Chronology of Climate Change Alarmism in Climate Science
This is an ongoing project to use a chronological annotated bibliography to develop a background to the recent history of Climate Change Science with attention to its implications for the history and philosophy of science generally. Additions and comments welcome. I have drawn selectively from The AIP Bibliography by Weart and his chronology. For key articles in the AGW story see James Fleming’s List. While these two sites have helped build this resources, many publications and events relevant to the skeptical perspective on this story are not mentioned at either of these sites.
1720s Standardization of the measure of temperature by thermometers: the scale of G D Fahrenheit introduced.
1783 The influence of volcanic activity on climate: Volcanic eruptions in Iceland and an unusally cold summer cause the visiting Benjamin Franklin to speculate that the volcanic ‘fog’ might be the cause. By the end of the 19th century volcanic activity was a standing hypothesis for the cause of ice ages.
1837 Ice Age Theory: Louis Agassiz delivers a paper to the annual meeting of the Swiss Society of Natural Sciences in Neuchatel proposing that the earth had been subject to an ‘ice age.’ The idea of extensive glaciation was already familiar in the folklore of the Alps based on the evidence of ‘erratic’ boulders, and Agassiz had been persuaded to the view by the geologist Jean de Charpentier. The importance of his paper is that it began the controversy in geology that resulted its broad acceptance within 50 years.
1842 Astronomical causation of climate change: In Revolution of the Sea, Joseph Adhemar proposes for the first time that variations in the earth’s orbit causes ice ages (this is before multiple ice ages theory was well established) alternatively in the southern and northern hemispheres.
1858 Glacier variation as an indicator of climate trends: Karl von Sonklar shows how alpine glacial variation indicting climatic trends: “Ueber den Zusammenhang der Gletscherschwankungen mit den meteorologischen Verhaltnissen”, Sitzungsberichte der Wiener Akademie, Vol 32, pp169-206 [Unseen text...but Bruckner speaks highly of it and seems to say that it includes a proxy climate graph]
1864 Astronomical causation of climate change: James Croll publishes a paper in the Philosophical Magazine proposing that variations in the earth’s orbit triggers feedback mechanisms that cause ice ages alternating in the southern and northern hemispheres.
1859 Greenhouse gas properties established: John Tyndall‘s experiments establishes that methane and carbon dioxide as greenhouse gases and that the overwhelming greenhouse gas keeping us warm is water vapour.
1873 International Meteorological Cooperation: The First International Congress of Directors of Weather Services, Vienna. By this time the USA and European states had established national weather services, and there had been some less successful attempts at international cooperation and standardisation. A bulletin of simultaneous observations was soon produced containing the first global synoptic charts. [Fleming, 1998 p42-3]
1874 – Pulsating glaciation theory: The Great Ice Age by Jame Geikie consolidates evidence in sedimentary deposits of previous interglacial periods in recent geological time and also in previous geological ages.
1870s – Ice Age theory becomes generally accepted, including multiple (usually 4) ice ages. For the next 100 years various theories will be proposed to explain them including variation in insolation, in the earths orbit, in volcanic activity, as well as variations in atmospheric CO2.
1875 - Astronomical causation of climate change: Climate and Time, in Their Geological Relations by Jame Croll gives the hypothesis that variations in the earth’ s orbit triggered positive feedback in ice-snow albedo and ocean current so as to cause Ice Ages. Towards the end of the century the theory went out of favour because evidence was pointing to the last ice age as much more recent than Croll’s theory suggested. A similar theory offered by Milankovic from the 1920s eventually gained wide acceptance in the 1970s.
1882 Natural Climate Change in Historical Times (desiccation): The first prevailing theory of natural global climate change in historical times was that of a slow drying out since the last Ice Age. This ‘desiccation’ theory was propounded on geological evidence by J D Whitney in his Climatic Changes of Late Geological Times.
1890 Pulsating Natural Climate Change in Historical Times:
Eduard Brückner, Klimaschwankungen Seit 1700, Nebst Bemerkungen Über Die Klimaschwankungen Der Diluvialzeit. (Climate Change since 1700) A student of Albrecht Penck, Bruckner’s book summarises and criticises the 19th century controversy over climate change during historical times — including local anthropogenic and global desiccation theories. He proposes instead cycles of global change between colder-wetter and warmer-hotter periods cycling erratically every 20 to 50 years; and this upon evidence from instrumental records, glacial variation, lake shoreline variation and historical documents. The impact of Climate Change upon Civilisation: Brückner is also early in the study of climate change impacts on the history of civilisation–and so the prospects for future impacts. For example, he accounts for variations in the rate of migration to North America due to relative favourability of climatic conditions between the two continents during these global climate variations–when it is too wet for European agriculture, the semi-arid new world is more favourable.
1894 Carbon Cycle Modelling
Arvid Högbom publishes “Om Sannolikheten För Sekulära Förändringar I Atmosfärens Kolsyrehalt” Svensk kemisk Tidskrift 6: 169-77. Hogbom is quoted by Arrhenius as developing models of the carbon cycle. He considers both the contribution of deforestation and CO2 emissions from coal-burning effecting atmospheric concentrations of CO2 and decides that they were way below the order of magnitude of natural process–and so have negligible influence. [Unseen. After Fleming p77]
1895 The Ice Age causation controversy:
Le cause dell’era glaciale by Luigi De Marchi surveys 9 current hypothesis of the cause of glaciation, rejecting them all for the theory that geological climate change was caused by a “change in the transparency of the atmosphere.” [After Fleming, p79]
1895 Natural variations in CO2 could trigger Ice Ages
Svante Arrhenius suggests that a reduction in volcanic CO2 emissions could be an Ice Age trigger. A period of low volcanicity would cool the air, which would cause it to hold less water vapour and thereby cool it more, and so forth.
