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.