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1824- French physicist Joseph Fourier describes the Earth's natural "greenhouse effect". He writes: "The temperature [of the Earth] can be augmented by the interposition of the atmosphere, because heat in the state of light finds less resistance in penetrating the air, than in re-passing into the air when converted into non-luminous heat."

1896- Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius concludes that industrial-age coal burning will enhance the natural greenhouse effect. He suggests this might be beneficial for future generations. His conclusions on the likely size of the "man-made greenhouse" are in the same ballpark - a few degrees Celsius for a doubling of CO2 - as modern-day climate models.

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1900- Another Swede, Knut Angstrom, discovers that even at the tiny concentrations found in the atmosphere, CO2 strongly absorbs parts of the infrared spectrum. Although he does not realise the significance, Angstrom has shown that a trace gas can produce greenhouse warming.

1938 - Using records from 147 weather stations around the world, British engineer Guy Callendar shows that temperatures had risen over the previous century. He also shows that CO2 concentrations had increased over the same period, and suggests this caused the warming. The "Callendar effect" is widely dismissed by meteorologists.

1989 - UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher - possessor of a chemistry degree - warns in a speech to the UN that "We are seeing a vast increase in the amount of carbon dioxide reaching the atmosphere... The result is that change in future is likely to be more fundamental and more widespread than anything we have known hitherto." She calls for a global treaty on climate change.

1997 - Kyoto Protocol agreed. Developed nations pledge to reduce emissions by an average of 5% by the period 2008-12, with wide variations on targets for individual countries. US Senate immediately declares it will not ratify the treaty.

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2011 - Data shows concentrations of greenhouse gases are rising faster than in previous years.

Why is the United States so ignorant and ignoring of the truth? Answer: because we are exceptional – exceptionally stupid. The global equilibrium, which had allowed the United States to grow and prosper in virtual isolation since 1815 was gone forever as the result of a short but shattering war. In 1898, U.S. domestic support for the independence of Cuba enmeshed the United States in a struggle with Spain over the fate of the island nation. Since the First World War, the United States has had a significant impact on the world, Since the Second World War we have been the “world’s policeman.” 

Why is the United States so ignorant and ignoring of the truth? Answer: because we are exceptional – exceptionally stupid.

The US is so powerful for reasons other than its size, its military might, and its global system of alliances and bases — although those are certainly important. There is also America's tremendous advantage in scientific research, which both furthers and is an expression of its technological and economic lead on much of the rest of the world; it's also an indicator of innovation more broadly. An imperfect but revealing shorthand for that is the US's tremendous lead in Nobel prizes from its 1901 inception through 2013. The US has won 371 Nobels, mostly in the sciences; the US thus accounts for 4 percent of the world population but 34 percent of its Nobel laureates. This is the result of many factors: wealth, a culture and economy that encourage innovation, education, vast state- and private-funded research programs, and a political culture that has long attracted highly educated migrants. All of those factors contribute to American wealth and thus power in more ways than just Nobel prizes, but the sheer number of US laureates is a sign of the American advantage there.

Despite this scientific advantage, America’s emphasis on economic wealth and reliance on fossil fuels has caused it to ignore politically the encroaching dangers of climate change. We have been aware of its dangers for almost two centuries, but we have really done nothing about it, and we continue to ignore the reality. And now, what do we have? An unprecedented heat wave in the Pacific Northwest this week sent more than 1,000 people to emergency rooms and has been linked to at least 233 reported deaths in Canada. Portland, Ore., reached 116 degrees on Monday (June 27, 2021), a record-breaking high temperature for the city. Seattle, which has had only two other days in the last 50 years with temperatures in the triple digits, also reached a record high of 108 degrees on Monday.

How powerful is the fossil fuel industry in the United States? Let’s not forget that a powerful Texas oilman may have organized the assassination of John F. Kennedy. (Just before John F. Kennedy was assassinated he upset people like Clint Murchison and Haroldson L. Hunt when he talked about plans to submit to Congress a tax reform plan designed to produce about $185,000,000 in additional revenues by changes in the favorable tax treatment until then accorded the gas-oil industry.

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Kennedy was particularly upset that Hunt, who had an annual income of about $30,000,000, paid only small amounts of federal income tax.) Lyndon B. John, J. Edgar Hoover, and other power figures were at Murchison’s house in Dallas the day before the assassination. Now, that’s power, and it hasn’t gone away. If they can kill JFK, they certainly can get us to ignore climate change.

Michael Hertz