ca. 1400-1850 Little Ice Age covers the Earth with record cold, large glaciers, and snow. There is widespread disease, starvation, and death.
1800-70 The levels of CO2 in the atmosphere are 290 ppm.
1824 Jean-Baptiste Joseph Fourier, a French mathematician and physicist, calculates that the Earth would be much colder without its protective atmosphere.
1827 Jean-Baptiste Joseph Fourier presents his theory about the Earth's warming. At this time many believe warming is a positive thing.
1859 John Tyndall, an Irish physicist, discovers that some gases exist in the atmosphere that block infrared radiation. He presents the concept that changes in the concentration of atmospheric gases could cause the climate to change.
1894 Beginning of the industrial pollution of the environment.
1913-14 Svante Arrhenius discovers the greenhouse effect and predicts that the Earth's atmosphere will continue to warm. He predicts that the atmosphere will not reach dangerous levels for thousands of years, so his theory is not received with any urgency.
1920-25 Texas and the Persian Gulf bring productive oil wells into operation, which begins the world's dependency on a relatively inexpensive form of energy.
1934 The worst dust storm of the dust bowl occurs in the United States on what historians would later call Black Sunday. Dust storms are a product of drought and soil erosion.
1945 The U.S. Office of Naval Research begins supporting many fields of science, including those that deal with climate change issues.
Guy S. Callendar, a British steam engineer and inventor, propounds the theory that the greenhouse effect is linked to human actions and will cause problems. No one takes him too seriously, but scientists do begin to develop new ways to measure climate.
Technological developments enable increased awareness about global warming and the enhanced greenhouse effect. Studies confirm a steadily rising CO2 level. The public begins to notice and becomes concerned with air pollution issues.
U.S. scientist Charles David Keeling of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography detects a yearly rise in atmospheric CO2. He begins collecting continuous CO2 readings at an observatory on Mauna Loa, Hawaii. The results became known as the famous Keeling Curve.
Studies show that water vapor plays a significant part in making the climate sensitive to changes in CO2 levels.
Studies reveal the potential collapse of the Antarctic ice sheet, which would raise sea levels to dangerous heights, causing damage to places worldwide.
Studies with ice cores reveal large climate shifts in the past.
Significant drought and other unusual weather phenomenon over the past two years cause increased concern about climate change not only among scientists but with the public as a whole.
Deforestation and other impacts on the ecosystem start to receive attention as major issues in the future of the world's climate.
The scientific community begins focusing on global warming as a serious threat needing to be addressed within the next century.
The World Climate Research Programme is launched to coordinate international research on global warming and climate change.
1982 Greenland ice cores show significant temperature oscillations over the past century.
1983 The greenhouse effect and related issues get pushed into the political arena through reports from the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Environmental Protection Agency.
1984-90 The media begins to make global warming and its enhanced greenhouse effect a common topic among Americans. Many critics emerge.
1987 An ice core from Antarctica analyzed by French and Russian scientists reveals an extremely close correlation between CO2 and temperature going back more than 100,000 years.
1988 The United Nations set up a scientific authority to review the evidence on global warming. It is called the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and consists of 2,500 scientists from countries around the world.
1989 The first IPCC report says that levels of human-made greenhouse gases are steadily increasing in the atmosphere and predicts that they will cause global warming.
1990 An appeal signed by 49 Nobel prizewinners and 700 members of the National Academy of Sciences states, "There is broad agreement within the scientific community that amplification of the Earth's natural greenhouse effect by the buildup of various gases introduced by human activity has the potential to produce dramatic changes in climate . . . Only by taking action now can we insure that future generations will not be put at risk."
1992 The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), known informally as the Earth Summit, begins on June 3 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It results in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Agenda 21, the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development Statement of Forest Principles, and the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity.
1993 Greenland ice cores suggest that significant climate change can occur within one decade.
1995 The second IPCC report is issued and concludes there is a human-caused component to the greenhouse effect warming. The consensus is that serious warming is likely in the coming century. Reports on the breaking up of Antarctic ice sheets and other signs of warming in the polar regions are now beginning to catch the public's attention.
1997 The third conference of the parties to the Framework Convention on Climate Change is held in Kyoto, Japan. Adopted on December 11, a document called the Kyoto Protocol commits its signatories to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.
2000 Climatologists label the 1990s the hottest decade on record.
2001 The IPPC's third report states that the evidence for anthropogenic global warming is incontrovertible, but that its effects on climate are still difficult to pin down. President Bush declares scientific uncertainty too great to justify Kyoto Protocol's targets.
The United States Global Change Research Program releases the findings of the National Assessment of the Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change. The assessment finds that temperatures in the United States will rise by 5 to 9°F (3-5°C) over the next century and predicts increases in both very wet (flooding) and very dry (drought) conditions. Many ecosystems are vulnerable to climate change. Water supply for human consumption and irrigation is at risk due to increased probability of drought, reduced snow pack, and increased risk of flooding. Sea-level rise and storm surges will most likely damage coastal infrastructure.
Heavy rains cause disastrous flooding in Central Europe leading to more than 100 deaths and more than $30 billion in damage. Extreme drought in many parts of the world (Africa, India,
Australia, and the United States) results in thousands of deaths and significant crop damage. President Bush calls for 10 more years of research on climate change to clear up remaining uncertainties and proposes only voluntary measures to mitigate climate change until 2012.
2003 U.S. senators John McCain and Joseph Lieberman introduce a bipartisan bill to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases nationwide via a greenhouse gas emission cap and trade program.
Scientific observations raise concern that the collapse of ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland can raise sea levels faster than previously thought.
A deadly summer heat wave in Europe convinces many in Europe of the urgency of controlling global warming but does not equally capture the attention of those living in the United States.
The level of CO2 in the atmosphere reaches 382 ppm.
2005 Kyoto Protocol takes effect on February 16. In addition, global warming is a topic at the G8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, where country leaders in attendance recognize climate change as a serious, long-term challenge.
Hurricane Katrina forces the U.S. public to face the issue of global warming.
2006 Former U.S. vice president Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth draws attention to global warming in the United States.
Sir Nicholas Stern, former World Bank economist, reports that global warming will cost up to 20 percent of worldwide gross domestic product if nothing is done about it now.
2007 IPCC's fourth assessment report says glacial shrinkage, ice loss, and permafrost retreat are all signs that climate change is underway now. They predict a higher risk of drought, floods, and more powerful storms during the next 100 years. As a result, hunger, homelessness, and disease will increase. The atmosphere may warm 1.8 to 4.0°C and sea levels may rise 7 to 23 inches (18 to 59 cm) by the year 2100.
Al Gore and the IPCC share the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to bring the critical issues of global warming to the world's attention.
2008 The price of oil reached and surpassed $100 per barrel, leaving some countries paying more than $10 per gallon.
U.S. wind energy capacity reaches 10,000 megawatts, which is enough to power 2.5 million homes.
2009 President Obama takes office and vows to address the issue of global warming and climate change by allowing individual states to move forward in controlling greenhouse gas emissions. As a result, American automakers can prepare for the future and build cars of tomorrow and reduce the country's dependence on foreign oil. Perhaps these measures will help restore national security and the health of the planet, and the U.S. government will no longer ignore the scientific facts.
The year 2009 will be a crucial year in the effort to address climate change. The meeting on December 7-18 in Copenhagen, Denmark, of the UN Climate Change Conference promises to shape an effective response to climate change. The snapping of an ice bridge in April 2009 linking the Wilkins Ice Shelf (the size of Jamaica) to Antarctic islands could cause the ice shelf to break away, the latest indication that there is no time to lose in addressing global warming.
Was this article helpful?