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]

Table giving geological ages with evidence of glaciation in The Great Ice Age by Geikie 1874

After describing interglacial deposits from recent geological times, Geikie (1874) gives this table suggesting glacial pulsations occurred right across geological times.

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 Milanković from the 1920s was revived when new techniques brought acceptance of the current chronology of glaciation 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

In three papers published in 1900 and 1901, Angstrom concludes from laboratory experiments 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. The first of these papers is: Knut Ångström, “Über Die Bedeutung Des Wasserdampfes Und Der Kohlensaüres Bei Der Absorption Der Erdatmosphäre.” Annalen der Physik 4(3): 720-32. (pdf)

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 TreesMonthly 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.

1909 In Die Alpen im Eiszeitalter, Penck and Bruckner propose the approximate timing of the (then commonly supposed) four ice ages. This chronology generally held until the1970s when new techniques of geochronology introduced the currently accepted chronology.

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.

1914 Huntington tree rings precipitation the Climatic factor as illust in Arid America p 153

Huntington worked with the founder of dendrochronology, A E Douglass, to produce a precipitation proxy record from the tree rings of the Sequoia stands in California

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.

CEP Brooks

CEP Brooks

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 Milanković‘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. The hypothesis is revived in the 1970s when ocean floor sediments were dated by magnetic polarisation analysis to introduce the current chronology of glacial advance and retreat. In 1972 Vernekar calculated the variations of solar radiation at various latitudes every thousand years so that the comparison could be easily made. (It was noticed at this time that some cycles (including the 21,000 year cycle) is apparent in the astronomical data, but the major 100,000 year cycle does not correspond.)

1929 The International Meteorological Organization establishes a Commission for Climatology

1934 Wiesbden, The IMO Commission for Climatology designates the period 1901 to 1930 as the ‘climate normal’

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 TemperatureMeteorol. 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: Milankovitch 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 periodicity of the (then supposed) four ice ages, his theory was not widely accepted until the 1970s when some correlations were seen in chronologies derived from ocean floor sediment and ice core data. In 2006 a better correlation is found by Gerard Roe between 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.

1948 (Dec)  Royal Astronomical Society and the Royal Meteorological Society (UK) joint meeting on ‘Post-glacial Climatic Change’

Speakers, Fred Hoyle, H Godwin, G Manley and CEP Brook discussed both variation and causation. The papers were published the following year in the Quarterly Journal of the Roy Met Soc.

1948 Von Neumann begins a project to develop general circulation models under Smagorinsky at the US weather bureau in Washington. In 1958 Smagorinsky would employs Syukuro Manabe

1950s  Interest in a warming trend and the possibility of an ice-free Arctic.

From 1950, the long warming trend of the 20th century (and the prospect of its continuation) was broadly discussed, including in popular publications and the press. This was generally not alarmist. For example, in Is the world getting warmer? (Saturday Evening Post) does talk of sea level rise but much more about the advent and prospect of a ‘balmier climate’ (see also Getting warmer? Time 15May50). Most popular attribution was to variation in solar input.

The diminution of Artic sea ice was often discussed as an indicator of the warming and a consequence.  This, and even the prospect of an ice free arctic, was generally considered a good thing both for northern agriculture and shipping.  However, in 1956 a theory by Ewing and Donn that an ice-free Arctic could trigger the next ices age helps to kick off the global cooling scare.  The shift to concerns about global cooling, including by human causation (especially by aerosols), continues through to the mid-1970s.

1950 The IMO becomes the World Meteorological organization, a ‘specialized agency’ under the UN

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 Milanković).

1953 CO2 attribution enters the public discourse over climatic change

In the USA George Plass introduced the idea of causation by CO2 industrial emissions into the 1950s discussion of the 20th century warming trend. To  the 1953 annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union he announced that “The large increase in industrial activity during the present century is discharging so much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that the average temperature is rising at the rate of 1.5 degrees per century.” Thus, he seems to have attributed all the 20th century warming to CO2. This was widely reported in the US media (eg, NYT, Time) including some followed-up interviews with Plass. Various attributions are discussed in the popular pamphlet,  Today’s Revolution in Weather! (See Ch V), include the CO2 emissions theory as promoted by Plass, about which the author is nonetheless sceptical: ‘When our studies show that two of the most affected areas in regard to higher temperatures and drought are near the equator in South America and in the jungles of Africa, in addition to the areas around the Arctic Circle, I am somewhat sceptical of the carbon dioxide theory. There are no factories to speak of in these affected areas, and I doubt if the atmosphere there contains very much CO2′ (p72.)

