By the late nineteenth century, oil was discovered in Pennsylvania and the internal combustion engine was developed, fuelling the development of a car-oriented economy in the twentieth century. At the same time, electricity generation was developed, enabling the use of oil and coal to light and heat homes, and make all sorts of home appliances possible, from fridges to plasma-screen televisions. Shortly after, engines were developed for aviation. Common to all these developments were technologies that expand and intensify the amount of 'ancient sunlight' that we use.

By the early 1960s, it became clear that this use of ancient sunlight had triggered a noticeable change in the gases in the atmosphere. We had known in 1827 that the CO2 in the atmosphere was one of the determinants of climate. Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius argued for the first time in 1896 that burning coal and oil could increase the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere and thus lead to warming. By 1963 we knew that CO2 in the atmosphere was going up year on year, based on measurements of atmospheric CO2 started by Charles Keeling in Hawaii in 1958.5

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