Global Warming is a buzzword you’ve likely heard before, and may even have an opinion on, but what do we really know about it? Where did it come from, and what does it mean?
According to Global Citizen, the underlying cause of global warming – “the greenhouse effect” – was published in 1965 by “scientists on the US President’s Advisory Committee”, during Lyndon B Johnson’s presidential term, however “it wasn’t until 1975 that the term “global warming” was coined by geoscientist Wallace Broecker – and it took years before the issue reached mainstream understanding” (https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/important-moments-climate-history-in-photos/). For the full report, which covers pollution of air, water, and soil, check it out here: https://www.eenews.net/assets/2019/01/11/document_cw_01.pdf, however if you’re more interested in the information regarding carbon dioxide specifically, see here instead: http://www.climatefiles.com/climate-change-evidence/presidents-report-atmospher-carbon-dioxide/#:~:text=%E2%80%9CRestoring%20the%20Quality%20of%20Our,role%20in%20addressing%20the%20future. In this report, scientists outline how fossil fuel extraction has led to an increase in Carbon Dioxide in the lower and upper sections of the atmosphere, beyond what nature can naturally filter out with rain and trees, and since, according to the report, “carbon dioxide is nearly transparent to visible light, but it is a strong absorber and back radiator of infrared radiation…an increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide could act, much like the glass in a greenhouse, to raise the temperature of the lower air” (page 118, “Restoring the Quality of Our Environment” Report). Hence, the initial foundation for the discovery of “Global Warming” was born. In 1975, in a paper called “Climatic Change: Are We on the Brink of a Pronounced Global Warming?” Wallace Broecker mapped out the effects humans were having by emitting more and more CO2, and while some of his initial findings were off, “Right on cue in 1976, temperatures started ascending, and have continued since then pretty much along the trajectory Broecker laid out” (https://blogs.ei.columbia.edu/2019/02/19/wallace-broecker-early-prophet-of-climate-change/).
Even though Broecker is thought of as the first to publish the phrase “global warming,” he is certainly not the first person concerned with the problem of pollution. In 1962 Rachel Carson published the “Silent Spring” in which she outlined the toxic pollution in our air and water due to pesticides, just as several environmental concerns had begun to take center stage as oil spills threatened marine life and rivers that fed city drinking water plants caught fire. Thus, in early 1970, President Richard Nixon “sent to Congress a plan to consolidate many environmental responsibilities of the federal government under one agency, a new Environmental Protection Agency” and the EPA was born (https://www.epa.gov/history/origins-epa).
While these findings are only about 50 years old, it’s important to keep in mind that thanks to innovation, research, activism, and technology, new information about is constantly coming to light. If you’re curious to learn more, stay tuned.