1956 Gilbert Plass published ‘The Carbon Dioxide Theory of Climatic Change’ and 3 other papers on related topics.

Plass had attributed 20th century warming to CO2 in 1953. Following this he was early in the use of computer modeling, which he used to  calculated climate sensitivity at 3.6 C. However, he noted that adding middle-level and high clouds to the model reduced the warming to 2.5 C. See Fleming’s discussion here. Plass again attracted interest from the press. Roger Revelle also joined the discussion, downplaying the suggestion of an imminent ‘catastrophe.’ Around this time Plass consults Callendar and they correspond. In Dec 1957 Plass reports that Revelle et al had ‘attacked the carbon dioxide climatic theory quite vigorously at a meeting earlier this year.’ (Fleming, 2007, p81)

1957 International Geophysical Year 1957-8

Initiated by the International Council of Scientific Unions new projects were implimented 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 Suess, Roger Revelle wrote for the first time: “Human beings are now carrying out a large scale geophysical experiment…”

1958 A US submarine surfaces at the North Pole.

1960- National Centre for Atmospheric Research NCAR founded in Boulder Colorado

1960- Keeling reports on his Mauna Loa Observatory results showing a rising trend in atmospheric CO2 concentration.

1960  The third session of the WMO Commission for Climatology in London designated the period 1931 to 1960 as the new ‘climate normal.’ (In 1982 this changed into a rolling normal for the previous three full decades, eg 1951-1981.) At the same session it established a working group to consider climatic fluctuations to be chaired by J Murray Mitchell (also with Lamb and Flohn)

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 (Sept)  President John F Kennedy address to the UN General Assembly on the peaceful development of outer space

This address included the proposal for “further cooperative efforts between all nations in weather prediction and eventually in weather control.” This proposal was significant in the post-war history of efforts to develop weather control, but its more sustained legacy is with international cooperation in atmospheric research, especially through satellite monitoring. Under the umbrella of agreements to cooperate in research and developments in outer space (see Resolution 1721), the efforts to cooperate in atmospheric research led eventually to the establishment in 1967 of the Global Atmospheric Research Programme (GARP).

1961 (Oct) WMO-UNESCO Symposium on Changes of Climate, Rome

UNESCO established an Advisory Committee on Arid Zone Research in 1957 to stimulate research in the various scientific disciplines which have a bearing on the problems of the arid regions. At the suggestion of the WMO, the Advisory Committee recommended (at its 15th session) a symposium on changes of climate with special reference to the arid zones to be organized jointly with WMO. The 115 scientist from 36 countries who took part included J Murray Mitchell, Hermann Flohn, Eduard Lorenz and I E Buchinsky and Hubert Lamb.   Proceedings.

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 US Conservation foundation conference on the climatic effects of carbon dioxide emissions

This is a small conference organized by the US Conservation Foundation. The seven conference participants include Erik Erikson, Charles Keeling and Gilbert Plass. The report Implications of rising carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere: a statement of trends and implications of carbon dioxide research reviewed at a conference of scientists includes a consensus concluding statement. The concluding statement gives sensitivity at 3.8C under clear skies and 2C under average cloudiness (this is close to Plass’s 1956 computer modelling results). The statement discusses various complexities that are largely unquantifiable and requiring further research including negative feedback from oceans and biota. Indeed there is a special section on ‘Stability': “The CO2 system is no exception to the general rule that any large natural system which has persisted for a long time is a very stable one. Even rather large changes in temperature or large additions of CO2 (from fossil fuels) are compensated for with little immediately noticeable changes…” Examples of negative feedback are given. It then talks about the expiration of ocean-borne CO2 from warmer oceans and conversely from ice-age ocean volume reduction. While the ice age increase in CO2 is compensated for by cooler temperatures, “associated with higher temperatures and accompanying higher absolute humidity would be increased cloudiness which would probably have the effect of reducing the amount of an increase in temperature.”

