When did we discover global warming?

For how long have politicians been ignoring the facts about climate science?

You might think that global warming and climate change are relatively new issues that we've been dealing with, but it turns out that our governments have just been doing a good job at keeping the truth out of sight.

In June 1986, the U.S. Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works met with scientists to discuss "Ozone Depletion, the Greenhouse Effect, and Climate Change."

As one senator said at the hearing, "The scientific evidence … is telling us we have a problem, a serious problem."

Are you getting déjà vu? Surely we haven't been ignoring climate change issues for three decades! Or have we?

Al Gore (does that name ring a bell?) was at the hearing, too, as a newly elected senator. As he said at the time, "There is no longer any significant difference of opinion within the scientific community about the fact that the greenhouse effect is real and already occurring."

Gore was right: a number of studies on climate change had already taken place, with one analysis predicting, "as a result of the increasing greenhouse gases it is now believed that in the first half of the next century (21st century) a rise of global mean temperature could occur which is greater than in any man's history."

Above: A story on the front page of The Washington Post on June 11, 1986

Even earlier, in 1979, was first World Climate Conference, at which the prediction was made that "continued expansion of man's activities on Earth may cause significant extended regional and even global changes of climate". The attendees called for "global cooperation to explore the possible future course of global climate and to take this new understanding into account in planning for the future development of human society."

"We knew in the '70s what the problem was… We knew there was a problem with sea level rise, all disruptions of climate. And the disruptions of climate are fundamental in that they undermine all the life on the Earth."
- -George Woodwell, founding director of the Woods Hole Research Centre

Although scientists initially believed that greenhouse gas emissions temperatures would or even faster than current models suggest, what is clear is that we've been turning our back on this issue for far too long (perhaps in the hope that it will magically disappear?)

One thing is clear: we need to start listening to our scientists instead of ignoring them. We need to start acting on these issues instead of hoping that someone else will deal with them. We need to start being a voice for action rather than wasting precious time debating whether this is really happening, because it is.

Learn more about climate science

Watch this next: How did climate science become a matter of opinion?

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Banner image: Pixabay via the International Space Station

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Steph Newman Former Social Media Assistant Suggest an article Send us an email

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