Many of the findings of the Charney Report on CO2 induced climate change (1979) are still valid, despite 30 additional years of climate research and observations. This paper considers the reasons why the report was so prescient, and assesses the progress achieved since its publication. We suggest that emphasis on the importance of physical understanding gained through the use of theory and simple models, both in isolation and as an aid in the interpretation of the results of General Circulation Models, provided much of the authors’ insight at the time. Increased emphasis on these aspects of research is likely to continue to be productive in the future, and even to constitute one of the most efficient routes towards improved climate change assessments.
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