Some Early and Important Work on Climate Science, Carbon Dioxide, and Human Influence

Please send additions, corrections etc.

 to David Appell,

"On the Temperatures of the Terrestrial Sphere and Interplanetary Space," Jean-Baptiste Joseph Fourier, Memoires de l'Academie Royale de Sciences, 7 569-604 (1827).
            - English translation by William Connolley.



“Circumstances affecting the Heat of the Sun's Rays,” Eunice Foote, The American Journal of Science and Arts, November 1856, pp. XXXI.

-       For more information, see “Eunice Foote's Pioneering Research On CO2 And Climate Warming,” Raymond P. Sorenson, Search and Discovery Article #70092 (2011).


"On the Absorption and radiation of Heat by Gases and Vapours, and on the Physical Connexion of Radiation, Absorption, and Conduction," John Tyndall, Philosophical Magazine Series 4, 22, 169-194, 273-285 (1861).


“The Bakerian Lecture: On the Absorption and Radiation of Heat by Gases and Vapours, and on the Physical Connexion of Radiation, Absorption, and Conduction,” John Tyndall, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Vol. 151 (1861), pp. 1-36.

"On radiation through the Earth's atmosphere," J. Tyndall, Phil. Mag. 4:200 (1863).

"On the Influence of Carbonic Acid in the Air Upon the Temperature of the Ground," Svante Arrhenius, Philosophical Magazine 1896(41): 237-76 (1896).

"The greenhouse theory and planetary temperatures," Frank Very, Philosophical Magazine, 6, 16, 478 (1908).



“Coal Consumption Affecting Climate,” Rodney and Otamatea Times, Waitemata and Kaipara Gazette, August 14, 1912. (Snopes has a good picture of the article.)

·       This seems to have appeared about a month earlier in an Australian newspaper.


“The Development and Present Status of the Theory of the Heat Balance in the Atmosphere” (thesis), Chaim Leib Pekeris, MIT, 1929,



"The Temperature of the Lower Atmosphere of the Earth," E.O. Hulburt, Physical Review 38, 1876-1890 (1931).

 - calculated a CO2 climate sensitivity of 4°C.


"The Artificial Production of Carbon Dioxide and its Influence on Temperature," G. S. Callendar, Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society v64 Issue 275 pp 223-240 (April 1938). [PDF]

"Can Carbon Dioxide Influence Climate?" G. S. Callendar, Weather 4:310 (1949).

"How Industry May Change Climate," New York Times, May 24, 1953.

"Can we survive technology?" John von Neumann, Forbes, June 1955.

from the article: "The carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by industry's burning of coal and oil--more than half of it during the last generation--may have changed the atmosphere's composition sufficiently to account for a general warming of the world by about one degree Fahrenheit."

"The Influence of the 15μ Carbon-Dioxide Band on the Atmospheric Infra-red Cooling Rate," G. N. Plass, Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society v82 Issue 353 pp 310-324 (July 1956).

"Effect of carbon dioxide variations on climate," G. Plass, Tellus 8:140 (1956).

"Warmer Climate on the Earth May Be Due to More Carbon Dioxide in the Air," New York Times, Science in Review, Oct 28, 1956.

"Carbon Dioxide and the Climate," G. N. Plass, American Scientist, vol 44 pp 302-316 (1956). [PDF]

Time magazine:

“Since the start of the industrial revolution, mankind has been burning fossil fuel (coal, oil, etc.) and adding its carbon to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. In 50 years or so this process, says Director Roger Revelle of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, may have a violent effect on the earth’s climate…

"Dr. Revelle has not reached the stage of warning against this catastrophe, but he and other geophysicists intend to keep watching and recording. During the International Geophysical Year (1957-58), teams of scientists will take inventory of the earth’s CO2 and observe how it shifts between air and sea. They will try to find out whether the CO2 blanket has been growing thicker, and what the effect has been. When all their data have been studied, they may be able to predict whether man’s factory chimneys and auto exhausts will eventually cause salt water to flow in the streets of New York and London.”

-- "One Big Greenhouse," Time magazine, May 28, 1956.

"Carbon Dioxide Exchange Between Atmosphere and Ocean and the Question of an Increase of Atmospheric CO2 During the Past Decades," Roger Revelle and Hans E. Suess, Tellus 9 pp 18-27 (1957).

Says the accumulation of CO2 "may become significant during future decades if industrial fuel consumption continues to rise exponentially." The paper concludes, "Human beings are now carrying out a large-scale geophysical experiment of a kind that could not have happened in the past nor be reproduced in the future."