1900 The CO2 climate-forcing theory collapses
Knut Ångström, “Über Die Bedeutung Des Wasserdampfes Und Der Kohlensaüres Bei Der Absorption Der Erdatmosphäre.” Annalen der Physik 4(3): 720-32. Angstrom concludes that CO2 absorbs infrared mostly within the range of the spectrum in which water vapour is also opaque. Upon such evidence the CO2 climate-forcing theory is widely rejected during the early 20th century.
1907 Pulsating Natural Climate Change in Historical Times
In his The Pulse of Asia, Ellsworth Huntington first outlines his theory of pulsating climatic changes in historical times evident through its impacted on human history. Huntington was concerned not so much with temperature but with precipitation and especially the increase in northern hemisphere high-latitude storm activity and its wax and wane south into mid-latitude arid zones.
1909- The birth of dendrochronology
A E Douglass, “Weather Cycles in the Growth of Big Trees” Monthly Weather Review June, 1909. Douglass uses dendrochronology to track precipitation back through historical time and specifically to find a positive correlation between precipitation and sunspot numbers and cycles. His dendrochronology would also be used to date ancient dwellings in the North American deserts (including Anasazi), which Huntington would then use to support his theory of climate pulsations in historical times.
1910 Pulsating Natural Climate Change in Historical Times
International Geological Congress, Stockholm presided over by Gerard De Geer pioneer in the use of varves in paleoclimatology and the climatology of historical times (also his student Ernst Antevs). His paper is called ‘A geochronology of the last 12000 years’ (published in Geologische Rundschau as Greochronologie der letzten 12000 Jahre.) According to C E P Brooks, prior to this congress it was generally believed that variation of climate came to an end with the last Ice Age, and it was at this congress that “the majority of geologists” first became familiar “with the existence of a warm period intercalated between the ice-age and the present,” which had come to be called the Holocene Climate Optimum. [1926, p321]
1920 Variations in the Solar Constant Discovered: Charles Abbot discovers that the solar constant was not constant, and this leads him to participate in the speculation that solar activity causing variations in the earth’s climate due to correlations between climate and sunspot activity.
1914 Dendrochronology used to support climate pulsation theory
In Climatic Factors as Illustrated in Arid America Huntington uses tree ring data for the first time as evidence of variation in precipitation over historical times, including some that have been confirmed by other northern hemisphere data such as a very wet period during the 14th century.
1922- Mathematical Modelling of the atmospheric circulation
Richardson first develops mathematical modelling of atmosphere circulation by dividing the globe in a grid of cells. This was the beginning of what became the computer General Circulation Models (GCMs).
1922 Ellsworth Huntington Climatic Changes (see 1907 above)
1922 Direct reports of observed climatic changes (Arctic):
“The Changing Arctic,” an article by G N Ifft in the Nov 1922 Monthly Weather Review reports ‘The Arctic seems to be warming up. Reports from fishermen, seal hunters, and explorers who sail the seas about Spitzbergen and the eastern Arctic, all point to a radical change in climatic conditions, and hitherto unheard-of high temperatures in that part of the earth’s surface.’ Interest in Arctic sea ice changes would continue and then intensify during the Cold War.
1922 Pulsating Natural Climate Change in Historical Times
Influenced by new finding in geology about the recent past presented at the 1910 Stockholm conference, the theory of natural climate change arrives in the UK. The Evolution of Climate by C E P Brooks includes discussion of current research into post-glacial climate change and a whole chapter on the post-glacial climate optimum. This is followed in 1926 by Climate Through the Ages. Including Part III ‘The climates of the historical past,’ and as updated in a 2nd edition (1949), this was regarded by H H Lamb as a standard authority. Brooks brought the geological perspective on climate to the Met Office, starting there in 1907 and then studying geology at nights to gain a Masters in 1916. He was head of the Climatological Division when he retired in 1948.
1924 Astronomical causation of climate change
Milutin Milankovic‘s graphs giving the variation in the intensity of summer sunlight at high latitudes over the past 600,000 years were published in Koppen and Wegener‘s Climates of the Geological Past. The theory is popular at first but interest wanes due to uncertainty about the geological timeline. This is resolved in the 1970s when ocean floor sediments were dated by magnetic polarisation analysis (and confirmed by ice core data).
1935 Thirty-year climatic norm introduced
‘By agreement adopted by the former International Meteorological Organization at its meeting in Warsaw in 1935 recent 30-year averages of weather observations are defined as climatic ‘normals’. Thie original standar period so adopted was 1901-30; later the period 1931-60 was substituted, and it is planned to change the datum period every ten years, using the figures for 1941-70, 1951-8, and so on, as soon as they are available.’ (according to Lamb, Climate: Present, Past and Future, 1977 p684)
1938 Industrial CO2 emissions is causing the current global warming
Partial attribution to CO2 emissions of early 20th century global warming is proposed by an engineer G S Callendar in a paper presented to the Meteorological Society: “The Artificial Production of Carbon Dioxide and Its Influence on Temperature” Meteorol. Mag. 74, 33–39. At the time, warming was viewed as beneficial, especially against the inevitable slow decline into the next ice age. Callendar also wrote a popular article of note in 1949 “Can Carbon Dioxide Influence Climate?” Weather 4, 310–314 The theory was met with various objection, was not widely accepted, and suffered the harsh winters in the early 60s when a cooling trend began to emerge.
