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Global Climate Change and the Media: A Timeline


Tim Pelton SOLVE Office / Civic Engagement Center – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Global Climate Change and the Media: A Timeline

Global Climate Change and the MediaA Timeline
  • Tim Pelton
  • SOLVE Office / Civic Engagement Center

The End of the World (as we know it)
  • The end of the world by fire or extreme heat can
    be found in some of the worlds earliest writings
    and continues today as the subject of newspapers
    documentaries, movies, radio broadcasts, on the
    internet and more.

Earliest Writings 1800s
Awareness of Climate Effects
  • In 1827 Jean-Baptiste Fourier predicts that
    atmospheric effects can keep the Earth warm using
    a greenhouse analogy and in 1863 John Tyndal
    publishes a paper showing water vapor to be a
    greenhouse gas. Scientists also begin to believe
    fossil fuel burning can cause warming.
  • In the 1800s and Early 1900s stories about
    climatology begin to appear in newspapers.
  • An awareness of industrialization and its effects
    begins to appear in the press.

1800s Early 1900s
Notice of Warming
  • The 1930s brings the depression to the USA and
    the Dust Bowl. Scientists believe it is a sign of
    greenhouse activity. From the 189os to 1940
    global temperature rises about ½ of one degree F.
  • The Dust Bowls effects widely reported in the
    press and on the radio.
  • Guy Stewart Callendar connects temperature rise
    to CO2 levels in 1938.

Environmental Awareness
  • The popular press begins to report warming
  • Scientists warn that global warming could bring
    significant increases in temperature and are tied
    to CO2 levels, but it goes largely unnoticed by
    the press.
  • The late 1960s bring with them new awareness of
    the environment and the word, ecology becomes
    widely used due to exposure in the media.

1950s 1960s
Earth Day
  • Senator Gaylord Nelson begins in the 1960s to
    believe that an annual day to recognize the
    importance of a clean environment is a way to
    increase awareness of the problems of pollution.
  • April 22, 1970 is designated as Earth Day, the
    beginning of the annual U.S. observance of the
    importance of the environment. Activities are
    widely reported in the media.

April 22, 1970
Climate Change Concerns Grow
  • Studies in the 1970s continue to indicate that
    warming is occurring and scientific conferences
    are held to discuss the problem with some press
  • The 1970s bring a U.S. energy crisis to the
  • By the 1980s the media begins more intense
    scrutiny. Dissenting scientists question the
    reality of climate change dangers .

1970s 1980s
Coral Reef Changes
  • Coral bleaching becomes a concern to scientists
    who determine it is caused by warming waters.
  • Coral polyps expel Zooxanthellae, a single cell
    algae that works symbiotically to keep the coral
  • Scientists later learn that the corals expel the
    algae so that new species of algae that can
    endure warmer waters can replace it. But
    sometimes no such replacement exists and the
    corals die.

Sea Level Rise Concerns
  • Along with changes in coral reefs concerns about
    the possible rise of sea level from the melting
    of polar ice caps begins to appear in news
  • Congressional hearings on warming make headlines
    in the 1980s as scientists learn that the decade
    shows the highest temperatures on record. The
    Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the
    IPCC, is established.

Warming at the Movies on TV
  • Climate change becomes the subject of television
  • Sea level rise becomes the subject of
    Waterworld, an over-budget science fiction film
    about Earth with nearly no land remaining.
  • Later The Day After Tomorrow portrays global
    climate change run amok in an impossible scenario.

1980s, 1990s Beyond
Global Conferences Treaties
  • The first report of the IPCC is released showing
    that the planet has warmed nearly one full degree
    Fahrenheit in 100 years, and warns that serious
    warming will result without action.
  • In 1992 Climate Change Convention is signed by
    154 nations in Rio de Janeiro. Vice President Al
    Gore attends for the U.S. The Rio conference
    receives extensive press coverage.
  • By mid decade island states have demanded a
    decrease in greenhouse gasses to prevent sea
    level rise and in 1997 the Kyoto Protocol calls
    for over 5 cut in emissions by industrialized

Energy Producers Opposition
  • Energy producers begin to worry about how public
    perception might negatively affect future profits
    and governmental regulation.
  • The American Petroleum Institute hosts a meeting
    and a plan is drafted. An effort is launched to
    downplay the dangers of global climate change and
    the contribution of human activity including
    burning of fossil fuels.
  • The project is funded by Exxon and other
    corporations. The effort does not get reported in
    the press for several years.