1963 Fritz Möller introduces consideration of water cycle feedback in the modeling of climatic response to CO2

Weart explains: “When Möller took into account the increase of absolute humidity with temperature, by holding relative humidity constant, his calculations showed a massive feedback. A rise of temperature increased the capacity of the air to hold moisture (the “saturation vapor pressure”), and the result was an increase of absolute humidity. More water vapor in the atmosphere redoubled the greenhouse effect…” and so temperature would cycle higher and high. Then Möller tried calculations that increased cloudiness by 1% and found that this would cancel any temperature rise that a 10% increase in CO2 might bring. Weart quotes Möller concluding that ‘the theory that climatic variations are affected by variations in the CO2 content becomes very questionable.'” The lack of understanding of feedback in the water cycle remains a key source of scepticism of modeling results.

1963  Lorenz’s Chaos article

Deterministic nonperiodic flow

1965 (Aug) 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. Lorenz gives the opening address suggesting that climate may not be deterministic.

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 widely 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 (on the peaceful use of outer space), 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). To develop ‘a better understanding of the physical basis of climate’ is widely spoken of as the ‘second objective’ of GARP.

1967 Manabe and Wetherald publish one-dimensional radiative-convective model results that give climate sensitivity to CO2 at around 2C. (In 1975 Manabe would introduce a 3D model. Around the time of the IPCC FAR (1990) Manabe’s ocean coupled model was also considered revolutionary.)

1968- Ice core analysis from Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets

From the late 1960s isotope analysis of ice core data started to give long records of temperature and CO2. Early was Camp Century (Greenland) and in the 1980s the analysis of the Vostok cores (Antarctica). Along with seabed cores and coral studies around this time, these results would support 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.

The Effect of Solar Radiation Variations on the Climate of the Earth

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).

1969 The dating of sedimentary deposits is improved by evidence of the magnetic reversal 700,000 years ago.

1970 US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is established.

1970 Earth day celebrated for the first time in the USA. (It only became an international celebration in 1990.)

1970 (July) Study of Critical Environmental Problems (SCEP)

Lead by MIT energy specialist, Caroll Wilson (later of the Club of Rome), the purpose of the month-long live-in conference was to make recommendations on the global environmental ‘impacts of man’s activities’ for consideration at the 1972 Environment conference in Stockholm. It was followed by a two day press briefing and the immediate political outcome was to add scientific legitimacy for concerns about pollution from Supersonic Transport Airplanes (SST). The ‘climatic’ impact concerns made front page news in the New York Times (2Aug70). SCEP had a number of climate-related working groups. The working group on ‘Climatic Effects’ was lead by William Kellogg. Following this conference, a further conference specifically addressing ‘inadvertent climate modification’ was hastily planned (see 1971 SMIC below).

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. This increases support for causation of glaciation cycles by Milankovitch cycles.

1971 Study of Man’s Impact on Climate

Lead by Carroll Wilson (active in US science-policy), this study was conducted by 30 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 impacts 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) Although the finding were most ambivalent on the question of any global or regional climatic effects, and although it had minimal impact on the Stockholm conference, this study is important for introducing anthropogenic climate change to the sphere of the global environment movement.

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.

The report (pdf) includes an action plan of 109 recommendations. The section on ‘identification and control of pollutants of broad international significance’ opens with Rec 70, which asks governments to be mindful of activities that risk climatic effects, to evaluate these effects, to share any findings and to consult interested states when contemplating activities that carry a climatic risk.  Rec 79 asks the WMO to coordinate the global monitoring of atmospheric pollution that may cause climatic changes. It also asks that the WMO, in cooperation with the ICSU, to continue to carry out GARP, and ‘if necessary establish new programs to understand better the general circulation of the atmosphere and the causes of climatic changes whether these causes are natural or the result of man’s activities.’

1972  Vernekar calculated the variations of solar radiation at various latitudes every thousand years to facilitate comparison of Milankovich cycles with the ice age chronology. (The 21,000 year cycle is identified but not the 100,000 year ice age cycle.)

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 The extreme weather events of 1972 are used by George Kukla and others to raise alarm over the imminent arrival of the next ice age, and this receives significant press coverage. In December Kukla and Robert Matthews write to President Nixon. The Whitehouse makes a fuss of responding and in 1973 the State Department established a Panel on the Present Interglacial. Kukla would later feature in the 1974 BBC documentary The Weather Machine.

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 concern was further raised about the impact of extreme weather by promoting war and conflict. These concerns justified 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 and this continued in the 1980s with the global warming scare.