1941 Astronomical causation of climate change: Milanković Cycles
Milutin Milanković in Kanon der Erdbestrahlung und seine Anwendung auf das Eiszeitenproblem comprehensively lays down his previously published theory relating ice ages to variations of the Earth’s orbit. Because the climatic effect of Milankovitch cycles was assessed to be too weak, and because they did not match accepted ice age periodicity, his theory was not widely accepted until the 1970s when the correlation was confirmed by ocean floor sediment and ice core data. In 2006 a better correlation is found by Gerard Roe between the Milankovitch cycles and not the ice volume but the time rate of change in the ice volume.
1941 Trail Smelter arbitration
Arbitration on the Trail Smelter dispute set a precedent for international law on air pollution.
1950 Willet’s Global temperature graph
H.C. Willett, “Temperature Trends of the Past Century.” In Royal Meteorological Society Centenary Proceedings pp. 195-206. London: Royal Meteorological Society. This is one of the early attempts to represent global temperature variation by a single variable.
1951- RadioCarbon Dating
Developed in the late 1940s, RadioCarbon dating becomes available to geologists for dating organic material in sediment. It is sometimes used to date material beyond the limits of its useful accuracy (at around 40,000 years) and this is sometimes misleading (e.g., Goldthwait against Milankovitch).
1956 Gilbert Plass published ‘The Carbon Dioxide Theory of Climatic Change’ and 3 other papers on related topics. Plass was early in using computer modelling to calculated climate sensitivity at 3.6 C, but he noted that adding middle-level and high clouds to the model reduced the warming to 2.5 C. See Fleming’s discussion here.
1957 International Geophysical Year 1957-8
Initiated by the International Council of Scientific Unions new projects were initiated and funded under this banner. These included ice core analysis at Camp Century in Greenland and Keeling‘s monitoring of baseline CO2. In the conclusion of a paper publish in this year with Hans Sues, Revelle wrote for the first time: “Human beings are now carrying out a large scale geophysical experiment…”
1950s Interest in the possibility of an ice-free Arctic.
After a long warming trend, diminution of Arctic sea ice extent is often noted. In 1958 a US submarine surfaces at the North Pole. A theory by Ewing and Donn (1956) that an ice-free Arctic could trigger the next ices age helps to kick off the global cooling scare. A switch to concerns about global cooling, including by human causation (especially by aerosols), continues through to the mid-1970s.
1960- National Centre for Atmospheric Research NCAR founded in Boulder Colorado
1961 WMO-UNESCO symposium on Changes of Climate, Rome, with a special emphasis on arid regions.
1961- Concern about the anthropogenic effect on climatic starts to arise
This is mostly about the effect of aerosols–smog, jet contrails, Indian dust clouds etc., — and mostly but not always of cooling.
This is when the Soviets became active on the issue: ”The question of anthropogenic climatic change attracted the attention of government agencies for the first time in the USSR, when the staff of the Hydrometeorology Service…in 1961 recognized the possible development of anthropogenic warming and decided to organize a systematic study of man’s impact on global climate. That same year, Academician Ye K Fedorov and corresponding member of the USSR Academy of Sciences M I Budyko conducted the ALL-Union Conference on the Problem of Climatic Modification by Man in Leningrad (gal’tsov, 1961).’ Source: Anthropogenic Climatic Change Preface.
1961 J Murray Mitchell publishes a Global Temperature graph
“Recent Secular Changes of Global Temperature.” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 95: 235-50.
1963 Lorenz’s Chaos article
1965 Causes of Climate Change conference in Boulder Colorado
Weart notes a marked switch from interest in paleo-climate change (Ice Ages) to current climate change and the human effect.
1965 Roger Revelle: ‘Man is unwittingly conducting a vast geophysical experiment’
In an appendix to a United States President’s Science Advisory Committee report, Restoring the Quality of Our Environment, Revelle suggests that the results of our unwitting experiment with CO2 emissions might be measurable by the year 2000. He also suggests mitigation by geo-engineering. (See first use of ‘geophysical experiment’ above in 1957)
1967- The blue planet
From 1967 satellite photographs of the ‘space-ship’ earth begin to be published, and these are considered to have an impact on the growing global environment consciousness. The famous ‘blue marble‘ photograph, taken by NASA crew, was widely circulated at the first peak of global environmental consciousness in 1972.
1967- Global Atmospheric Research Program (GARP)
In late 1967 the International Council of Scientific Unions, acting jointly with the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), proposed a Global Atmospheric Research Program (GARP) to accomplish the objectives stated in UN Resolution 1721 and 1802, namely ‘to advance the state of atmospheric sciences and technology so as to provide greater knowledge of basic physical forces affecting climate….; to develop existing weather forecasting capabilities…,’ and ‘to develop an expanded program of atmospheric science research which will complement the program fostered by the WMO.’ (source: US GARP)
1968- Ice core analysis from Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets
From the late 1960s ice core results started to give long and accurate records of temperature and CO2. Early was Camp Century (Greenland) and in the 1980s from Vostok (Antarctica). These results would confirm Milankovitch cycles.