The 1990s A New Millennium
Bush Administration Global Changes
  • A new president is elected after a historically
    narrow victory. Dangers of global climate change
    are downplayed officially.
  • President George W. Bush renounces the Kyoto
    Protocol because he believes it will damage the
    U.S. Economy. The press covers developments as
    the White House denies that climate change is
    caused by human activity.
  • By 2004 enough industrialized nations have
    ratified Kyoto to put the treaty into effect with
    out the U.S. as part of the effort.

A New Millennium
Political Revisions to Scientific Findings
  • NASA climate change expert, Dr. James Hansen,
    claims he is being pressured by Bush public
    relations personnel to downplay his findings
    about global climate change when discussing them
  • In other federal agencies similar complaints
    surface at times when scientific findings
    conflict with Bush Administration political
  • Congressional hearings confirm Hansen complaints
    and NASA spokesman George C. Deutsch resigns
    when it is learned that he had lied about his
    credentials and had never completed college. The
    24-year-old from Texas had been appointed after
    working on the Bush election campaign.

A New Millennium
National Security Concerns
  • While the Bush administration officially
    downplays the dangers of climate change the
    intelligence community begins to recognize the
    dangers that it could bring as nations come to
    grips with failing crops, catastrophic weather
    changes, and disappearing resources.
  • Global climate change becomes part of the
    National Intelligence Assessment, an official
    report of the threats to the security of the
    United States. Dr. Thomas Fingar reports to
    Congress in 2008. The hearings are covered by the

A New Millennium
An Inconvenient Awakening
  • Vice President Al Gore begins to lecture on the
    topic of global climate change and is asked if
    his presentation might be incorporated by a
    filmmaker into a documentary.
  • An Inconvenient Truth is released in 2006 and
    becomes a hit. The film wins an Academy Award for
    Best Documentary.
  • Al Gore and the IPCC jointly win the Nobel Peace
    Prize for efforts in brining global climate
    change to public awareness and international
  • President Bush acknowledges that human activity
    may contribute to global warming.

A New Millennium
A New Political Landscape
  • The presidential elections of 2008 become a race
    for change.
  • Senator Barak Obama focuses on climate change and
    alternatives to fossil fuels as the key to
    success for America.
  • Senator John McCain agrees but chooses to
    emphasize additional fossil fuel development.
    Drill baby drill becomes a common chant at
    McCain-Palin rallies.
  • Gasoline tops 4 and even oil billionaire T.
    Boone Pickens sets forth plans for energy

A New Millennium
A New Administration and Awareness
  • Economic disaster in the U.S. becomes the focus
    of political campaigns and Sen. Barack Obama is
    elected decisively.
  • At his inauguration Obama pledges to support
    development of new technologies that will lead to
    energy independence and a decrease in CO2
    emissions in the United States more difficult
    to justify as oil prices drop.
  • Kenneth Cohen, Exxon's vice president of public
    affairs says "there is no question that human
    activity is the source of carbon dioxide
    emissions." He emphasizes that Exxon will work
    with policy groups and universities to find new
    ways to lower greenhouse gases while producing

A New Millennium
New Directions
  • Congress begins deliberations on economic bill to
    begin to address economic concerns.
  • Funding for alternative energy development is
    included in house version of stimulus package.
  • As international talks continue 190 square miles
    of ice shelf on the Antarctic coast breaks away
    into the sea.
  • New York Times columnist, economist Tom Friedman,
    and others warn of global weather impacts from
    global weirding. He calls for a green
    revolution to develop new technologies to solve
    the problem and revive the U.S. economy.

A New Millennium
New Opinions and Lost Ground
  • Rasmussen Reports, a political polling firm that
    monitors public opinion about the causes of
    global climate change. In July 2006, 46 of
    voters said global warming is caused primarily by
    human activities, while just 35 of voters said
    they believe it is due to long term planetary
  • On January 19th the group released its most
    recent findings on public opinion about global
    climate change. It found that now more voters
    believe that warming is a result of normal
    planetary fluctuations than from human causes.
    Those who believe it is caused by people dropped
    to 41 while those who believe the converse rose
    to 44.

A New Millennium
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