A Brief on the History of Climate Change – Part 3
The fact that Climate Change is a real issue has been established by climate scientists for several decades. But where did it all begin? When did people start to realise that something was wrong with our climate?
The History of Climate Change: 1999 – 2005
The infamous “hockey stick” graph – that suggested that contemporary temperature rise in the northern hemisphere was unusual when compared to the last 1000 years – is published in 1999. The graph was highly controversial, being hotly debated among climate change believers and non-believers. It also prompted a US congressional enquiry to look into its veracity.
The “Hockey Stick” curve that was published by Mann, Bradley and Hughes, 1999.
The very same year, the human population reached 6 billion individuals.
Two years later, in 2001, the then president of the US, George W. Bush, removed the United States from the Kyoto Protocol process. This was a landmark move, as the US was then the largest emitter of CO2 and other greenhouse gases in the world. The third IPPC report was launched the same year, and it concluded that it had “new and stronger evidence” to prove that human GHG emissions were a major factor in climate change caused in the latter half of the 20th century.
In 2005, the Kyoto Protocol was made into law for all those countries that were still a party to it (except, at that time, the US, Afghanistan and Sudan). Some countries had agreed to binding targets on emissions reduction, while some had chosen to remain as signatories without binding commitments.
The History of Climate Change: 2006 – 2008
In October 2006, the (now the most widely read) report on the economics of climate change – the Stern Review – was released for the British government. It concluded that “climate change is a serious and urgent issue”, and that not tackling climate change would cost the world economy 20% of its GDP. On the other hand, taking steps to curb it would call for only 1% of the global GDP.
By the end of the year, carbon emissions reached eight billion tonnes per year. The next year (2007), the IPCC released its fourth assessment report in which it stated that it was more than 90% likely that man-made emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases were directly responsible for modern day changes in climate patterns. Later that year, in Bali, Indonesia, government representatives from across the world agreed on the “Bali roadmap” – which aimed at forming a new globally binding treaty on climate change by the end of 2009.
In 2008, the Keeling project shows that, in a mere 50 years, atmospheric CO2 concentrations had risen from 315 parts per million (ppm) in 1958 (when the project started) to 380 ppm in 2008. The next year, the US is overtaken by China as the world’s largest emitter on greenhouse gases (although the US still leads on a per-capita basis).