THE SCIENTIFIC BASIS OF CLIMATE CHANGE
The scientific community has been raising the warning level on climate change since 1988.
The greenhouse effect has long been known. The Swedish scientist Arrhenius published in 1896 in the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, a first attempt to quantify the greenhouse effect, specifically, the increase in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere over the global temperature of the planet. Previously, the absorption property of infrared radiation from some gases had been experimentally confirmed in 1859 by John Tyndall. The Arrhenius quantification barely unveils the possibility of the global effect of increasing combustion of fossil fuels on the planet. Arrhenius believed that doubling greenhouse gases in the atmosphere would lead to an increase in global temperature of 5° Celsius. However, he also thought such levels would be reached over millennia. His conclusions were disputed by many physicists. His theory seemed simplistic and did not rely on many complex climatic effects, such as the role of the oceans or the albedo effect (the ability of surfaces to reflect sunlight (heat from the sun): light-coloured surfaces return a large part of the sunrays back to the atmosphere (high albedo) while dark surfaces absorb the rays from the sun (low albedo)”) Norwegian Polar Institute. The search for scientific data to clarify the exact dimension of this phenomenon had to wait for advances in meteorology as well as in the analysis of the composition of the gases. The controversy lasted decades.
Years later, Charles Keeling, while working with data from the Mauna Loa astronomical observatory in Hawaii and from Antarctica, conducted a series of observations indicating a marked increase in the concentration of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide in particular) in the atmosphere. The graphic which Keeling produced then, is known today as one of the most supported arguments in favor of the existence of the effect of greenhouse gases:
Source: The Keeling Curve - Mauna Loa Observatory (https://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/obop/mlo/)
The influence of these findings on climate theory is significant. Nevertheless, these results emerged at a time when the possibility of a new “ice age” was being discussed (temporary weather effects masked the evolution of the global climate during the 1940s and 1950s), and Keeling’s findings went relatively unnoticed.
The issue reemerges when a series of global temperature measurements finally confirms the prevalence of Arrhenius and Tyndall’s greenhouse effect.