1968 The Population Bomb by Paul Ehrlich
1969- Soviet climatology starts to influence the discussion in the West
Budyko gives Russian global temperature graph (after Sharova) that would be much used by American climatologists.
It is mostly via Budyko that overt communication of Russia climate science begins. In Climatic Change, Budyko speculates widely on competing anthropogenic effects of aerosol (cooling) and CO2 (warming). His concern that pollution controls will cause CO2 warming to dominate leads to a discussion of mitigation by climate engineering (eg pumping sulphates in the stratosphere etc). He also discusses earlier speculation of climatic engineering that had been causing concern in the West, including ideas on how to melt the arctic sea-ice (see 1976 below).
1970 Earth day celebrated for the first time in the USA. (It only became an international celebration in 1990.)
1971- CLIMAP launched
The aim of this research program is to develop a picture of climate during the last ice age especially from isotope analysis of ocean sediment cores. Magnetic polarity analysis, a breakthrough in dating geological time, was applied to these cores from 1972. Miklankovitch cycles are confirmed.
1971 Study of Man’s Impact on Climate
Lead by Carroll Wilson (active in US scientists-policy) this study was conducted by 13 scientists from 14 countries over 3 weeks in Stockholm during the summer of 1971. It was sponsored by MIT, hosted by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences. Concerns about local, regional and global impacts of various emissions including CO2 were raised but they concluded that there is little evidence of impact at a global scale. The report is titled: Inadvertent Climate Modification: Report of the Study of Man’s Impact on Climate. (Reviewed by H H Lamb in Nature and John Mason in New Scientist) This seems to be the first report where ‘climate’ replaces ‘climatic’ to give the term ‘Climate Change.’
1972 The United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, Stockholm
This was the first global political conference on the global environment with Maurice Strong as Secretary General. This lead to the establishment of the UN Environment Program lead by Maurice Strong. The Stockholm Declaration makes the link between environment protection and economic development (later called ‘sustainability’) with such principles as ‘Development is needed to improve the environment‘ and ‘Environment policy must not hamper development.’ The US EPA, recently established under Richard Nixon, announces the ban on DDT on the eve of the conference. See more here.
1972 The Limits to Growth by the Club of Rome published. 30 million copies sold.
1972- The Climatic Research Unit is founded at the University of East Anglia
1972-1976 Climate, Food Supply and War
Especially from 1972, the drought in the Sahel and other dramatic climatic events drew attention to the impact of climatic change on regional and world food supply and this impacting in turn on war and conflict. This was used to justify greater spending on climatic research with the view to developing climatic forecasting. Also, the inter-relationship of these issues brought climatologists into discussions with agriculture scientists and social scientists in ways that continued in the 1980s with the global warming scare.
1973 October OAPEC Oil Crisis followed the Yom Kippur War. The real price stayed high through the 1979 price spike that following the Iranian Revolution.
1974 January Workshop on ‘The Impact of Man on Climate Change,’ University of Bonn (Hermann Flohn) organized by the IFIAS produced a statement which said: ‘The nature of climatic change is such that even the most optimistic experts assign a substantial probability of major crop failures within a decade. If national and international policies do not take such failures into account, they may result in mass deaths by starvation and perhaps in anarchy and violence that could exact a still more terrible toll.’
1974-7 WMO Executive Committee Panel of Experts on Climate Change
In 1974 the sixth special session of the General Assembly called on WMO to undertake a study of climatic change. The WMO established an Executive Committee Panel of Experts on Climatic Change (previous there had been the Climate Commission 1957? – 1969?). See below (1976 June) for discussion of its report dismissing the global cooling scare and raised concerns about shorter term fluctuations including those caused by human activity. (‘Technical Report by the WMO Executive Council Panel of Experts on Climate Change’, WMO Bulletin, 26, 1, 50-55. See Zillman)
1975 June A conference on ‘Climate Change, Food Production and Interstate Conflict’, Bellagio, Italy, sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation. The agreed statement said: ‘…there is some cause to believe–although it is far from certain–that climatic variability in the remaining years of this century may be even greater than during the 1940-70 period’ and that this greater variability ‘could cause major crop failures quite beyond the current capability of agricultural science and technology to control or mitigate.’
1975 Understanding Climatic Change: A program for action, by the US committee for Global Atmospheric Research Program (GARP)
The this is the report of the Panel on Climate Variation. The ‘program’ is a program for climate research.
1976 June WMO Statement on Climatic Change
The 7th Meteorological Congress (Geneva April-May 1975) decides that WMO should take the lead in promoting studies of climatic change and should issue authoritative statements on the subject. It establishes an Executive Committee Panel of Experts on Climatic Change which prepares a Technical Report. In June 1976 the WMO Executive Committee approved a statement.
