a story lives forever
Sign in
Form submission failed!

Stay signed in

Recover your password?
Form submission failed!

Web of Stories Ltd would like to keep you informed about our products and services.

Please tick here if you would like us to keep you informed about our products and services.

I have read and accepted the Terms & Conditions.

Please note: Your email and any private information provided at registration will not be passed on to other individuals or organisations without your specific approval.

Video URL

You must be registered to use this feature. Sign in or register.


Two offers of presidency of The Royal Society


Climate change and the greenhouse effect
Aaron Klug Scientist
Comments (0) Please sign in or register to add comments

There was already a strong indication of global warming and in fact, George [Porter] brought his own work on atmospheric chemistry to help explain the depletion of the ozone hole. That was discovered by the British Antarctic Survey, but most people don't distinguish between the depletion of the ozone and global warming, they are two quite separate phenomena. And in fact, George Porter had been involved in getting CFCs carbon... chlorine fluorocarbons... CFCs, what does that stand for? Chlorofluorocarbons, the things they use in propellants, in refrigerators and things like that... some of his photochemistry had explained that. So at the time when I joined we were discussing the evidence for global warming, and I became particularly interested in this, and at the Royal Society, we produced a pamphlet suitably published in a green cover, called The Greenhouse Effect. And what this was argued was that purely on a physical basis if you have gasses like CO2 and methane producing, they reduce the amount of heat that gets dissipated from the earth, and you get... the same energy from the sun keeps falling in, so later on I took to saying the physics is incontrovertible and I think it is. The question is this: there are of course long periods during... which the climate has changed, but by then there was already evidence that the climate was changing much more rapidly than had ever happened before. So we produced this pamphlet on the greenhouse effect. I had a hand in making the corrections, amendations to it, but the... and it was the... and it argued that this would affect, we didn't know how much the man-made contribution was, but clearly from the production of the amount of carbon dioxide, it must be quite serious. And this woke up people to... so-called climatologists, to start calculating and planning, trying to calculate these things. But a long of things weren't named, for example what sinks there were in the deep oceans for carbon dioxide. Many people argue that the carbon dioxide... but already the other sinks for carbon dioxide of course are green trees, green plants and trees. But the trees are being cut down at a great rate in Brazil and Indonesia and places like that, so it was... so this was useful document and through the Royal Society and George Porter, it eventually led to the... setting up of the Inter-Governmental... Panel to study climate change, IGPCC, and that had Americans on it and so on. A lot of these was poo-hooed at first, particularly by the Americans and a figure in all this, who appears later, was a man called FO Seitz who wrote the standard work on solid state physics, I knew his work very well. Distinguished physicist who had been President of the National Academy of the US, which is a very powerful position, and later became Head of the Energy Institute which is a lobby in the United States which is saying that man-made pollution is negligible and that there's no problems, no crisis, so a formidable enemy, a formidable opponent, I don’t mean formidable opponent.

Born in Lithuania, Aaron Klug (1926-2018) was a British chemist and biophysicist. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1982 for developments in electron microscopy and his work on complexes of nucleic acids and proteins. He studied crystallography at the University of Cape Town before moving to England, completing his doctorate in 1953 at Trinity College, Cambridge. In 1981, he was awarded the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize from Columbia University. His long and influential career led to a knighthood in 1988. He was also elected President of the Royal Society, and served there from 1995-2000.

Listeners: Ken Holmes John Finch

Kenneth Holmes was born in London in 1934 and attended schools in Chiswick. He obtained his BA at St Johns College, Cambridge. He obtained his PhD at Birkbeck College, London working on the structure of tobacco mosaic virus with Rosalind Franklin and Aaron Klug. After a post-doc at Childrens' Hospital, Boston, where he started to work on muscle structure, he joined to the newly opened Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge where he stayed for six years. He worked with Aaron Klug on virus structure and with Hugh Huxley on muscle. He then moved to Heidelberg to open the Department of Biophysics at the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research where he remained as director until his retirement. During this time he completed the structure of tobacco mosaic virus and solved the structures of a number of protein molecules including the structure of the muscle protein actin and the actin filament. Recently he has worked on the molecular mechanism of muscle contraction. He also initiated the use of synchrotron radiation as a source for X-ray diffraction and founded the EMBL outstation at DESY Hamburg. He was elected to the Royal Society in 1981 and is a member of a number of scientific academies.

John Finch is a retired member of staff of the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK. He began research as a PhD student of Rosalind Franklin's at Birkbeck College, London in 1955 studying the structure of small viruses by x-ray diffraction. He came to Cambridge as part of Aaron Klug's team in 1962 and has continued with the structural study of viruses and other nucleoproteins such as chromatin, using both x-rays and electron microscopy.

Tags: British Antarctic Survey, The Royal Society, The Greenhouse Effect, George Porter, FO Seitz

Duration: 3 minutes, 52 seconds

Date story recorded: July 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008