The great science reporter Andrew Revkin has been posting early newspaper stories about global warming (as we call it today). These stories go back a hundred years and more.
From his Twitter account, here’s an interesting example, featuring a talk given at a Midwestern college by the Swedish scientist, Svante Arrhenius, who first calculated the consequences of adding vast amounts of a trace gas, carbon dioxide, to the atmosphere.
In an Illinois paper focusing on a talk Arrhenius gave in May of 1911, the story is headlined:
EARTH LIKE MARS?
The subheadlines (characteristic of the era) read:
Dr. Arrhenius of Sweden says Change is Gradually Taking Place
WILL NOT SUSTAIN LIFE
However, It May be 10,000 Years or More Before Carbon Di-Oxide Is Exhausted.
The first lines of the story (sent by a reader and excerpted by Revkin) read:
“That this earth will become like the planet Mars, incapable of sustaining life, was the prediction made by Dr. Svante A. Arrhenius, Stockholm, Sweden, in a lecture at Augustana college on the subject, “The Development of the Atmosphere of Planets,” Saturday night. Dr. Arrhenius, who won the Nobel prize in chemistry in l903 because of his electrolytical dissociation theory, is regarded as the world’s foremost authority on cosmogony.”
Arrhenius may have been too optimistic by 9795 years, argues Matt Davies, a Pulitizer Prize winning editorial cartoonist for Newsday.