The statement preamble opens by giving its impetus: ‘Several controversial statements on climatic change have been issued in recent years by various bodies and individuals, and some governments have expressed concern about the grave implications, for global food and population policies, of possible climatic changes.’ These concerns had mostly been raised around the new ice age scare. While the statement does not even mention ‘ice age’, it does discuss how extreme weather has ‘lead to speculation that a major climatic change is occurring on a global scale which could involve a transition to one or another of the vastly different climates of past ages.’ The WMO view is that such changes will be so gradual that they would be almost imperceptible. What is of far greater concern, according to the WMO, are the much larger short term variations for their great and evident impacts on civilization. Concern is then expressed about the possibility that man’s activities could be influencing global climate at this scale. This could be caused by CO2, direct thermal emissions (already recognized in its local effect), ‘Chlorofluro-methanes’ (there had been a previous statement on Modifications of the Ozone Layer) and ‘dust’ (i.e., aerosols). However, an accurate assessment of the magnitude of the changes these might effect is not possible with current limited knowledge. More research is required to improve understanding, and, as the preamble says, WMO ‘plans to issue further statements when the state of knowledge permits.’
1976 Climate Engineering
A plan, much discussed by climatologists, to irrigate semi-arid regions by re-routing Siberian rivers southward is adopted by the 25th Assembly of the Soviet Communist Party. This is considered in part a climatic geo-engineering project because it is also thought that the Arctic ocean would become ice-free due to the reduction in fresh water, and that positive feedback on the switch to open water would moderate the weather in northern climes. Some scientists, East and West, oppose the plan (that was never implemented) due to its possible broader impact on global circulation. According to HH Lamb autobiography (p2110, the plan had received press coverage in the West since the late 1960s (see ‘Peril seen in soviet plan to divert rivers,’ LA Times Feb 24 1970)
1976 The ‘Maunder’ Solar Minimum
This minimum is identified by Jack Eddy through studying historical sunspot records. He named it after Maunder who in 1893 had already identifies the period 1645 -1715 as a sunspot minimum. Eddy would associate this with the observed global cooling called the Little Ice Age.
1979 The First World Climate Conference, Geneva
This conference was organised by WMO and UNEP as ‘a world conference of experts on climate and mankind‘. The Declaration proclaims that it is now urgently necessary to foresee and prevent potential man-made changes in climate that might be adverse to the well-being of humanity and proposed the World Climate Program.
1981 Politics: Schneider and Revelle give testimony before Congress
If sometimes alarmist, this testimony is not conclusive or alarmist. However, James Hansen, the new head of the Goddard Institute, wins a front page report in NYT for a paper on global warming. Hansen et al, Climate impact of increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide. Science 213, 957-966. The New York Times front page, August 22, 1981, reports that the study predicted a global warming of ‘almost unprecedented magnitude’ with potential collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet, sea level rise, coastal flooding, and widespread disruption of agriculture. As ‘an appropriate strategy,’ the report emphasized energy conservation and the development of alternative energy sources, while using fossil fuels only ‘as necessary‘ in the coming decades. (after Fleming)
1983 The Nuclear Winter controversy
This was launched by Sagen et al. created a controversy over the scientific grounds of a public fear campaign. The SCOPE-ENUWAR report of 1986 would give a considered assessment of the issue. Also, a US National Academy of Science report acknowledges the possibility of AGW and its consequences, as does an EPA report, which was more alarmist. The EPA report is the first acknowledgement by a US Federal agency that AGW is a real threat.
1985 Vienna Convention on the Protection of the Ozone Layer
A framework convention achieved under the auspicious of the UNEP, this served as a model for the FCCC.
A meeting of invited scientists exclusively addressing the climate impact of GHG emissions and sponsored by UNEP, WMO and ICSU.
This follows a previous meetings on the same issue in Villach in Sept 1980. In attendance were scientists from 29 countries, including Bert Bolin, Roger Revelle, Mike MacCracken, Tom Wigley, Phil Jones, and the meeting was opened by an alarming paper by Mustafa Tolba (The current UNEP Exec Director – note that Maurice Strong is not listed as a particpant). At this meeting the Advisory Group on Greenhouse Gases (AGGG) was formed (later replaced by the IPCC which would be funded by governments and involve them in the assessment process). The climate alarmism emanating out of this conference is widely regarded to have been an important impetus to the climate treaty processes that soon began in the United Nations.
The Conference Statement proclaims some alarming predictions coming from an apparent consensus of leading scientists. Considering all GHGs, business-as-usual would give the radiatively equivalent of doubling CO2 ‘as early as’ the 2030s (previously and elsewhere given as 2100 or ‘as early as’ 2050). This would deliver a warming of between 1.5 and 4.5 degrees (an oft quoted range of sensitivity since 1979) and sea-level rise of 20-140 cm. The statement calls for huge programs of research and for periodic assessments of the state of the scientific understanding, which is justified by the level of the threat identified by the conference:
Based on evidence of effects of past climatic changes, there is little doubt that a future change in climate of the order of magnitude obtained from climate models for a doubling of the atmospheric CO2 concentration could have profound effects on global ecosystems, agriculture, water resources and sea ice.’
See: Report of the International Conference on the Assessment of Carbon Dioxide and other Greenhouse Gases in Climate Variations and Associated Impacts WMO 661.
1986 The SCOPE-ENUWAR report on the environmental consequences of nuclear war published by the International Council of Scientific Unions. Involving over 300 scientists from 3o countries over 18 months (ie, some similarities to the IPCC), the two-volume report avoids the term ‘nuclear winter’ but yet predicts drastic long-term environmental consequences
1987 (March) Our Common Future
The Brundtland Commission Report (United Nations WCED) was influenced by Villach in its concern about atmospheric pollution, including by recommending an inter-governmental scientific review. The discussion of this Report in the UN General Assembly was influential in bringing together environment sustainability and economic development as a single inter-governmental issue — ‘sustainable development’ — which would be taken up at the Toronto ‘Changing Atmosphere’ Conference (1988) and to a lesser extent by the IPCC. Full title: Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Our Common Future. There was another (3rd) Villach Conference in this year.
