorology at the University of Chicago where, in the following years, the Chicago School of Meteorology was developed.
Institute for Advanced Study
Rossby rose rapidly in rank and became one of the superstars of meteorology. This also resulted in a close collaboration with Jules Charney (1917-1981) and John von Neumann (1903-1957) at the élite Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) at Princeton University,[A] founded in 1930 by Abraham Flexner as an American equivalent of All Souls College, Oxford (with plans for the institute drafted by Tom Jones from the British Roundtable Group).
Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton University
Flexner was also part of the élite think tank, Council on Foreign Relations, which was a sister institution to the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London. Close ties existed between the American and British élites – which became even more evident in the emerging climate agenda. Flexner had previously been a board member of the Rockefeller Foundation’s General Education Board and was the man behind the Flexner report (funded by the Carnegie Corporation) which resulted in a standardised medical training with a focus on the scientific method. This eventually led to Rockefeller interests gaining more control over the conventional medicine, and to alternative treatments getting severely disadvantaged.
The Institute for Advanced Study was headed by atomic physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer (1904-1967).[B] Here climate forecasts were developed, using data models which were the first of their kind. In order to avoid climatic disasters, human intervention for balancing the weather system was advocated. This was not about reducing emissions through political agreements, as it is the case today. Instead, mathematician John von Neumann advocated an artificial climate modification to tackle the effects of possible climate change (through carbon dioxide or other climate changing factors). Techniques for making this possible had been patented by the Serbian inventor Nikola Tesla (1856-1943). One patent was subsequently further developed by the U.S. Armed Forces and ARCO Power Technologies. Today, it goes by the name Geoengineering or Climate Engineering and has been advocated by, among others, the PIK Institute Director Hans Joachim Schellnhuber (under the name Geocybernetics) as a way of trying to control the weather and the threat of climate change.
John von Neumann, who had studied mathematics at the University of Göttingen (through a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation) and was the originator of the Game theory, suggested that whoever could provide accurate predictions about the future would also control the world.
“John von Neumann for his part started showing an interest in weather forecasts as part of his almost religious conviction that most things in the world could be expressed in mathematical terms and that therefore most of the world’s future could be predicted – whoever could do that would control the world”
This was something that interested the U.S. military and it soon became a priority for the ruling élite, and for the global planners, systems theorists, and futurists included on their payroll. This idea also came to particularly influence the philosophy of the Club of Rome which was established in 1968.
von Neumann had also been part of the Manhattan Project, which had been a playground for climate theorists. He merged the threat of a global nuclear war with that of climate change. This is how climate research initially came to be a predominantely military affair.
C-G Rossby, who had become an American citizen, was during and after the war involved with the U.S. Department of Defense at Pentagon and their interest in weather modification. He was, among other things, advisor to the U.S. Secretary of War, and part of the Joint Research and Development Board.
In 1946 Rossby was persuaded to move home to Sweden to build the Department of Meteorology (MISU) at Stockholm University. Support for this initiative was given by the University of Chicago and the U.S. Weather Bureau (where Rossby’s former graduate student from MIT, Harry Wexler was Research Director). Funding came from the U.S. Office of Naval Research (ONR).
At the same time, there was strong support from the Swedish Government and the Minister of Education, Tage Erlander. This was part of the closer diplomatic relationship between the U.S. and Sweden. Rossby established a link between the two countries and laid the foundation for the close ties which would remain and be further deepened when it came to climate research. The U.S. military were directly involved in this too. They wanted to strengthen their ties with Swedish research, and U.S. military personnel were posted for advanced training in Stockholm until the mid-1950s. Other international ties were created by Rossby. The pioneer Hermann Flohn, who became head of the West German Weather Service in 1958 and who later came to have a prominent role in the emerging climate agenda, was invited to Stockholm by Rossby. Stockholm became, in effect, a U.S. base in Europe.
In 1949 Rossby started the scientific journal Tellus, based in Stockholm, which would become very important in the coming decade. Stockholm was established as a centre for atmospheric research and the question of the impact of carbon dioxide on the climate became an early priority. The Institute did not do field studies, but only used theories of atmospheric physics. Rossby became known for not having made a single observation throughout his whole life.