"Distribution of Matter in the Sea and Atmosphere: Changes in the Carbon Dioxide Content of the Atmosphere and Sea due to Fossil Fuel Combustion," Bert Bolin and Erik Eriksson (1958). In The Atmosphere and the Sea in Motion: Scientific Contributions to the Rossby Memorial Volume (ed. B. Bolin), pp. 130-142. Rockefeller Institute Press, New York.


The video documentary "Unchained Goddess" was produced by Frank Capra for Bell Labs for their television program The Bell Telephone Hour.


"Even now, man may be unwittingly changing the world's climate through the waste products of its civilization. Due to our releases in factories and automobiles every year of more than six billion tons of carbon dioxide, which helps the air absorb heat from the sun, our atmosphere may be getting warmer.


"Well, it's been calculated a few degrees rise in the Earth’s temperature would melt the polar ice caps. And if this happens, an inland sea would fill a good portion of the Mississippi valley. Tourists in glass bottom boats would be viewing the drowned towers of Miami through 150 feet of tropical water. For in weather, we’re not only dealing with forces of a far greater variety than even the atomic physicist encounters, but with life itself."



Edward Teller, at a November 1959 conference on the centennial of the American oil industry at Columbia University in New York City, via The Guardian, 1/1/2018:


“Carbon dioxide has a strange property. It transmits visible light but it absorbs the infrared radiation which is emitted from the earth. Its presence in the atmosphere causes a greenhouse effect [....] It has been calculated that a temperature rise corresponding to a 10 per cent increase in carbon dioxide will be sufficient to melt the icecap and submerge New York. All the coastal cities would be covered, and since a considerable percentage of the human race lives in coastal regions, I think that this chemical contamination is more serious than most people tend to believe.”

"The Concentration and Isotopic Abundances of Carbon Dioxide in the Atmosphere," C. D. Keeling, Tellus 12 (1960) pp 200-203.

"On the Radiative Equilibrium and Heat Balance of the Atmosphere," Syukuro Manabe and Fritz Möller, Monthly Weather Review, 89, 503–532 (1961).


The Conservation Foundation, Implications of Rising Carbon Dioxide Content of the Atmosphere (New York: The Conservation Foundation, 1963).

Weart, p. 44: "They issued a report suggesting that the doubling of CO2 projected for the next century could raise the world's temperature by 4°C (more than 6°F). They warned that this could be harmful; for example, it could cause glaciers to melt and raise the sea level so that coastlines would get flooded."

A 1965 report to the Johnson Administration had a chapter on CO2’s potential to cause warming: Restoring_the_Quality_of_Our_Environment, Report of the Environmental Pollution Panel, President’s Science Advisory Committee (1965), pp. 111-133.


Frank Ikard, president of the American Petroleum Institute, speaking at API’s annual meeting in 1965:


"CO2 is being added to atmosphere by the burning of coal, oil, and natural gas at such a rate that by 2000 the heat balance will be so modified as possibly to cause marked changes in climate beyond local or national efforts."


Source: “Early oil industry knowledge of CO2 and global warming,” Benjamin Franta, Nature Climate Change (2018).

"Influence of economic activity on climate," M.I. Budyko, O.A. Drosdov and M.I. Yudin, Modern Problems of Climatology (Collection of Articles), FTD-HT-23-1338-67, Foreign Tech. Div., Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, 484-500 (1966).

"Thermal Equilibrium of the Atmosphere with a Given Distribution of Relative Humidity," Syukuro Manabe and Richard T. Wetherald, Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences, v24 n3 (May 1967) pp 241-259. Their model found a climate sensitivity of 2.3 C.



“Carbon dioxide is not toxic, but it is the chief heat-absorbing component of the atmosphere,” Donald F. Hornig said at the 1968 annual convention of the Edison Electric Institute, according to the trade group’s newsletter from that year. “Such a change in the carbon dioxide level might, therefore, produce major consequences on the climate ― possibly even triggering catastrophic effects such as have occurred from time to time in the past.”

-       from the Huffington Post, 7/25/17.

"The Effect of Solar Radiation Variations on the Climate of the Earth," M. I. Budyko, Tellus vol 21 issue 5, pp. 611-619 (1969).
"A Global Climatic Model Based on the Energy Balance of the Earth-Atmosphere System," William D. Sellers, Journal of Applied Meteorology vol. 8 pp. 392-400 (1969).
     - concludes that "'s increasing industrial activities may eventually lead to a global climate much warmer than today."