1987 (May) The Tenth World Meteorological Congress conceives of a scientific-governmental periodic assessment
Influenced by Brundland and Villach, the Congress agreed in a mechanism for a periodic authoritative assessment of the state of scientific knowledge of AGW, but considered that the assessment mechanism should operate under the guidance of governments rather than solely through scientists serving in their personal capacities. Thus began the process to establish the IPCC as a hybrid scientifico-political organisation.
1987 (September) Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer.
Agreed under the framework convention established in Vienna (1985), the scientific assessment was conducted under the chairmanship of a Rober Watson (NASA).
1987 (December) General Assembly acknowledges and approves climate action by its bodies
Article 6 of the UN Resolution 42/184, ‘International co-operation in the field of the environment,’ asks that the UNEP ‘attach importance to the problem of global climate change’ and that it work with the WMO and International Council of Scientific Unions and on the World Climate Programme.
James Hansen, The Greenhouse Effect: Impacts on Current Global Temperature and Regional Heat Waves. Testimony to U.S. Senate, Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, June 23, 1988″. Washington, DC. (pdf here. Quoted here).
‘The Earth is warmer in 1988 than at any time in the history of instrumental measurements,’ he said. ‘There is only a 1 percent chance of an accidental warming of this magnitude…. The greenhouse effect has been detected, and it is changing our climate now.’ Accordingly, the NYT report is true to the effect that he claimed that the human causation of the warming is 99% certain. The testimony was supported by the modelling senarios published in this article, but testimony goes beyond the paper by affirm AGW ‘detection’ in the real climate data.
NYT front page article Global Warming has begun, Expert Tells Senate. Paraphrasing Hansen “it was 99 percent certain that the warming trend was not a natural variation but was caused by a buildup of carbon dioxide and other artificial gases in the atmosphere.”
1988 June – International Conference on the Changing Atmosphere, in Toronto, International Conference on the Changing Atmosphere: Implications for Global Security, 27-30 June (Report in pdf)
A week after Hansen’s congressional testimony, this conference is more influential on global warming alarmism outside the USA. Involving ‘more than 300 scientists‘ and policy-makers from 46 countries, it calls for the UN, NGOs and governments ‘to take specific actions to reduce the impending crisis caused by the pollution of the atmosphere.’ The conference reports the best scientific forecasts for business-as-usual emissions would mean that by 2050 temperature will rise by 1.5 to 4.5 C and sea level rises of 0.3 to 1.5 m. It declares ‘stabilizing the atmospheric concentrations of CO22‘ as ‘an imperative goal.’ This is estimated to require 50% reduction in current emissions levels. The initial goal is to ‘reduce CO2 emissions by approximately 20% of 1988 levels by the year 2005.’
Hosted by Canada and chaired by its UN Ambassador (and WCED Sec Gen), Stephen Lewis, with Keynotes by Brundtland (PM of Norway) and Mulroney (PM of Canada), the conference Report achieves an extraordinary level of alarmism, famously opening with ‘Humanity is conducting an unintended, uncontrolled, globally pervasive experiment whose ultimate consequences could be second only to a global nuclear war.’ (Of course, the following year the threat of global nuclear war eased with the end of the nuclear arms race after the fall of the Berlin Wall, leaving atmospheric pollution as second to none.)
While the headline outcome of the Conference is a call for prompt action ‘to prevent damaging changes to the atmosphere,’ referring mostly to global warming, it also covers other atmospheric damage including to the ozone layer and acid rain. But the ‘Call for Action’ is even broader, covers all sorts of international environmental issues issues–not only those related to the atmosphere–and includes a strong developmental equity agenda: ‘the global community must not only halt the current net transfer of resources from developing countries, but actually reverse it.’ Thus, it follows the Brundtland report in promoting the notion of ‘sustainable development.’
On the enhanced Greenhouse effect: ‘The best predictions available indicate potentially severe economic and social dislocation for present and future generations, which will worsen international tensions and increase risk of conflicts among and within nations. It is imperative to act now.’
The report mentions support for the (already proposed) IPCC and promotes the idea of a FCCC: ‘The conference called upon governments to work with urgency towards an Action Plan for the Protection of the Atmosphere. This should include an international framework convention…‘ Steven Schneider described the conference as ‘the Woodstock of CO2.’
1988 (November) IPCC inaugural meeting
During the summer two organisations of the United Nations — the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) co-operated in setting up the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The first session was on 9-11 November (Geneva, Report pdf) under the leadership of Mustafa Tolba who nominated Bert Bolin as IPCC Chairman. The division into 3 working groups is decided.
