A Timeline of Major Climate Change History

A brief description of some of the major events that have happened in the history of climate change. These events are considered some of the most important events in the history of climate change science.

1800 - 1870

We know from measurement of ancient ice that the level of carbon dioxide gas in the atmosphere was about 290 ppm. The mean global temperature was roughly 56.6°F. The First Industrial Revolution was also occuring at this time, speeding up greenhouse gas emissions.


Tyndall demonstrated that some gases block infrared radiation, noting that changes in the concentration of these gas could have an impact on the climate.


International Meteorologist Organization begins to complie and standardize global weather data, including temperature.

1870 - 1910

The Second Industrial Revolution - fertilizers and other chemicals, electricity, and public health further accelerate the growth of human populations.

1920 - 1925

Marks thhe beginning of the opeing of Texas and Persian Gulg oil fields inaugurating an era of cheap energy.


After World War II, the US Office of Naval Research begins to grant gernerous amounts of funding to many different fields of science, some of which are credited with being very useful to the understanding of climate change.


The concerns over the Cold War bring extra support to funding and cooridnation for climate studies. Revele finds that carbon dioxide produces by humans will not be readily absorbed by the oceans.


Keeling measures the carboon dioxide levels in Earth's atmosphere and detects an annual rise of carbon dioxide gases. The level in 315 ppm. Now the mean global temperature is 57.02 degrees F.


New calculations are suggesting that the feedback with wator vapor in the atmosphere could make the climate sensitive to changes in the carbon dioxide levels. A first meeting of experts concerned with climate change also occurs, warning that a rise in the sea level and "immense flooding" of shorelines are likely.


The Internations Global Atmospheric Research Program is established, primarily to gather data for short-range weather prediction, including climate. Manabe and Wetherale produce calculations that show doubling of carbon dioxide would likelt raise temperatures of atmosphere a couple degrees.


Environmental movements are gaining strong influence within the public, the First Earth Day is celebrated to spread concern about global climate change. The United States created the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, becoming the worlds leading funder of climate research.


Studies begin to show that CFCs, methane and ozone can have a serious impact on the contribution to the greenhouse effect. Deep-sea cores show the influence of a 100,000 year Milankovich orbital changes, emphasizing the role of feedbacks. Deforestation and other ecosystem changes are now recognized as major factors in the future of climate.


The second oil "energy crsis" begins, strengthening environmental movements that support renewable energy sources. The US Nationoal Academy of Science reports that doubling of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will bring 1.5-4.5 degree C global warming.


After global warming become a mainstream topic, with certain groups beginning to deny the exsistance of it, new studies come out. Ramanathan and collaborators announce that global warming may occur twice as fast as expecting, due to an increased rise in methance and other gases. Many scientists are now beginning to say global warming may be inevitable and call on governments to consider international agreements to restrict emissions.


News coverage on global warming increases following record heat waves and droughts. Toronto conference called for strict and specific limits on greenhouse gases, while UK Prime Minister Thatcher is the first major leader to call for action. The Intergovernmenttal Panel on Climate Change is also established.


After the US continues to block movements on restricted greenhouse gases, based on claims from corporations that the science is too uncertain, new studies find that significant warming could occur within ten years. Second IPCC report detects a "signature" of human-caused greenhouse effected warming. There are new reports emerging of Antarctic ice shelves and other signs of current warming in polar regions.


The Global Climate Coalition is dissolved as many corporations grapple with the threat of wrming, mamy convincing the U.S. Administration to deny problems. More and more studies come out on the importance of biological feedbacks in the carbon cycle, liable to accelerate warming.


A Third IPCC. report states that global warming is "very likely", with highly damaging future impacts - serves as an effective end of the debate on climate change for many scientists. National Academy panal sees a "paradigm shift" in scientific recognition of the risk of abrupt climate change. There is new reports of warming in the ocean basisns, matching the computer models that were presented on them years before.


The Kyoto Treaty is signed into effect, working to decerase greenhouse gas emissions by mulitple countries and corporations. There is an increase of hurricanes and tropical storms reported througout the year.


Fourth IPCC report warns that serious effects of warming have become evident and the cost of reducing emissions would be far less than the damages they will cause. The ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctic as well as the Arctic Ocean sea-ice cover are all found to be shrinking faster than expected.


Many scientists are agreeing that the effects of climate change are arriving faster than anticipcated just a few years earlier. The Copenhagen conference fails to negotiate binding agreements.


Researchers find a collape for the West Antarctic ice sheets that may be irreversible, increasing the sea-level rise over future years. The Paris Agreement is formed, nearly all nations pledge to set their own targerts for greenhouse gas cuts and to report their progress.


The news of environmental disasters and intensified scientific warning raise more concern. Generations of younger people hold public demonstrations and civiil disobedience. The mean global temperature is now 58.64 degreed F, and the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is 415 ppm.