KEY MILESTONES IN THE BATTLE AGAINST CLIMATE CHANGE
If you want to understand the key milestones, scientific discoveries, technical innovations and political action that have led to
the current status on combatting climate change, see below. Click on the black icons to see what transpired in the time period.
British ironmonger Thomas Newcomen invents the first widely used steam engine, paving the way for the
Industrial Revolution and indus trial scale use of coal.
World population reaches one billion.
Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius concludes that industrial-age coal burning will enhance the natural greenhouse
effect. He suggests this might be benefcial 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.
Carbon emissions from fossil fuel burning and industry reach one billion tonnes per year.
Human population reaches two billion.
Using equipment he had developed himself, Charles David (Dave) Keeling begins systematic measurements of
atmospheric CO2 at Mauna Loa in Hawaii and in Antarctica. Within four years, the project - which continues
today - provides the first unequivocal proof that CO2 concentrations are rising.
Human population reaches three billion.
First UN environment conference, in Stockholm. Climate change hardly registers on the agenda, which centres
on issues such as chemical pollution, atomic bomb testing and whaling. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)is formed as a result.
Human population reaches four billion.
US geochemist Wallace Broecker of Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory puts the term "global warming" into the public domain in the title of a scientific paper: "Climatic Change: Are We on the Brink of a Pronounced Global Warming?"
Human population reaches five billion
Montreal Protocol agreed, restricting chemicals that damage the ozone layer. Although not established with climate
1987 change in mind, it has had a greater impact on greenhouse gas emissions than the Kyoto Protocol.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) formed to collate and assess evidence on climate change.
Carbon emissions from fossil fuel burning and industry reach six billion tonnes per year.
IPCC produces First Assessment Report. It concludes that temperatures have risen by 0.3-0.6C over the last century,
that humanity's emissions are adding to the atmosphere's natural complement of greenhouse gases, and that the
addition would be expected to result in warming.
At the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, governments agree the United Framework Convention on Climate Change. Its
key objective is "stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent
dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system". Developed countries agree to return their
emissions to 1990 levels.
IPCC Second Assessment Report concludes that the balance of evidence suggests "a discernible human influence"
on the Earth's climate. This has been called the first definitive statement that humans are responsible for climate
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.
Strong El Nino conditions combine with global warming to produce the warmest year on record. The average global
temperature reached 0.52C above the mean for the period 1961-90 (a commonly used baseline).
Human population reaches six billion.
President George W Bush removes the US from the Kyoto process.
IPCC Third Assessment Report finds "new and stronger evidence" that humanity's emissions of greenhouse gases are the main cause of the warming seen in the second half of the 20th Century.
The Kyoto Protocol becomes international law for those countries still inside it.
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair selects climate change as a priority for his terms as chair of the G8 and president of the EU.
The Stern Review concludes that climate change could damage global GDP by up to 20% if left unchecked - but curbing it would cost about 1% of global GDP.
Carbon emissions from fossil fuel burning and industry reach eight billion tonnes per year.
The IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report concludes it is more than 90% likely that humanity's emissions of greenhouse gases are responsible for modern-day climate change.
The IPCC and former US vice-president Al Gore receive the Nobel Peace Prize "for their efforts to build up and
disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures
that are needed to counteract such change".
At UN negotiations in Bali, governments agree the two-year "Bali roadmap" aimed at hammering out a new global treaty by the end of 2009.
Half a century after beginning observations at Mauna Loa, the Keeling project shows that CO2 concentrations
have risen from 315 parts per million (ppm) in 1958 to 380ppm in 2008.
Two months before taking office, incoming US president Barack Obama pledges to "engage vigorously" with
the rest of the world on climate change.
China overtakes the US as the world's biggest greenhouse gas emitter - although the US remains well ahead
on a per-capita basis.
192 governments convene for the UN climate summit in Copenhagen with expectations of a new global agreement
high; but they leave only with a controversial political declaration, the Copenhagen Accord.
Human population reaches seven billion.
Arctic sea ice reaches a minimum extent of 3.41 million sq km (1.32 million sq mi), a record for the lowest summer cover since satellite measurements began in 1979.
The Mauna Loa Observatory on Hawaii reports that the daily mean concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has
surpassed 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time since measurements began in 1958.
The first part of the IPCC's fifth assessment report says scientists are 95% certain that humans are the "dominant
cause" of global warming since the 1950s
(Source: A Brief History of Climate Change by the BBC.)
At the conclusion of COP 21, the final wording of the Paris Agreement was adopted by consensus of all of the
195 UNFCCC participating member states and the European Union to limit the increase of global temperature to
well below 2 degrees Celcius above pre-industrial levels; and to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees Celcius since
this would substantially reduce the risk and effects of climate change.
In January 2016, Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi and the then French President, Francois Hollande,
2016 jointly laid the foundation stone of the International Solar Alliance headquarters in Gurugram, India.
In 2017, India ratified The Kyoto Protocol encouraging other developing nations to also follow the
At the World Future Energy Summit (WFES) held in Abu Dhabi in January 2018, the Government of India
announced the establishment of a $350 million solar development fund to enable financing of solar projects.
Teenage school student turned climate activist Greta Thunberg speaks at the COP24 United Nations Climate Change Summit in December 2018
and urges governments and countries to treat the climate change crisis as a matter of utmost urgency.
Swedish student Greta Thunberg continues to build momentum in her work as a climate activist. She helps organise a global students’ strike for climate change on 15th March, 2019.
Millions of children skip school to protest in order to inspire climate action from policymakers in one of the largest environmental agitations in world history.
In March 2019, Greta is also named one of the world’s youngest Nobel Peace Prize nominees.