130 Years of Global Warming

Accuracy of observation is the equivalent of accuracy of thinking.
— Wallace Stevens

Svante Arrhenius, a Nobel awarded scientist, established the first scientific theory of the Greenhouse Effect within Earth's climate.  He is considered a 'founding father' of modern physical chemistry and his work is the foundation of our modern understanding of the ice ages and the mechanisms of climate.  In 1896 Dr Arrhenius predicted that increases of atmospheric CO2 concentrations from burning fossil fuels would lead to global warming.

A detailed review of the data show's the last 120 years of data to be in strong support of his predictions:

Based on atmospheric CO2 concentration records by NASA combined with the US Department of Energy's Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, a clear relationship between man-made greenhouse gas emissions, atmospheric CO2 levels, and global temperature anomalies emerges.

Here are a few snapshots of the history of greenhouse gas concentrations through the 20th century:

 The relationship between man-made greenhouse gas emissions and atmospheric concentrations from the middle of the 19th century and 2013 show close correlations.

The relationship between man-made greenhouse gas emissions and atmospheric concentrations from the middle of the 19th century and 2013 show close correlations.

Between 1896 and 2013 atmospheric CO2 increased 33% and global average temperature has increased 1 degree Celsius.  That is an increase that tracks Svante Arrhenius’ prediction to 80% accuracy.

As of 2013, there are a number of confirmed international greenhouse gas reduction proposals.   Anticipating that all of these proposals are honored, within 50 years:

  • Global annual CO2 emissions will reach 85.9 Gigatonnes (approximately 230% current levels)
  • Atmospheric CO2 concentrations will likely reach 613, and
  • Global temperatures can be expected to increase another 2 degrees Celsius.

If all current GHG reduction proposals are honored, by 2063 CO2 emissions will be 230% current levels.


We have more work to do.  The energy that we as a country are continuing to put into debating the evidence of over a century of climate science is more than a waste.  It is unethical.  Might these or other predictions related to the reality of climate change be incorrect?  Absolutely. 

The evidence that is plainly observable, however, calls us to action.  If we choose not to act, the potential effect is disastrous to our species and the ecosystem we rely upon.  If, however, we push ourselves to make a change away from fossil fuels through personal and collective investments in renewable energy - the worst case will be a premature investment into systems that we must invest in no matter what.  No one argues that fossil fuels are a limited resource. 

Investing in renewable infrastructure is inevitable.  The sane choice is to begin making that investment now.  It is a choice in which we all have a role to play. 

It is time to make change personal