A Greenhouse Timeline

From http://www.newscientist.com/hottopics/climate/climatetimeline.jsp

The following timeline traces the problem of global warming
and describes key developments in the field
from 1827 to 2001

Note: This is the final text you will read. After you finish reading this text, click on the link at the bottom of this page to access the comprehension questions.

A greenhouse timeline from 1827 to the present

1827: French polymath Jean-Baptiste Fourier suggests the existence of an atmospheric effect keeping the Earth warmer than it would otherwise be. He also uses the analogy of a greenhouse

1863: Irish scientist John Tyndall publishes paper describing how water vapour can be a greenhouse gas

1890s: Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius and an American, P.C. Chamberlain, independently consider the problems that might be caused by CO2 building up in the atmosphere. Both scientists realise that the burning of fossil fuels could lead to global warming, but neither suspect the process might already have started

1890s to 1940: Average surface air temperatures increase by about 0.25 C. Some scientist see the American Dust Bowl as a sign of the greenhouse effect at work

1940 to 1970: Worldwide cooling of 0.2 C. Scientific interest in greenhouse effect wanes. Some climatologists predict a new ice age

1957: US oceanographer Roger Revelle warns that people are conducting a "large-scale geophysical experiment" on the planet by releasing greenhouse gases. Colleague David Keeling sets up first continuous monitoring of CO2 levels in the atmosphere. Immediately Keeling finds regular year-on-year rise

1970s: Series of studies by the US Department of Energy increases concerns about future global warming

1979: First World Climate Conference adopts climate change as major issue and calls on governments "to foresee and prevent potential man-made changes in climate"

1985: First major international conference on the greenhouse effect at Villach, Austria, warns that greenhouse gases will "in the first half of the next century, cause a rise of global mean temperature which is greater than any in man's history". This could cause sea levels to rise by up to a metre, researchers say. Conference also reports that gases other than CO2, such as methane, ozone, CFCs and nitrous oxide, will also contribute to warming

1987: Warmest year on record. The 1980s turn out to be the warmest decade, with seven of the eight warmest years recorded up to 1990. Even the coldest years in the 1980s were warmer than the warmest years of the 1880s

1988: Global warming attracts worldwide headlines after scientists at Congressional hearings in Washington DC blame major US drought on its influence. Meeting of climate scientists in Toronto subsequently calls for 20 per cent cuts in global CO2 emissions by the year 2005. UN sets up the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to analyse and report on scientific findings

1990: The first report of the IPCC finds that the planet has warmed by 0.5 C in the past century. IPCC warns that only strong measures to halt rising greenhouse gas emissions will prevent serious global warming. Provides scientific clout for UN negotiations for a climate convention. Negotiations begin after the UN General Assembly in December

1991: Mount Pinatubo erupts in the Philippines, throwing debris into the stratosphere that shields the Earth from solar energy, which helps interrupt the warming trend. Average temperatures drop for two years before rising again. Scientists point out that this event shows how sensitive global temperatures are to disruption

1992: Climate Change Convention, signed by 154 nations in Rio, agrees to prevent "dangerous" warming from greenhouse gases and sets initial target of reducing emissions from industrialised countries to 1990 levels by the year 2000

1994: The Alliance of Small Island States - many of whom fear they will disappear beneath the waves as sea levels rise - adopt demand for 20 per cent cuts in emissions by the year 2005. This, they say, will cap sea-level rise at 20 centimetres

1995: Hottest year yet. In March, the Berlin Mandate is agreed by signatories at the first full meeting of the Climate Change Convention in Berlin. Industrialised nations agree on the need to negotiate real cuts in their emissions, to be concluded by the end of 1997

In November, the IPCC casts caution to the winds and agrees that current warming "is unlikely to be entirely natural in origin" and that "the balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate". Report predicts that, under a "business as usual" scenario, global warming by the year 2100 will be between 1 C and 3.5 C

1996: At the second meeting of the Climate Change Convention, the US agrees for the first time to legally binding emissions targets and sides with the IPCC against influential "sceptical" scientists. After a four-year pause, global emissions of CO2 resume steep climb, and scientists warn that most industrialised countries will not meet Rio agreement to stabilise emissions at 1990 levels by the year 2000

1997: Kyoto Protocol agrees legally binding emissions cuts for industrialised nations, averaging 5.4 per cent, to be met by 2010. The meeting also adopts a series of flexibility measures, allowing countries to meet their targets partly by trading emissions permits, establishing carbon sinks such as forests to soak up emissions, and by investing in other countries. The precise rules are left for further negotiations. Meanwhile, the US government says it will not ratify the agreement unless it sees evidence of "meaningful participation" in reducing emissions from developing countries

1998: Follow-up negotiations in Buenos Aires fail to resolve disputes over the Kyoto "rule book", but agree on a deadline for resolution by the end of 2000. 1998 is the hottest year in the hottest decade of the hottest century of the millennium

2000: Scientist re-assess likely future emissions and warn that, if things go badly, the world could warm by 6 C within a century. Series of major floods around the world reinforce fears that global warming is raising the risk of extreme weather events. But in November, crunch talks held in The Hague to finalise the "Kyoto rule book" fail to reach agreement after EU and US fall out. Decisions postponed until at least May 2001.

2001: The new US president, George W. Bush, renounces the Kyoto Protocol because he believes it will damage the US economy. After some hesitation, other nations agree to go ahead without him. Talks in Bonn in July and Marrakech in November finally conclude the fine print of the protocol. Analysts say that loopholes have pegged promised cuts in emissions from rich-nation signatories to 1.5 per cent, compared to the Kyoto promise of 5.4 per cent. Signatory nations urged to ratify the protocol in their national legislatures in time for it to come into force before the end of 2002.

Now click on the link to access the Comprehension Questions for the Greenhouse readings

Page last updated on August 3, 2004
© 2004--Loretta F. Kasper, Ph.D.--All Rights Reserved