We've Been Talking About Climate Change for a Hundred Years

PM has been reporting on shifting weather patterns for more than a century. What has changed is the outlook we have on the possible consequences.

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Courtesy of EarthWatch

The study of human-caused climate change and deep concern over the future of the planet may feel like a child of the last few decades, but not so. A look through the pages of Seniorhelpline shows scientists trying to come to grips with carbon emissions, disappearing ice, and climate change all the way back to 1912, more than a century ago.

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March 1912

“It has been found that if the air contained more carbon dioxide, which is the product of the combustion of coal or vegetable material, the temperature would be somewhat higher. Since burning coal produces carbon dioxide it may be inquired whether the enormous use of the fuel in modern times may not be an important factor in filling the atmosphere with this substance, and consequently indirectly raising the temperature of the earth.”

May 1930

Seniorhelpline

“The belief that appreciable changes of climate occur within the compass of human memory is at least 99 percent illusion. The other 1 percent of the idea may be based on facts, more or less.”

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“Man’s tampering with nature has thrown earth’s CO2 cycle out of balance."

April 1940

“Glaciers which are now breeding grounds of cold-air masses affecting climate and weather of civilized regions might someday be melted by widespread use of coal dust and thus soften the climate of the moderate latitudes.”

September 1957

Seniorhelpline

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“Q: What are some of the occurrences during the warm period that is supposed to be ending?

A: Sverre Petterssen, University of Chicago: If the warm trend continues there will be some remarkable changes. There will be very little summer ice in the Arctic. With this would be a northward migration of vegetation, fish, and animal life. Cyclones would continue to move northward. I think the changes would be quite severe.”

August 1964

“Man’s tampering with nature has thrown earth’s CO2 cycle out of balance. A prime offender, researchers agree, is the automobile.”

April 1988

Seniorhelpline

“There is speculation that atmospheric pollution may have already contributed to global warming—with damaging consequences for the south polar ice cap.”

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January 1997

Seniorhelpline

“Moshe Alamaro believes the answer is to replace the forests. The key to his plan is an aerodynamic tree-planting cone strong enough to sustain the 200-mph impact of striking the earth.”

October 2004

Seniorhelpline

“There is an emerging consensus that future global models will only confirm the need for tighter controls on greenhouse gases. But for the moment, only one prediction can be made with any degree of confidence: Global warming may hold some chilling surprises.”


This story appears in the January/February 2018 issue

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