1988 UN Resolution on the protection of the global climate for present and future generations of mankind
The establishment of the IPCC is confirmed on 6 December 1988 by the United Nations General Assembly through Article 5 of Resolution 43/53. It notes that emerging evidence indicates that increasing GHG emissions could lead to sea level rise, ‘the effects of which could be disastrous form mankind.’ It recalls the conclusions of Villach 1985 and its recommendation for ‘a programme on climate change’ through the collaboration of WMO, UNEP and ICSU. It urges Gov, inter-gov, NGOs and Scientific institutions to give priority to the issue, to support research,to increase awareness by convening conferences and also ‘to contribute…to efforts to protect the global climate.’ Article 10 requests the WMO and UNEP, through the IPCC, immediately to initiate action leading, as soon as possible, to a comprehensive review and recommendations with respect to the science of climate change, the impacts, and response strategies. This was already the mandate of IPCC WG 1, 2 & 3. In addition they were asked to review and recommend on strengthening relevant existing international legal instruments and ‘elements for inclusion in a possible future international convention on climate.’
1988 September – Margaret Thatcher’s address to the Royal Society
With this speech Thatcher launches her environmental activism by expressing concern about international environmental issues including acid rain, the ozone layer depletion and emphasizing global warming. This is considered a volte-face as her government had previously been criticized for a lack of commitment to environmental issues including the mitigation of acid rain and ozone depletion. Over the last two years of her leadership she would focus attention specifically on action to mitigate greenhouse warming.
1988 November Greenhouse ’88 Planning for Climate Change Conference, Adelaide, South Australia 3-5 November.
This event is regional significance only. ‘The genesis of this conference, a community-based assembly aimed at the person-in-the-street rather than the scientist and expert, lay with the CSIRO Division of Atmospheric Research and the Commission for the Future, organisations based in Melbourne. The CSIRO Division had hosted a scientific session about the greenhouse effect in November, 1987 [papers here] and it was concerned to spread the message to a wider audience. The Commission for the Future took on the ambitious task of convening ten simultaneous conferences at venues in the capitals of each State and Territory and also Alice Springs, Cairns and Canberra.’ [Proceedings, iii]. The Proceedings boasts over 8000 video-linked participants. The conference included: an opening address by the SA Premier; another by the Commonwealth Environment Minister; a keynote by Stephen Schneider; alarmist cartoons such as a drowned Sydney Opera House, and a conference song with a chorus: It’s just a matter of degree between living in heaven or hell…’
1989 – Discovery that CO2 concentration increase lags temperature increase in paleoclimate ice core data
Idso, S.B. 1988. Carbon dioxide and climate in the Vostok ice core. Atmospheric Environment 22: 2341-2342.
Idso, S.B. 1989. Carbon Dioxide and Global Change: Earth in Transition. IBR Press, Tempe, AZ.
Discussed at CO2 Science
1989 Oct Ministerial Conference on Atmospheric Pollution and Climatic Change, Noordwijk, The Netherlands. This conference was attended by 67 delegations mostly at ministerial level including all the key players. Its declaration placed great emphasis on the IPCC and its the completion of its First Assessment as a step towards a framework convention. (Available as Appendix D, Report of IPCC III)
1989 Dec United Nations Resolution 44/207 with the repeat title of “Protection of global climate for present and future generations of mankind,” this resolution places great import and urgency on First Assessment of the IPCC as a first step towards the development of a treaty framework and it agrees that the IPCC’s sponsors make due preparations:
10. Supports the request made by [the UNEP that it, in cooperation with the WMO], begin preparations for negotiations on a framework convention on climate, taking into account the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, as well as the results achieved at international meetings on the subject, including the Second World Climate Conference, and recommends that such negotiations begin as soon as possible after the adoption of the interim report of the Intergovernmental Panel…
1990 IPCC 3rd Session held in Washington, 5-7 February 1990. That the profile of the IPCC has enormously increase in the last year is reflected in an opening address by the President of the United States, George Bush. In this address Bush boasts of recent massive injections of funding for environmental and ‘global change’ research. He also reiterates his invitation to host the first negotiation session of a framework convention on climate change ‘once the IPCC had completed its work’ (indeed the INC for the FCCC held its first meeting in Washington in 1991 and the treaty was open for signature in May 1992 on the last day of a meeting in New York). In the previous year the first meeting of WG3 had been opened by Secretary of State Jame Baker. On the whole the administration of George Bush was friendly to the IPCC and the treaty process (in contrast to the administration of George W Bush).
1990 IPCC First Assessment Report (FAR). The final draft of the working group reports were presented to IPCC IV, Sundsvall, Sweden, August. While the Working Group I report was published in a timely manner there were problems with the other reports especially that of Working Group III. The approve process for the overview (Synopsis) broke down but it was later cobbled together from the Working Group’s summaries [to be clarified - BL]. It was then reviewed at the 2nd World Climate Conference and submitted to the 45th session of the United Nations General Assembly — which then established the the INC to the FCCC.
1990 Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research opened by Margaret Thatcher timed to coincide with the ‘publication’ of the Working Group I report (or at least the completion of the Working Group I plenary approval) [see Darwall p131]. She said that, provided others are ready to take their full share, Britain is prepared to set the target of returning emissions to 1990 levels by 2005.
1990 (November) The Second World Climate Conference, Geneva. Considered the findings of the first assessment of the IPCC. The ministerial part of the conference included this keynote address by Margaret Thatcher supporting moves to prepare for Rio with a framework convention, but which also reflected a recognition of the circumspection of the IPCC assessment, including: that climate had changed in the past, that detection of a human influence has yet to be achieved, that predictions of future global changes are imprecise, that predictions of regional changes cannot yet be made, that ‘we can’t be sure of the role of the clouds’ and that global climate change within limits need not by itself pose serious problems. The conference produced a ministerial declaration and a scientists declaration.
