History of climate change
Climate change has become a huge threat for the world.
The history of climate change reveals that the issue is not a recent phenomenon but it dates back to seventies.
Climate change is associated with the increasing number of population globally.
Humans are the main cause behind growing risk of climate change.
The change in weather patterns is what basically ‘climate change’ is.
In 1712, Thomas Newcomen invented first widely used steam engine, which set the way for the Industrial Revolution.
In 1800, world population swelled to one billion.
French physicist Joseph Fourier described the Earth’s natural ‘greenhouse effect’ in 1824, he wrote: ‘The temperature of the Earth can be augmented by the interposition of the atmosphere, because heat in the state of light finds less resistance in penetrating the air, than in re-passing into the air when converted into non-luminous heat.’
In the year 1861, Irish physicist John Tyndall showed that water vapour and certain other gases produce the greenhouse effect.
He concluded that: ‘This aqueous vapour is a blanket more necessary to the vegetable life of England than clothing is to man’.
He was honoured for founding UK’s first prominent his climate research organisation, the Tyndall Centre, named after him.
In 1886, Karl Benz unveiled the Motorwagen, also assumed as the first true automobile.
Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius, in 1896, concluded that industrial-age coal burning will enhance the natural greenhouse effect.
He suggested this might be beneficial for future generations.
His conclusions on the likely size of the ‘man-made greenhouse’ are in the same ballpark, a few degrees Celsius for a doubling of CO2 — as modern-day climate models.
The one third century of climate change saw the effect of steam engine to the man-made greenhouse.
In 1900, another Swede, Knut Angstrom, discovered that at the tiny concentrations found in the atmosphere, CO2 strongly absorbs parts of the infrared spectrum.
Although he does not realise the significance, Angstrom has shown that a trace gas can produce greenhouse warming.
In 1927, carbon emissions from fossil fuel burning and industry reached one billion tonnes per year. And in 1930, human population reached two billion.
The year 1938 saw the usage of records from 147 weather stations around the world. British engineer Guy Callendar showed that temperatures had risen over the previous century.
He also showed that CO2 concentrations had increased over the same period, and suggested this caused the warming.
As Ban Ki-Moon said, we have only one planet that is friendly to life.
Therefore, climate change must be curbed for the sake of future generations
It was US scientist Wallace Broecker who first coined the term ‘global warming’ and got it publicized.
One can assume that the term global warming was first used in 1975. And 1987, human population reached five billion.
In 1987, Montreal Protocol was agreed.
It restricted chemicals that damage the ozone layer.
Although not established with climate change in mind, it has had a greater impact on greenhouse gas emissions than the Kyoto Protocol. 1988 — Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) formed to accumulate and assess evidence on climate change.
UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, possessor of a chemistry degree, warned in a speech to the UN in 1989 that: ‘We are seeing a vast increase in the amount of carbon dioxide reaching the atmosphere… The result is that change in future is likely to be more fundamental and more widespread than anything we have known hitherto.’ She called for a global treaty on climate change.
Whereas in 1989, carbon emissions from fossil fuel burning and industry reached six billion tonnes per year.
In 1990, IPCC produced First Assessment Report.
Which concluded that temperatures have risen by 0.3-0.6C over the last century, which humanity’s emissions are adding to the atmosphere’s natural complement of greenhouse gases, and the addition would be expected to result in warming.
In 1992, at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, governments of different countries came close to agree the United Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Whom key objective is ‘stabilisation of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system’. Developed countries agree to return their emissions to 1990 levels. And in the year 1995, IPCC Second Assessment Report concluded that the balance of evidence suggests ‘a discernible human influence’ on the Earth’s climate.
This has been called the first definitive statement that humans are responsible for climate change. And this second report showed that humans are the main responsible entities which get climate change occurred. In 1999, human population reached six billion.
In 2001, President George W Bush removed the US from the Kyoto process.
In 2001, the IPCC Third Assessment Report found ‘new and stronger evidence’ that humanity’s emissions of greenhouse gases are the main cause of the warming seen in the second half of the 20th Century.
In 2005, The Kyoto Protocol become international law for those countries still inside it.
In the same year 2005, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair selected climate change as a priority for his terms as chair of the G8 and president of the EU. And in 2006, The Stern Review concluded that climate change could damage global GDP by up to 20 percent if left unchecked, but curbing it would cost about one percent of global GDP.
However, carbon emissions from fossil fuel burning and industry reached eight billion tonnes per year in 2006.
In the 2007, the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report concluded that it is more than 90% likely that humanity’s emissions of greenhouse gases are responsible for modern-day climate change.
In 2007, the IPCC and former US vice-president Al Gore received the Nobel Peace Prize ‘for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change’.
About 2007, at the UN negotiations in Bali, governments agreed the two-year ‘Bali roadmap’ aimed at hammering out a new global treaty by the end of 2009. And in 2008, half a century after beginning observations at Mauna Loa, the Keeling project showed that CO2 concentrations have risen from 315 parts per million (ppm) in 1958 to 380ppm in 2008.
In 2008, two months before taking office, incoming US president Barack Obama pledged to ‘engage vigorously’ with the rest of the world on climate change.
In the year 2009, China overtook the US as the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitter, although the US remained well ahead on a per-capita basis. And in 2009, computer hackers downloaded the huge tranche of emails from a server at the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit and released some on the internet, leading to the ‘Climate Gate’ affair. In 2009, 192 governments convened for the UN climate summit in Copenhagen with expectations of a new global agreement, but they left only with a controversial political declaration, the Copenhagen Accord. And in 2010, the developed countries began contributing to a $30bn, three-year deal on ‘Fast Start Finance’ to help them ‘green’ their economies and adapt to climate impacts. 2010 — A series of reviews into ‘Climate Gate’ and the IPCC ask for more openness, but clear scientists of malpractice. In 2010, the UN summit in Mexico did not collapse, as had been feared, but ended with agreements on a number of issues.
In 2011, a new analysis of the Earth’s temperature record by scientists concerned over the ‘Climate Gate’ allegations proved the planet’s land surface really had warmed over the last century. And in 2011, human population reached seven billion. In the same this year 2011, data showed concentrations of greenhouse gases are rising faster than in previous years.
In 2013, the Mauna Loa Observatory on Hawaii reported that the daily mean concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has surpassed 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time since measurements began in 1958. And in 2013, the first part of the IPCC’s fifth assessment report says scientists are 95 percent certain that humans are the ‘dominant cause’ of global warming since the 1950s.
As Ban Ki-Moon said, we have only one planet that is friendly to life.
So we need to make it greener not for today but for the upcoming generations.
We all have to realise that our today’s actions should not leave a negative impact on environment that will impact our coming generations.
The writer is a researcher, freelance contributor and MEAL officer in a NGO at Hyderabad, Sindh. E-mail: email@example.com. Tweeter @furqanppolicy
Published in Daily Times, February 25th 2018.
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