1973 (Oct) OPEC Oil Crisis followed the Yom Kippur War. The real price of oil stayed high through the 1979 price spike that following the Iranian Revolution.

1973 (Oct) The WMO Climatology Commission had been disbanded after its 5th session in 1969. It was reformed as the Commission for Special Applications of Meteorology and Climatology with new terms of reference. The working groups on Climatic Fluctuations (chaired by J Murray Mitchell, reporting in 1966; and then Hubert Lamb, reporting in 1972-3) were replaced with a new working group on ‘Climatic Fluctuations and Man’ — which had a greater emphasis on manmade climate change.

1974 Molina and Rowland publish a paper warning on the destruction of the Ozone Layer by the indirect impact of synthetic CFCs.

1974 The use of isotope analysis of shells in seabed sediments as a temperature proxy began in the 1940s. By the mid-1970s improved core extraction and analysis brought the currently accepted temperature chronology of the last 700,000 years, showing 8 major ice age cycles (N. Shackleton and others).

1974 (May) Workshop on ‘The Impact on Man of 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.’ At this time concern remained mostly about a nature general cooling and (supposedly) associated extreme events.

1974 (Nov) The Weather Machine screens on the BBC. This documentary and accompanying book by Nigel Calder introduces the science of climatology and the understanding of natural climatic change to a popular audience. It also promotes concern about global cooling and a decline into the next ice age (interview with Kukla).

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. 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, was 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 The National Climate Program (USA) is introduced mostly on the basis of concerns about global cooling.

1975 (Aug) International Symposium on Long-term climatic fluctuations hosted by the Climatic Research Unit, UEA. This first international conference hosted by CRU was originally requested by the WMO Commission for Climatology, planned by its Climatic Fluctuations working group (Chaired by Hubert Lamb) and originally to be hosted in Mexico.

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 GARP Panel on Climate Variation. The ‘program’ is a program for climate research.

1975 Stephen Schneider publishes The Genesis Strategy which calls for risk mitigation against climatic change. The climate change he is most concerned about relates to the increase of extreme weather events and a generalised cooling. These might cause food shortages and global political instability. Mitigation suggestions included food stockpiling.

1976 This is another year when weather extremes in northern mid-latitudes had an important influence on the debate (the others are 1972 and later in 1988). First there was the warm dry spring-summer of 1976, which impacted especially in Britain. This was followed in Britain by a very wet Autumn. The following severe winter in the Eastern USA was influential on the US discussion.

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 (chaired by Gibbs) 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.’ Zillman says that the Gibbs panel report served as ‘the formal WMO trigger for organisation of the World Climate Conference.’

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 previously noted global cooling around that time, often call the ‘Little Ice Age.’

1977 NAS Energy and Climate Report

This report is an early assessment of the possible climatic impacts of energy production. It is produced by the Panel on Energy and Climate (chaired by Roger Revelle) of the Geophysical Research Board, National Academy of Science, USA. It considers not only CO2 but direct heating and aerosol emissions and emissions of other greenhouse gasses. It is interesting to note that other GHGs are attributed no small importance (including CFCs and methane) and yet this was supposed to be new with Villach ’85 and the triggering the calls for a climate action. Also curious is the Foreword. Written ‘with the end of the oil age in site’, it mixes pollution-type concerns with the prevailing interest in deliberate weather modification. This provides some background to the notion of CO2 thermostat that emerged in the late-1980s (Article 2 of the FCCC, the +2C limit, the 350ppm movement, etc):

In the light of a rapidly expanding knowledge and interest in natural climatic change, perhaps the question that should be addressed soon is, “What should the atmospheric carbon dioxide content be over the next century or two to achieve an optimum global climate?”

1978 US National Climate Program instituted by an Act

1979 The US NAS study group on ‘Carbon Dioxide and Climate’ produced the ‘Charney Report.’

This is an early assessment specifically addressing the impact of CO2 emissions.

1979 The First World Climate Conference, Geneva

This conference was organised by WMO and UNEP (FAO, UNESCO & WHO were also involved) and chaired by Robert White as ‘a world conference of experts on climate and mankind‘. The conference addressed the impacts of climatic change, including potential man-made impacts. The 2nd week of the conference was planned for invited experts to deliberate in four workshops on the four components of the planned World Climate Program: Climate Data; Application of Knowledge; Impacts; and Climate Change and Variability. However, ‘the conference noted an  additional issue of special importance’ that pervaded all these components, namely, the possible human influence. All workshops were to give this consideration.