1990 (11 December) UN Resolution 45/212 created the The Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to the Framework Convention on Climate Change. The text of the convention was negotiated by participants from over 150 states during five sessions between February 1991 and May 1992. The first chairman was Michael Zammit Cutajar who had been a delegate to the IPCC. Raul Estrada-Oyuela became chairman in March 1993 (Cutajar remained as exec secretary) and then as chairman of the FCCC he played a dominant role in proceedings leading up to Kyoto.
1992 (9 May) On the last day of a meeting in New York, the text of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was adopted. It was opened for signature at the Rio Earth Summit.
1992 June – Earth Summit in Rio (3-14 June) Twenty years on from the Stockholm conference at which the UN Environment Program was founded. The UN FCCC played a major role. The aim of the treaty is to reduce atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases with the goal of “preventing dangerous anthropogenic interference with Earth’s climate system”. The treaty is legally non-binding but provides for updates, called ‘protocols,’ that would set mandatory emission limits. Towards the end of the Earth Summit 154 nations signed. The Convention entered into force on 21 March 1994 (90 days after receipt of the 50th ratification).
In the opening address by its secretary general Maurice Strong strong said “The IPCC has warned that if CO2 emissions are not cut by 60% immediately, the changes in the next 60 years may be so rapid that nature will be unable to adapt and man incapable of controlling them.” This statement is difficult to reconcile with either the 1990 or the 1992 IPCC Reports.
1992 IPCC asked to assess according to Article 2 of the FCCC
Resolution 1 of WMO Executive Council (1992) adds to the IPCC terms of reference by requesting it to serve the FCCC. This includes by making an assessment according to the objective of Article 2, which is ‘stabilization of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system‘. Interpreting what might be considered a dangerous level, Bert Bolin considers a political issue and not one for the IPCC scientists, although others disagree.
1993 January Bill Clinton inaugurated into government (Al Gore Vice-President, Tim Wirth State Department)
1993 October The Clinton-Gore Climate Change Actin Plan is released
1994 March – UNFCCC climate treaty entered into force. The first Conference of Parties is required within one year.
1995 March The first UN FCCC Conference of Parties (COP1) in Berlin (28 Mar – 7 Apr). The IPCC produced a special report for this conference (see here). This was a huge event with over 1000 NGOs and media registered. As well as opening addresses by Cutajar (FCCC), Desai (UN), Estrada (FCCC) and Merkel (Germany and elected president of CoP1), there were also opening addresses by Obasi (WMO), Dowdeswell (UNEP) and Bolin (IPCC). Bolin announced that the forthcoming IPCC report would explain reduced warming due to the masking effect of sulphate aerosol emissions.
1995 July IPCC Working Group 1 authors’ meeting for re-drafting the Summary for Policymakers for the 2nd Assessment following receipt of review comments. Asheville, North Carolina, 25-28 July.
1995 October World Climate Report edited by Pat Michaels goes online with portions of feature articles published at http://www.wcrpt.com. (While no commenting was available, this may be the first climate skeptic website.)
1995 November Madrid ’95, Chapter 8 Controversy: IPCC Working Group 1 5th Plenary Session 27-29 Nov 1995 for acceptance of Chapters and Approval of the Summary for Policymakers.
1995 December 11th session of the IPCC in Rome 11-15 December where the reports from the 3 working groups are accepted and the Synthetic Report is approved. The Synthetic report was approved just before midnight on 15 Dec and released to the media by the Bert Bolin on Saturday morning, 16 Dec.
1996 June IPCC Second Assessment Report (SAR, 5Jun96) published : Late alteration were made to Chapter 8 so as to support the attribution of recent global warming to industrial emissions.
1997 July UN FCCC 2nd Conference of Parties in Geneva (Ministerial Declaration, 18 July,reflected the USA position statement presented by Timothy Wirth)
1997 25 July The Byrd–Hagel Resolution, passed unanimously in the United States Senate, blocked senate ratification of the Kyoto Protocol.
1997 December UN FCCC 3rd Conference of Parties (COP3) Kyoto: 160 countries signed the Kyoto Protocol. (Ratification came later however the senate blocked Clinton on ratification with a resolution back unanimously passed on 25 July 1997)
2001 George W Bush wins a close and contentious presidential election against Albert Gore. Bush would express his doubts about the science behind global warming and renounce the Kyoto protocol.
2001 IPCC Third Assessment Report featuring the hockey stick graph
2003 Steve McIntyre starts publishing his work (with support data) on his website, ‘Climate2003′
2004 Real Climate blog established late in the year (see here)
2005 Climate Audit blog established by Steve McIntyre partly to answer criticism of his work at Real Climate
2006 May. An Inconvenient Truth premiers in the USA, for which Al Gore (along with the IPCC) wins a 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.
2007 8 March. The Great Global Warming Swindle premiers on UK’s Channel 4 to universal condemnation by institutional science.
2007 IPCC 4th Assessment Report released in stages — the ‘Summary for Policymakers’ was released first in February.
2007 American Physics Society Adopts a Climate Change Policy stating that “The evidence is incontrovertible…”
2009 Climategate I (Nov) Copenhagen Climate Change conference (Dec) and EPA ruling that CO2 is a pollutant
2011 Climategate II (Nov)