A Brief History of How People are Dealing With Climate Change

climate change

It’s get­ting warmer. Birds are migrat­ing ear­li­er. Sum­mer fires are big­ger and ear­li­er. Just like claims that cig­a­rettes don’t cause can­cer, cli­mate change is real despite what any­one says. And the his­to­ry of tak­ing action goes a long way back. Here’s a cap­sule his­to­ry of what peo­ple have actu­al­ly been doing about it.

300 Mil­lion Years Ago: A bunch of car­bon-filled plants die and get buried into the muck, where they even­tu­al­ly become today’s oil, gas, and coal.

1763: James Watt invents the steam engine, launch­ing the indus­tri­al rev­o­lu­tion which con­cen­trates more humans in cities and work­ing in pow­ered industry.

1896: Chemist Svante Arrhe­nius makes the link between coal burn­ing and an indus­tri­al-scale green­house effect. His hand-done cal­cu­la­tions on the ratio of addi­tion­al CO2 to increase in tem­per­a­ture are very sim­i­lar to today’s com­put­er models.

Octo­ber 1, 1908: Ford Motor Com­pa­ny pro­duces the first Mod­el T, the first mass-con­sumer car that brought car­bon-inten­sive con­sumer goods to the Amer­i­can pub­lic at a mas­sive scale. Car cul­ture has been with us ever since.

1957: Oceanog­ra­phers Roger Rev­elle debunk they idea that sea­wa­ter will absorb all the addi­tion­al CO2 enter­ing the atmos­phere Rev­elle writes: “Human beings are now car­ry­ing out a large scale geo­phys­i­cal exper­i­ment on themselves.”

1975:  Wal­lace Broeck­er, lat­er called “The God­fa­ther of Cli­mate Sci­ence” puts the term “glob­al warm­ing” into the title of a sci­en­tif­ic paper. Com­bined with the envi­ron­men­tal aware­ness of the 60s and 70s, the phrase enters the pub­lic consciousness.

April 18, 1977: Pres­i­dent Jim­my Carter, in what would be known as “The Cardi­gan Speech” address­es the nation on the impor­tance of ener­gy con­ser­va­tion as a way to both free the nation from trou­bling pol­i­tics in the mid­dle east and to avert an “eco­nom­ic, social, and polit­i­cal crisis .”

1989: Repub­li­can Pres­i­dent George H.W. Bush imple­ments an inno­v­a­tive pol­i­cy to curb acid rain. Called “Cap and Trade” it allowed com­pa­nies to sell cred­its when they reduced their emis­sions. It’s now con­sid­ered a major pol­i­cy solu­tion for reduc­ing CO2 emis­sions and is in place in the Euro­pean Union.

2005: Frus­trat­ed with Con­gres­sion­al inac­tion, 9 states (CT, DE, ME, MD, MA, NH, NY, RI, VT) enact their own Cap-and-Trade agreement.

2007: Al Gore and the Inter­gov­ern­men­tal Com­mis­sion on Cli­mate Change win the Nobel Peace Prize, giv­ing Gore the tri­fec­ta: the Nobel Prize, an Oscar for An Incon­ve­nient Truth, and the pop­u­lar vote for US Pres­i­dent in 2000.

2012: The Toy­ota Prius Hybrid becomes the world’s third best-sell­ing car of the year.

2013: Angela Park writes Everybody’s Move­ment not­ing that cli­mate change has every­day health and eco­nom­ic effects on people—especially low-income people—as much as on ice caps and polar bears.

2015: Sen­a­tor James Inhofe (R‑OK) attempts to dis­prove cli­mate change by bring­ing a snow­ball into the Senate.

2016: Pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Don­ald Trump tweets that cli­mate change is a hoax per­pe­trat­ed by the Chi­nese. On the next Earth Day, April 22, 2017. 1.07 mil­lion Amer­i­cans par­tic­i­pate in the March for Sci­ence in 66 cities.