In the Conference Declaration, the section on ‘climate and the future’ gives great emphasis to possible human influences, including direct heating from energy production, from nuclear war, and deliberate weather modification. But most emphasis is given to CO2 emissions. AGW ‘appears plausible’ because CO2 ‘plays a fundamental role’ in determining temperature. Detection should be possible ‘by the end of the century’.  Indeed, the Declaration proclaims that it is now urgently necessary for the nations of the world to foresee and prevent potential man-made changes in climate that might be adverse to the well-being of humanity. In addition to proposing the World Climate Program (WCP, later WCRP, which took several years to establish), it also proposed  a conference on ‘CO2 and Climate Variation,’ which was the first Villach conference in 1980.

1979 Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution

This convention was implemented by the European Monitoring and Evaluation Programme (EMEP, under the UN) mostly to address the problem of acid rain. It came into force in 1983.

1980 The first Villach conference on the CO2 problem.

With this conference, interest in inadvertent climate modifications starts to narrow to ‘the CO2 problem’. The attending scientists were delegates of their respective governments. The one week conference highlighted uncertainty and the need for more research.

1981 (Jan) Reagan inaugurated as president

1981 Global Energy Futures and the Carbon Dioxide Problem

An alarming report by the President’s Council on Environmental Quality in the dying days of the Carter administration recommends that the USA take responsibility for the problem:

In responding to the global nature of the CO2 problem, the United States should consider its responsibility to demonstrate a commitment to reducing the risks of inadvertent global climate modification. Because it is the largest single consumer of energy in the world, it is appropriate for the United States to exercise leadership in addressing the CO2 problem.

Also in this year CEQ with the State Department produced a report ‘Global Future: Time to Act’ as a plan for implementing the President’s ‘Global 2000 report.’ This Time to Act report uses the term ‘sustainable development': “The key concept here is sustainable development. Economic development if it is to be successful over the long term must proceed in a way that protects the natural resource base of developing countries.”

1981 Politics: Schneider and Revelle give testimony before Congress

If sometimes alarmist, this testimony is not conclusive nor generally alarming. However, James Hansen, the new head of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, 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). The New York Times front page, August 22, 1981, reports that the study predicts 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 emphasizes energy conservation and the development of alternative energy sources, while using fossil fuels only ‘as necessary‘ in the coming decades. (after Fleming)

1982 (Jun) SCOPE 29 Begins

Midsummer’s day in Stockholm, Tolba approaches Bolin to commence a large new study of the CO2 problem. This would involve the University of Stockholm, the WMO and generously sponsored by the UNEP. The report would address GHG emissions generally and be published by the ICSU as SCOPE 29–which would be the basis for the Villach ’85 conference. The process of study would be something of a model for IPCC FAR.

1983 The Nuclear Winter controversy

This was launched with a press conference on Halloween by Sagen et al before their paper was published. A controversy over the scientific grounds of a public fear campaign ensued. The SCOPE-ENUWAR report of 1986 would give a considered assessment of the issue.

EPA report says earth will heat up beginning in 1990s, New York Times, 17Oct83, page 1

This 18Oct83 front page New York Times story goes on to say ‘Although private scientists have made similar predictions for years, this report is the first warning by the Federal Government that the “greenhouse effect” is not a theoretical problem but a threat whose first effects will be felt within a few years.”

1983 (Oct) EPA report: Can we delay a greenhouse warming? : the effectiveness and feasibility of options to slow a build-up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

This report won a New York Times front page story: “EPA Report Says Earth will heat Up Beginning in 1990s” (18Oct83) but is much less substantial than the NAS report (below) and less alarmist than often reported. It does not recommend climate action but it is the first acknowledgement by a US Federal agency that AGW is a real threat. This report was released on Monday 17 October and the NYT article says that the NAS report (see below) is planned for released ‘on Thursday’.

