1958 – Frank Capra warns of Global Warming

In 1958, Director Frank Capra made a movie for Bell Labs to explain the expected effects of ‘Global Warming’. This was shortly after Revelle’s paper came out. Capra, was also a scientist who graduated from California Institute of Technology in 1918 and did many science films for education.

Frank Capra

Frank Capra: Arsenic & Old Lace

Frank Capra produced a series of science films for Bell Laboratories including: Our Mr. Sun (1956), Hemo the Magnificent (1957), The Strange Case of the Cosmic Rays (1957), and Meteora: The Unchained Goddess (1958).

It was in the ‘Unchained Goddess series that he focused an episode on climate science.

Capra himself had a degree from Cal Tech in chemical engineering. He used his knowledge in engineering in his film-making as well. In doing the science education series, his knowledge served him in understanding what the science of the time meant. It was already reasonably well known through the work of Callendar and Revelle that mankind was in the process of changing the climate of earth.

Based on that knowledge, Capra poignantly portrayed, through film, what might be expected from such changes.


Frank Capra, Meteora: “The Unchained Goddess” (1958)

From the script:

Dr. Frank C. Baxter:

“Extremely dangerous questions. Because with our present knowledge we have no idea what would happen?  Even now, man may be unwittingly changing the worlds climate through the waste products of his civilization. Due to our release through factories and automobiles every year of more than 6 billion tons of carbon dioxide, which helps air absorb heat from the sun, our atmosphere seems to be getting warmer.”

Richard Carlson:

“This is bad?”

Dr. Frank C. Baxter:

“Well, it’s been calculated a few degrees rise in the earths temperature would melt the polar ice caps. And if this happens, an inland sea would fill a good portion of the Mississippi valley. Tourists in glass bottom boats would be viewing the drowned towers of Miami through 150 feet of tropical water. For in weather, were not only dealing with forces of a far greater variety than even the atomic physicist encounters, but with life itself.”

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