In 1954, the year after physicist Gilbert Pass (1920-1924) from Johns Hopkins University had said that that increased carbon dioxide levels could raise earth’s temperature in Time Magazine, it was decided at a conference in Stockholm that trace gases in the atmosphere would be researched more thoroughly, and that a worldwide network of monitoring stations for carbon dioxide would be established. This was a preparation for the International Geophysical Year (IGY), planned for 1957-1958. One of the initiators of the IGY were S. Fred Singer (1924-). Much later he would become one of the leading sceptics but initially wanted to study the theory’s validity and be able to use the necessary tools for this (satellites). Organisers in Sweden were Rossby and his Assistant and former graduate student Bert Bolin (1925-2007).
In 1955, Rossby also started the International Meteorological Institute (IMI) which worked to strengthen international collaboration in meteorology. Rossby wanted the institute to be recognised by UNESCO and sought financial support from the Rockefeller Foundation for its formation. Due to his good relations with former Secretary of State, Richard Sandler, and Prime Minister Tage Erlander, the institute had direct support from the Swedish Government. Sandler became Chairman of the Board. The close collaboration between the Government and the institute continued and was further developed over the years. The political dimension was interwoven from the start.
Tellus, with Bert Bolin as editor, published some of the most important articles on the carbon dioxide theory in the 1950s and early 1960s. At the advice of Rossby it published Roger Revelle’s and Hans Suess’ article “Carbon dioxide exchange between atmosphere and ocean and the question of an increase of atmospheric CO2 during the past decades” (1957) as well as Gilbert Plass’ article “The Carbon Dioxide Theory of Climatic Change” (1956). This was a preparation for the IGY, and both articles were sponsored financially by the Office of Naval Research.
Plass’ career was closely linked to the U.S. Defense industry and had been part of the Manhattan Project at the University of Chicago. He then became Assistant Professor at the U.S. military related Johns Hopkins University and continued in the Defense industry (Lockheed and Ford).[C]
The President of Johns Hopkins University, Detlev Bronk (1897-1975), was an advisor to both the Office of Naval Research and the Atomic Energy Commission. Johns Hopkins worked closely with various projects for the U.S. military. Bronk was linked to the Rockefeller family, was part of the Board of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Rockefeller Foundation in 1953, and became President of the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research (which in 1965 changed its name to Rockefeller University). He was also a Board Member of the Woods Hole Institute of Oceanography in Massachusetts, and president of the National Academy of Sciences. Thus, he had a great deal of influence.
Detlev Bronk in the middle with Frederick Seitz and Paul Weiss; Ava Pauling behind
In 1956, Bronk appointed a national meteorological committee which would ”consider and recommend means to increase the understanding and control of the atmosphere.” The Committee consisted of Lloyd Berkner, Carl-Gustaf Rossby, Jule Charney, John von Neumann, Edward Teller, and Roger Revelle. These assumed leading roles in this work. The Committee’s work led to the National Centre for Atmospheric Research in Boulder being founded in 1960, under the direction of Walter Orr Roberts – who in the 1960s and 70s, had an important role in implementing the climate agenda with support from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Rockefeller Foundation.
Roger Revelle, who was Director of the Scripps Institution for Oceanography and close friend of Rossby, was in the 50s and 60s a central figure in performing the climate agenda and his institute was supported financially by the Office for Naval Research, the Atomic Energy Commission, and the Rockefeller Foundation. He was also deeply involved in the international agencies and organisations, such as UNESCO and the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU).
In 1956, before a Congressional committee, Revelle described how, by increasing the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere, a large geophysical experiments had been commenced, and sought federal funding for the study of global warming during the International Geophysical Year. This was granted. The media had also begun to report on the phenomenon. The New York Times wrote in October 1956 that human carbon dioxide emissions could lead to a warmer climate. The December issue of Time Magazine had C-G Rossby on the cover, with a warning in the featured article of the consequences of human impact on nature.