Daniel Patrick Moynihan, then an aide to President Nixon, warned that we needed a monitoring system of CO2 for fears of global warming:

"Is Carbon Dioxide from Fossil Fuel Changing Man’s Environment?" Charles D. Keeling, Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, vol 114 no 1 (1970).

SCEP (Study of Critical Environmental Problems), Man's Impact on the Global Environment. Assessment and Recommendations for Action (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1970), p. 12.

Weart, p.70: "In their concluding conference report, as the first item in a list of potential problems, the scientists pointed to the global rise of CO2. Here too effects were beyond their power to calculate. So the study could only conclude that the risk of global warming was 'so serious that much more must be learned about future trends of climate change.'"

"Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide and Aerosols: Effects of Large Increases on Global Climate," S. Rasool and Stephen H. Schneider, Science 173: 138-141 (1971).

Carroll L. Wilson and William H. Matthews, eds., Inadvertent Climate Modification, Report of Conference, Study of Man's Impact on the Climate (SMIC), Stockholm (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1971), pp. 129, v.


J.S. Sawyer, "Man-made Carbon Dioxide and the “Greenhouse” Effect," Nature 239, 23-26 (1 Sept 1972).
Abstract: "In spite of the enormous mass of the atmosphere and the very large energies involved in the weather systems which produce our climate, it is being realized that human activities are approaching a scale at which they cannot be completely ignored as possible contributors to climate and climatic change."

Neville Nicholls, 2007:
"After summarising recent calculations of the likely impact of increasing carbon dioxide concentrations on global surface temperature, Sawyer concluded that the 'increase of 25 per cent in carbon dioxide expected by the end of the century therefore corresponds to an increase of 0.6 degrees in world temperature — an amount somewhat greater than the climatic variations of recent centuries'.... Considering that global temperatures had, if anything, been falling in the decades leading up to the early 1970s, Sawyer’s accurate prediction of the reversal of this trend, and of the magnitude of the subsequent warming, is perhaps the most remarkable long-range forecast ever made.

"Despite claims to the contrary, our understanding of the greenhouse effect and global warming is not reliant on modern climate models and nor is it a modern preoccupation."


Actually, the atmospheric CO2 level increased 13% from 1972 to 2000, as measured at the Mauna Loa Observatory.
Surface temperatures increased by 0.43°C (at a linear rate of 0.015°C/year from 1972 to 2000), as measured by NASA GISS.   

(Sawyer used a climate sensitivity of 1.9°C per CO2 doubling.)

"Understanding Climatic Change: A Program for Action," National Academy of Sciences (1975).
     - page 43: "[changes of mean atmospheric temperature due to CO2 excess] could, however, conceivably aggregate to a further warming of about 0.5°C between now and the end of the century." (Actual warming from January 1975 to December 2000 = 0.44 ± 0.06 °C, according to the NASA GISS dataset of monthly average global surface temperatures.)

"Climatic Change: Are We on the Brink of a Pronounced Global Warming?" Wallace S. Broecker, Science Vol. 189 no. 4201 pp. 460-463, August 8, 1975.

"The Effects of Doubling the CO2 Concentration on the Climate of a General Circulation Model," Syukuro Manabe and Richard T. Wetherald, Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences, vol 32 no 1 pp 3-15 (1975).

"On the Carbon Dioxide-Climate Confusion," Stephen H. Schneider, Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences, vol 32 pp 2060-2066 (November 1975).

Energy and Climate: Studies in Geophysics, National Academy of Sciences, Geophysics Research Board.
Spencer Weart, "The panel of experts, chaired by Revelle, announced that average temperatures might climb a dangerous 6°C by the middle of the next century, possibly with a catastrophic rise of sea level. They recommended 'a lively sense of urgency' for studying the problem."

"Scientists Fear Heavy Use of Coal May Bring Adverse Shift in Climate," New York Times, July 15, 1977.

"On present-day climatic changes," M. I. Budyko, Tellus 29 (1977) 193-204.

ABSTRACT: "The conclusion is made that present-day climate appears to have changed as a result of man’s inadvertent
impact and this change may be considerably increased in the nearest decades.
   The article considers a possibility of using the numerical models of climatic theory to study future climatic changes under the conditions of increasing influence on climate of man’s economic activity."

"Changes of Land Biota and Their Importance for the Carbon Cycle," Bert Bolin, Science vol. 196 no. 4290 pp. 613-615 (6 May 1977).

"Can we control the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere?" F.J. Dyson, Energy 2:287–291 (1977).

