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On a 35th Anniversary, Revisiting Why We Trusted the 'Most Trusted Man in America' (VIDEO)

04/03/2015 03:58 pm ET | Updated Jun 03, 2015

Many Americans recognize that the introduction of the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards was a key tool in reducing U.S. oil demand in the face of OPEC's emergence and the various oil embargoes.  While today liquid fuel (oil) and electricity have minimal overlap in most of the developed world, few recall that oil once provided a major share of U.S. electricity production, and that, to quote the video below, "increased reliance on coal was a crucial part of the Carter administration energy program," as part of the effort to reduce oil import requirements and the risks of foreign disruption of our fuel supplies.

With this in mind, on April 3, 1980, Walter Cronkite, the so-called "most trusted man in America," spent a few minutes of the CBS Evening News exploring the implications of coal burning and its carbon dioxide emissions for global warming:

While this was actually (somewhat) true before this, 35 years ago "scientists and a few politicians [were] beginning to worry that global energy planning [did] not take the greenhouse effect seriously enough," according to the CBS segment.

"They fear the Earth will gradually become warmer," the segment told viewers, "causing as yet uncertain but possibly disruptive changes in the Earth's climate 50 to 70 years from now."

Sadly, that timeline was perhaps too optimistic.

"If the earth gets too warm, for example, ice caps could melt, raising the level of the seas," the segment continued.

The segment proceeded to show U.S. Sen. Paul Tsongas (D-Massachusetts) warning of the potential impacts of sea level rise:

Possible? Probable? We really don't know. But if it happens, it means goodbye, Miami; goodbye, Corpus Christi; goodbye, Sacramento; goodbye, Boston...; goodbye, New Orleans; goodbye, Charleston, Savannah, and Norfolk.

Perhaps this will be the children's book to replace Goodnight Moon later in the century: Goodbye, Miami.

But it seems it wasn't all dreary prospects for those inside the Beltway. Sen. Tsongas went on to quip:

On the positive side, it means that we could enjoy boating at the foot of the Capitol, and fishing on the South Lawn.

Hat tip to Peter Sinclair