Scientists were warning about the dangers of climate change even before America discovered and used oil on an industrial scale. Here, in the second of three posts, we see how in the 1980s it appeared politicians would rise to the challenges it presents…
James Hansen was the first scientist to detect the current rise in global temperatures, but he certainly was not the first to understand the effect greenhouse gases have on global temperatures.
It was well understood for centuries that without carbon dioxide, the Earth would be too cold to maintain life as we know it. Warnings about climate change in fact predate the discovery of oil.
In 1824, Joseph Fourier discovered the “greenhouse effect” and explained how heat from the sun is trapped in the Earth's atmosphere. In 1861, the Irish scientist John Tyndall confirmed different gases in the atmosphere—such as carbon dioxide—could change the temperature of the planet.