"Climate Modeling Through Radiative-Convective Models," V. Ramanathan and J.A. Coakley Jr., Reviews of Geophysics and Space Physics, vol. 16 no. 4 (Nov 1978).

"Neutralization of fossil fuel CO2 by marine calcium carbonate," W.S. Broecker and T. Takahashi, in The Fate of Fossil Fuel CO2 in the Oceans, ed. NR Andersen, A Malahoff, pp. 213–48. New York: Plenum (1978).


"What is considered the best presently available climate model for treating the Greenhouse Effect predicts that a doubling of the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere would produce a mean temperature increase of about 2 C to 3 C over most of the Earth. The model also predicts that the temperature increase near the poles may be two to three times this value.”

-       memo of June 6, 1978 by Exxon scientist J.F. Black, Products Research Division, Exxon Research and Engineering Co.

"Carbon Dioxide and Climate: A Scientific Assessment," Jule G. Charney, Akio Arakawa, D. James Baker, Bert Bolin, Robert E. Dickinson, Richard M. Goody, Cecil E. Leith, Henry M. Stommel and Carl I. Wunsch (1979).

"Technical fixes for the climatic effects of CO2," F.J. Dyson and G. Marland G, in Elliott WP, Machta L (eds), Carbon Dioxide Effects Research and Assessment Program, Workshop on the Global Effects of Carbon Dioxide from Fossil Fuels, US Department of Energy (1979).

Spencer Weart, "In 1980, the prominent geophysicist Wallace Broecker, who had spoken out repeatedly about the dangers of climate change, vented his frustration in a letter to a Senator. Declaring that 'the CO2 problem is the single most important and the single most complex environmental issue facing the world,' and that 'the clock is ticking away,' Broecker insisted that a better research program was needed. 'Otherwise, another decade will slip by, and we will find that we can do little better than repeat the rather wishy washy image we now have as to what our planet will be like...'
- Broecker to Sen. Paul Tsongas, 7 April 1980, "CO2 history" file, office files of Wallace Broecker, LDEO.

"U.S. Study Warns of Extensive Problems from Carbon Dioxide Pollution," Philip Shabecoff, New York Times, January 14, 1981.



“CO2 Greenhouse Effect: A Technical Review,” internal Exxon document, November 12, 1982.

The cover letter says “The material has been given wide circulation to Exxon management.” The report’s projections (Figure 3) have been quite accurate; for 2020 they are spot-on.

"Changing Climate: Report of the Carbon Dioxide Assessment Committee," National Academy of Sciences (1983).

"Climate Sensitivity: Analysis of Feedback Mechanisms," J. Hansen et al, in Climate Processes and Climate Sensitivity, AGU Geophysical Monograph 29, Maurice Ewing, Vol. 5., J.E. Hansen, and T. Takahashi, Eds. American Geophysical Union, 130-163 (1984).

"Global Temperature Variations Between 1861 and 1984," P. D. Jones, T. M. L. Wigley and P. B. Wright, Nature vol. 322, 430-434 (July 31, 1986).

"Global climate changes as forecast by Goddard Institute for Space Studies three-dimensional model," J. Hansen et al, J. Geophys. Res., 93, 9341-9364 (1988).


"Policy Implications of Greenhouse Warming: Mitigation, Adaptation, and the Science Base," National Academy of Sciences.

"Climate Response to Increasing Levels of Greenhouse Gases and Sulphate Aerosols," J. F. B. Mitchell et al, Nature 376, 501-504 (10 August 1995).

"Earth’s Energy Imbalance: Confirmation and Implications," James Hansen et al, Science, 28 April 2004.

"The Myth of the 1970s Global Cooling Scientific Consensus," W. Peterson et al, Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 89, 1325–1337, 2008.

For the period 1965 to 1979, this article found seven articles that predicted cooling, 44 that predicted warming and 20 that were neutral.


"The Discovery of Global Warming; Bibliography by Year," Spencer Weart,
"How long ago did scientists suspect global warming might occur from greenhouse gas emissions?"
For reviews, see:
"The Discovery of Global Warming," Spencer Weart, 2008.

"The Discovery of Global Warming: The Carbon Dioxide Greenhouse Effect,"
Spencer Weart, American Institute of Physics (Feb 2011).

Estimates of Climate Sensitivity (1896-2006), Barton Paul Levenson (2006).

The Warming Papers: The Scientific Foundation for the Climate Change Forecast, eds. David Archer and Ray Pierrehumbert, Wiley-Blackwell (Jan 2011).