1983 US NRC report Changing Climate: report of the Carbon Dioxide Assessment Committee

The Energy and Security Act of 1980 requested the NAS to prepare an assessment of the implications of the buildup of CO2. The Carbon Dioxide Assessment Committee (chaired by William Nierenberg) was formed under the climate research board to plan the study. The report was released 3 days after the EPA report (according to NYT). It notably considered (otherwise neglected) the economic cost/benefit of action, it concluded:

We do not believe…that the evidence at hand about CO2-induced climate change would support steps to change current fuel-use patterns away from fossil fuels. Such steps may be necessary or desirable at some time in the future, and we should certainly think carefully about costs and benefits of such steps; but the very near future would be better spent improving our knowledge…than in changing fuel mix or use.


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 signed at Rio in 1992.

1985 (Oct) Villach Climate Conference in Villach, Austria.

A meeting of invited scientists exclusively addressing the climate impact of GHG emissions. It was sponsored by UNEP, WMO and ICSU under the World Climate Program.

This follows a previous meetings of government representatives on the same topic in Villach in Sept 1980. The meeting was supposed to discuss the results of the recently completed SCOPE 29 Report (funded by UNEP and published by ICSU) that was later published with the Villach ’85 statement at its head. The scientists from 29 countries attended not as country delegates but in their personal capacity. They included Bert Bolin,  Roger Revelle, Mike MacCracken, Tom Wigley, Phil Jones. The meeting was chair by Jim Bruce, who was the acting deputy Secretary General of the WMO and who later took charge of the negotiations with UNEP for the proposed IPCC). It was opened with an alarming paper by Mustafa Tolba (The current UNEP Exec Director – note that Maurice Strong is not listed as a particpant). Tolba promoted the idea of a treaty process for greenhouse gas emission controls similar to the one that UNEP was just completing for the protection of the Ozone Layer. The climate alarm and policy activism  promoted by Bruce and Tolba at this conference is widely regarded to have been an important impetus to the climate treaty processes that soon began in the United Nations.

Participants at Villach often claim that there new scientific findings in Rananathan et al 1985 (according to Bolin p37, this was available in draft for the SCOPE assessment) were behind the move to call for urgent climate action. These paper drew attention to the fact that other greenhouse gas emissions have as great a collective impact as that of CO2. This is why the projections of ‘equivalent’ doubling of CO2 were brought forward at Villach–ie, by taking into account the noted rise in methane and other GHGs. This might be so, but it is not to say that consideration of other GHG emissions was entirely new. Previous reports have given considerable attention to their potential influence, and they have been closely studied (by Ramanathan and others) at least since the mid-1970s

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.’

The meeting recommended establishing a small advisory group that became the Advisory Group on Greenhouse Gases (AGGG). This group was asked to ensure compliance with the Villach recommendations, to provide advice at a national and international level, to ensure periodic assessments, and ‘to initiate, if deemed necessary, consideration of a global convention.’ (See Bolin p38) The AGGG would consist of only 6 scientists, two representing each of the convening organisation.

See: Report of the International Conference on the Assessment of the role of Carbon Dioxide and of other Greenhouse Gases in Climate Variations and Associated Impacts WMO 661.

1986 The SCOPE-ENUWAR report on the environmental consequences of nuclear war

Involving over 300 scientists from 30 countries over 18 months (ie, some similarities to the IPCC), the two-volume report avoids the term ‘nuclear winter’ yet predicted long-term environmental consequences that were not so drastic as Sagan et al in 1983.

1987 (Mar) UN World Commission on Environment and Development report: Our Common Future

The Brundtland Commission Review was notable for involving public hearings around the world and the involvement of environmental NGOs. It was influenced by the Villach Review 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 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. The Brundtland report triggered the call for the Earth Summit. In December 1988 the UN GA decided that it would be ‘highly desirable that a UN conference on environment and development be convened no later than 1992′ and a year later it was officially announced that this conference would take place on the 20th annaversary of the Stockholm conference.

1987 (May) The Tenth World Meteorological Congress conceives of a scientific-governmental periodic assessment

Following an impassioned call from the delegate for Botswana asking the WMO to give an authoritative answer to the questions of governments, the Congress resolved to call on the WMO Executive Council to set-up an ‘appropriate mechanism’. Although not stated in the resolution, but pressed in the discussion by the USA, it was taken that this assessment mechanism should operate under the guidance of governments rather than solely through scientists serving in their personal capacities. The Council met directly after the conclusion of the Congress and thus began the process to establish the IPCC as a hybrid scientific-political organisation.

1987 (Sept) Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer

Agreed on 16 September under the framework convention established in Vienna (1985), the scientific assessment was conducted under the chairmanship of a Robert Watson (NASA).

