Access Warm & Cool Homes Video Resources



Basic Climate Science Was Understood Before 1900

1820 -The Greenhouse effect was first proposed in the 1820’s by  Joseph Fourier a French physicist and mathematician.  Noting the sun’s constant heating of the earth did not continually raise the temperature, he surmised that to keep a steady temperature the earth must give off an equal amount of energy to that which it receives from the sun.  If it didn’t the earth’s temperature would continually rise.  After doing experiments with a greenhouse, Fourier also hypothesized that the atmosphere acted like a blanket or greenhouse keeping  the earth’s  warmer.  This is where the name Greenhouse Effect came from.

1860’s John Tyndall, an Irish physicist, showed that  CO2 absorbed energy. This is the mechanism which explains Fourier’s hypothesis that explains the connection between CO2 in the atmosphere and the greenhouse effect

1890 ‘s Swiss scientist Svante Arrhenius thought there might be a connection between Ice ages and a drop in CO2 in the atmosphere which he thought might occur due to limited volcanic activity. He calculated that if the global CO2 levels were halved, it would result in a 5C (9F) degree drop in temperature.  This line of reasoning led him to wonder if adding CO2 to the atmosphere might increase the temperature.  His numbers showed that a  doubling of  CO2 in the atmosphere would result in a 5C (9)F  degree drop in temperature. 
Arrhenius calculated the rate at which coal was being burned and came to the conclusion that at that rate (1890’s) it would take thousands of years for the earth to warm.  He of course did not account for the exponential growth of societies energy use. 

       1930’s A British scientist, John Callander,  argued that temperatures in       
       Europe and North America had risen from preindustrial levels by the 1930’s. 
       His calculations suggested that a doubling of the CO2 in the atmosphere   
       would lead to a 3C (5.6) F temperature rise. He continued to believe and    

       argue.  that climate change was occurring for the next 30 years. 

       1956 Gilbert Plass publishes the Carbon Dioxide Theory of Climactic Change.

1958 the Mona Loa Observatory, operated by Scrips Institute was opened. and 
        Charles Keeling began taking measurements of the amount of CO2 in the 
         atmosphere.  Those measurements continue to this day.  Here is a quick    
         video which explains and documents his data over more the 60 years since. 

1958 Climate Science is a topic in the Bell Telephone Science Hour TV science program.  

The following video was an internal film made by Shell Oil to educate their executives. Since the time of this film,  Shell, along with other oil companies have ignored the contents of this film in favor of shale oil and arctic drilling both high carbon releasing processes.