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Climate Change History

Scientists cite greenhouse gases as the number one cause of global warming. The greenhouse analogy was first used by French physicist Jean Baptiste Joseph Fourier in 1827, long before the general population was concerned about global warming. Swedish scientist Svante August Arrhenius built on Fourier’s work in 1896 and correctly determined that carbon dioxide produced by the combustion of fossil fuels would augment the Earth’s natural greenhouse effect and produce global warming.

At first, many scientists struggled to accept Arrhenius’s theory until the late 1950s, when studies of carbon dioxide measurements were conducted in Hawaii. The study confirmed the rise of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and in 1967, computer simulations determined that global average temperatures might increase by more than four degrees Fahrenheit if carbon dioxide levels were not controlled. Over the next 20 years, additional studies confirmed Arrhenius’s theory and encouraged the international community to take action regarding global warming.In 1979, scientists from around the world gathered in Geneva at the World Meteorological Organization‘s first major global warming conference. Throughout the conference, scientists from a wide range of disciplines discussed climate data and impact studies in an effort to help countries cope with climate changes.

Eleven years later, the United Nations founded an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and warned that strong measures would be necessary to prevent significant global warming.

In 1992, Rio de Janeiro hosted the Earth Summit, a gathering of representatives from 145 nations. During the summit, representatives signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, a non-binding document that challenged countries to set voluntary targets for reducing the emission of greenhouse gases. In 1997, the Kyoto Protocol was signed by 178 countries. The legally-binding document required signatory nations to cut emissions beginning in 2005.

Since then, the IPCC has announced that the Earth’s average temperature has risen by 0.8 degrees Celsius. Even in the face of this alarming discovery, over one third of the world’s population remains unaware of global warming. Misunderstandings abound about the cause of climate change, and many people around the world reject the fact that most global warming is caused by human activities. Others believe that the media exaggerates the problem and therefore underestimate the serious consequences global warming has had and will continue to have on the planet’s ecosystems, weather patterns and wildlife.