1987 (Sept) Villach-Bellagio policy development workshops

Climatic Change policy development workshop, Villach (28 Sept – 2 Oct), held by the WMO and UNEP. A follow-up conference was held in Bellagio, 9-13 November. These two conferences were largely privately funded (in a large part by the Beijer Institute and the Rockefeller foundation). Billed “as an important step in the process of policy development in response to possible climatic changes that was called for by the Villach Conference in October 1985,” the organising committee were all non-government scientists and the invited participants included representatives from NGOs (eg Michael Oppenheimer of EDF was on the organising committee). In the end this initiative deferred to the intergovernmental proposal: one of the priority actions recommended was “examination by organizations, including the inter-governmental mechanism to be constituted by the WMO and UNEP in 1988 (see 1987 May above) of the need for an agreement on a law of the atmosphere as a global commons or the need to move towards a convention along the lines of that developed for ozone.” A tentative target rate of warming and sea-level rise was set so that these could be used as the basis of emissions targets (as was done in the Toronto the following year).

1987 (Dec) 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 Program.

1988 (June) WMO establishes the IPCC

The WMO Executive Council agrees to establish the IPCC with its twin objectives of assessment and policy formulation (‘response strategies’).

1988  (June) Hansen’s testimony to Congress

James HansenThe 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 policymakers 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 CO2‘ as ‘an imperative goal.’ This is estimated to require 50% reduction in current emissions levels. The initial goal (what became known as the ‘Toronto target’) is to ‘reduce CO2 emissions by approximately 20% of 1988 levels by the year 2005.’

The Canadian chair of the Villach ’85 conference, Jim Bruce played a key role in organizing this conference and generally in the push at the time for agreement on emissions control. Also important was Howard Ferguson, the former head of the Canadian Met Service, who was a member of theVillach-Bellagio committee and went on to serve as convener of the Second World Climate Conference.

The conference was 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 alarm, famously opening with ‘Humanity is conducting an unintended, uncontrolled, globally pervasive experiment whose ultimate consequences could be second only to a global nuclear war.’ (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, covering 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 (Sept) 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 (Sept) George Bush pledges for action on global climate change in the presidential campaign.

While Reagan was reluctant on the issue, George Bush came out in support of action on climate change in his presidential campaign. On the campaign trail in September 1988, he declared “those who think we’re powerless to do anything about the greenhouse effect are forgetting about the White House effect. As president, I intend to do something about it.”

1988 (Nov) Greenhouse ’88 Planning for Climate Change Conference, Adelaide, South Australia 3-5 November.

This event is regional (Australia) 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 (sponsored by Barry Jones, chaired by Philip Adams). 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…’

1988 (Nov) 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 (Dec) 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 for 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 the IPCC was asked to review and recommend on strengthening relevant existing international legal instruments and ‘elements for inclusion in a possible future international convention on climate.’

1989 (Jan) George Bush takes over from Reagan as US President

1989 (Jan) As his first speaking engagement as Secretary of State, Jame Baker opens the first meeting of WG3, where he said ‘we can probably not afford to wait until all the uncertainties have been resolved before we do act’.

1989 (Feb) Conference on Global Warming from the perspective of developing countries, Delhi

TATA Energy Reserch Institute (TERI) and Woods Hole Research Center organised a conference in Delhi to address global warming from the perspective of developing countries. The report of the conference made an early claim that the problem was caused by the developed countries and therefore its remediation should be financed by them, including by providing aid to developing countries. The conference report opens:

Global warming is the greatest crisis ever faced collectively by humankind, unlike other earlier crises, it is global in nature, threatens the very survival of civilisation, and promises to through up only losers over the entire international socio-economic fabric. The reason for such a potential apocalyptic scenario is simple: climate change of geological proportions are occurring over time-spans as short as a single human lifetime. (quoted in Bolin, 2007, p55)

1989 The backlash in the US scientific community to the alarmism of 1988 includes the Marshall Institute report on Global Warming. This was soon expanded and published as a book, Scientific perspectives on the greenhouse problem by Jastrow, Nierenberg and Seitz. (The original report has not been obtained and I would be obliged if someone offered to send me a copy–BernieL.)

