People have not always known about global warming. The idea had to start somewhere. The history of the global warming concept is probably older than you might think. It all began in the late 1800’s.
There was a scientist named Svante Arrhenius who was studying fossil fuel combustion in Sweden towards the end of the 19th century. An 1859 prediction claimed that the burning of such fuels would eventually lead to the process of global warming. Svante Arrhenius recognized that temperatures on the earth’s surface were related to carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.
Arrhenius studied global warming to find out the average surface temperature of earth. He figured that doubling the carbon dioxide in a greenhouse effect would raise the surface temperature by five degrees Celsius. He also concluded that human activities could be to blame for future global warming. His focus, though, was on how much carbon dioxide would have to be taken away to cause global cooling.
Infrared spectroscopy was developed in the 1940’s that could be used to measure the sun’s radiation. It was used to measure the absorption of radiation with and without added carbon dioxide. Gilbert Plass determined that the increased carbon dioxide would cause the earth to absorb more radiation, and so cause global warming.
From late in the 1950’s to early in the 1960’s, Charles Keeling produced curves of the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. He showed the scientific community that the earth had gone through 32 distinct weather variations. It had previously been thought that there had only been four. This raised alarms of ice ages rather than global warming.
Much changed in the 1980’s. The curve was followed and it was discovered that temperatures were getting higher at a rapid rate. Suddenly people stopped preparing for a cooling planet and began pondering global warming. Since Stephen Schneider first gave global warming a name and predicted its coming, which he did in 1976, the emphasis on the subject by the media grew more and more intense.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was created in 1988, just as the greenhouse effect was being named. In the IPCC, there are 2500 experts in all fields of study that are affecting and are affected by global warming. These include such diverse specialties as meteorology, economics, medicine, and oceanography, for example. The IPCC is still actively seeking information on global warming.
The term “the greenhouse effect” has fallen somewhat out of favor since 1990. Statistics did not follow the predicted course for the theory. However, the Kyoto Protocol, negotiated in Kyoto Japan, was aimed at preventing and correcting global warming.
Global warming is still a term that is in use and making the news daily. Since Al Gore’s movie, An Inconvenient Truth, people have been more aware of the problem than ever. Presently, there are scientists, celebrities, and all manner of people who are working on solutions for global warming.
The history of inquiry into the nature of global warming is over 110 years old. There have been advances and retreats in the science. However, the future of global warming research and activism seems positive.
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* Course Description:
Earth & Space Science 15: Introduction to Oceanography is a class that provides a general introduction to geological, physical, chemical, and biological processes and history of Earth’s global oceanic system.
About the Professor:
Edwin Schauble is an Associate Professor from UCLAs Department of Geochemistry and Astrobiology. His current area of study and collaboration include species-dependent isotopic signatures in dissolved iron, spectroscopic signatures and thermodynamic properties of dissolved silica, non-mass dependent isotopic fractionation in heavy elements, calibration of the 13C-18O clumping paleothermometer, and the possibility of silicon as an alloying element in the Earths core.
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Blue Planet: Oceanography, Lec 1, E&S Sci 15, UCLA