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When Climate Wasn't Political

By Deepa Bhargava

Since the 1950s, researchers and scientists had known fossil fuels were releasing greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, therefore, causing the temperature to rise. Throughout the ’50s, scientists started to alert the general public about the dangers of fossil fuels because of the carbon dioxide released from factories and automobiles.

Global warming occurs when carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases collect in the atmosphere and absorb sunlight and solar radiation that have bounced off the earth’s surface. The more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the warmer the planet. And every year, by burning coal, gas, and oil, the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increases, thus warming the planet. The burning of fossil fuels to make electricity is the largest source of heat-trapping pollution, producing about two billion tons of carbon dioxide every year.

The political climate was more favorable from 1979-1989, where Republicans and Democrats worked together. Today, we have partisan politics where each party is rejecting ideas and initiatives from the opposing party.

At the start of the ’80s, scientists who worked for the federal government predicted global warming rates would increase like never before. According to Nathaniel Rich in his famous piece about climate change from 1979 to 1989 in the New York Times Magazine: “Conclusive evidence of warming would appear on the global temperature record by the end of the decade, at which point it would be too late to avoid disaster.”

During the previous decade, some of the biggest oil corporations, including Exxon and Shell, attempted to comprehend the extent of the emergency and grapple with possible solutions. In 1980, Exxon created its own carbon-dioxide research program with an annual budget of $600,000. Exxon mainly researched how much global warming could be blamed on them, instead of understanding how much the world could warm. By doing this, Exxon deceived the public and did nothing about the arising global warming issues.

The world's significant forces came surprisingly close to embracing an authoritative, worldwide structure to diminish carbon emissions — far closer than we've come since. During those years, the conditions for success were the best they have ever been. The obstacles we face now weren’t nearly as predominant. According to Nathaniel Rich from the New York Times, “almost nothing stood in our way-nothing except ourselves.”


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