1989 – Evidence that CO2 concentration increase lags temperature increase in paleoclimate ice core data

The correlation between atmospheric CO2 concentration and global mean temperature in the proxy record is sometime used as evidence of a causal link. However sceptics (including Lamb in the early 1970s) have long argued that this might just be a consequence of ocean warming/cooling (where the oceans expire CO2 as they warm). Evidence that CO2 increase lags temperature increase is found in the ice core data. (See Idso, S.B.  1988.  Carbon dioxide and climate in the Vostok ice core.  Atmospheric Environment 22: 2341-2342. and Idso, S.B.  1989.  Carbon Dioxide and Global Change: Earth in Transition.  IBR Press, Tempe, AZ. Discussed at CO2 Science)

1989 (Dec) The ‘Malta Summit’ of the USA and USSR leadership (Bush with Gorbachev) takes place only weeks after the fall of the Berlin wall. During the meeting President Bush offers to host the first negotiation of a climate change treaty after the IPCC has completed its report.

1989 (Oct) Ministerial Conference on Atmospheric Pollution and Climatic Change, Noordwijk

This conference, attended by 67 delegations mostly at ministerial level, including all the key players. It had been planned for some time but now came into conflict with the IPCC process. The USA, USSR and Japan were instrumental in blocking moves to set emissions goals and the declaration ended up deferring to the IPCC, and the completion of its First Assessment, as a step towards a framework convention. (Available as Appendix D, Report of IPCC III)

1989 (Dec) UN GA Resolution 44/207 “Protection of global climate for present and future generations of mankind”

The title of this resolution is a repeat of 43/53. It places great import and urgency on the (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

This resolution is anticipated in an earlier speech (text) to the 44th General Assembly by Margaret Thatcher. However, at the UN GA the following December these preparations are taken out of the hands of these agencies.

1990 (Feb) Speech by President Bush to the IPCC 3rd Session held in Washington

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 to the IPCC 5 Feb 1990. 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 near Washington in 1991 and the treaty was open for signature in May 1992 on the last day of a meeting in New York). At the beginning (during the first assessment) the administration of George Bush was friendly to the IPCC and the treaty process (in contrast to the administration of Reagan and later of George W Bush). But already in 1989 hard-nose economic advisers were raising concerns about Bush’s cavalier approach in the absence of economic analysis. Their influence contributed to the position of opposing any commitment to emissions targets.

1990 (May) Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research opened by Margaret Thatcher

This opening was timed to coincide with the ‘publication’ of the Working Group I report (or at least the completion of the Working Group I plenary approval in Windsor) [see Darwall p131]. Thatcher 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 IPCC First Assessment Report (FAR).

The final draft of the working group reports were presented to IPCC IV (Sundsvall, 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 a new one was quickly cobbled together from the three (already approved) Working Group summaries. 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 (Nov) The Second World Climate Conference, Geneva

This conference was delay from its original scheduled date in June to give time for the IPCC to complete its assessment for consideration by the conference. 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 (Dec)  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 Jean Ripert who had been the French delegate to the IPCC. Michael Zammit Cutajar was the executive secretary (ie a UN employee) who attended and spoke at a number of subsequent IPCC meetings. Raul Estrada-Oyuela took over from Ripert in March 1993 and then transitioned to chairman of the FCCC, where he played a dominant role in proceedings leading up to Kyoto.

1990 (??) The Greenhouse Conspiracy TV Documentary by Hilary Lawson (Cutting Edge, UK Ch 4) screened in the UK and Australia.

1991 (June) The Mount Pinatubo eruption deposits large volumes of sulphates into the stratosphere. This is widely considered to have cooled the global climate for a year or more.

1992 (May) On the last day of a meeting in New York, the text of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was adopted and so ready to be open for signature just in time for the Rio Earth Summit. Its readiness for the summit was a condition of George Bush attending.

1992 (June) ‘Earth Summit’ in Rio

This conference (3-14 June) came 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 would soon consider a political issue and not one for the IPCC scientists, although others disagree.

1992 (Oct) The US Senate ratified the FCCC. There were the 4th country to do so.

1993 (Jan) The Republicans lost the election and Bill Clinton becomes the new president (with Al Gore, Vice-President and Tim Wirth, State Department)

1993 (Oct) The Clinton-Gore Climate Change Action Plan is released

1994 (Mar) UN FCCC climate treaty entered into force.

The first Conference of Parties is required within one year.

1995 (Mar) 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 (Oct) 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 (Nov) 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)

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