At a meeting at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in 1956, Rossby, Wexler, and Revelle had decided that measurements of carbon dioxide levels would be conducted. At the meeting, Svante Arrhenius’ grandson Gustaf Arrhenius was also present. According to Revelle, Gustav A. was not very alarmed by any carbon dioxide threat but felt, like Svante Arrhenius and C. S. Callendar, that it could be positive for the northern hemisphere. It would make the climate more pleasant and yield larger crops.
The International Geophysical Year (IGY) 1957-58 meant the first breakthrough for the carbon dioxide theory and resulted in measurements of carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere being conducted at Manua Loua in Hawaii. Harry Wexler, through David Keeling (1928-2005) provided Roger Revelle with funding for the project.
Clearly, the early representatives of the carbon dioxide theory were not particularly alarmed by what would happen to the climate. They instead saw possibilities of establishing scientific institutions and get funding for their projects. They were careerists who saw which way the winds were blowing and gathered their own followings. They gained name and fame by being early proponents of a theory. They actively collaborated with other institutions abroad. They were also curious scientists wanting more resources for new exciting experiments.
Instead, there were other players who saw how the theory could be exploited politically. They were also able to take advantage of the scientists’ egos and eagerness to get into the spotlight. In 1959, a commemorative publication compiled by Bert Bolin was issued by Rockefeller Institute Press, dedicated to the memory of C-G Rossby who had died two years earlier. In his last essay, Rossby had written about carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuel.
“It has been pointed out frequently that mankind now is performing a unique experiment of impressive planetary dimensions by now consuming during a few hundreds of years all the fossil fuel deposited during millions of years” (C-G Rossby)
Bert Bolin took over MISU and IMI after Rossby’s death and followed in the footsteps of his mentor. Bolin came become Chairman of the IPCC in 1988.
The threat of climate change was the beginning of a long Swedish-American affair with a close-working network of researchers. It was a predominantly military project, in which Sweden became the neutral ground and would play a leading role. Under Bolin’s leadership IMI came to play a central role during the years preceding the inception of the IPCC. After the climate issue had been raised in institutions which had come about with Rockefeller’s philanthropic contributions and with support from the Office of Naval Research and the Atomic Energy Commission, the Rockefeller family foundations came to increasingly take over the issue as it gained more political dimensions.
In December 1957, physicist and creator of the hydrogen bomb, Edward Teller (advisor to AEC), warned that the polar ice caps would melt due to increased carbon dioxide levels. Claims of this nature were presented in 1958 for a general audience in the propaganda film The Unchained Goddess, produced by Frank Capra for the telephone company AT & T/Bell Laboratories. The film was shown in schools and other institutions. Along with Detlev Bronk and management professor and later Club of Rome member Carrol Louis Wilson, Teller was during this time included as a panellist in the Rockefeller Brothers Fund Special Studies Project, led by the family’s young protegé, Henry Kissinger (1923-). Here, the family’s priorities in the coming decades would be staked out, with concrete plans for their implementation. A changed political climate was on the agenda.
“We cannot escape, and indeed should welcome, the task which history has imposed on us. This is the task of helping to shape a new world order in all its dimensions – spiritual, economic, political, social.” (Special Studies Report)
[A] Rossby was offered a position at the Institute but turned it down.
[B] Oppenheimer had been the scientific director of the Manhattan Project, and then became the principal advisor to the Atomic Energy Commission.
[C] Develops defense systems, missiles and space ships.
 Quigley, Carroll (1966), Tragedy and Hope, GSG: San Pedro
 H.-J. Schellnhuber, J. Kropp (1998), Geocybernetics: Controlling a Complex Dynamical System Under Uncertainty, Naturwissenschaften September 1998, Volume 85, Issue 9, pp 411-425
 Rosner, Lisa (2004), The Technological Fix: How People Use Technology to Create and Solve Problems, Routledge: New York
 Sörlin, Sverker (2016), Science, Geopolitics and Culture in the Polar Region: Norden Beyond Borders, Taylor and Francis
 Bolin, Bert (1959), The Atmosphere and the Sea in Motion: Scientific Contributions to the Rossby Memorial Volume, Rockefeller Institute Press