Continued from page 1

“As a physicist, putting CO2 into the air is good enough for me. It’s the physics that convinces me,” said veteran Cambridge University researcher Liz Morris. But she said work must go on to refine climate data and computer climate models, “to convince the deeply reluctant organizers of this world.”

The reluctance to rein in carbon emissions revealed itself early on.

In the 1980s, as scientists studied Greenland’s buried ice for clues to past climate, upgraded their computer models peering into the future, and improved global temperature analyses, the fossil-fuel industries were mobilizing for a campaign to question the science.

By 1988, NASA climatologist James Hansen could appear before a U.S. Senate committee and warn that global warming had begun, a dramatic announcement later confirmed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a new, U.N.-sponsored network of hundreds of international scientists.

But when Hansen was called back to testify in 1989, the White House of President George H.W. Bush edited this government scientist’s remarks to water down his conclusions, and Hansen declined to appear.

That was the year U.S. oil and coal interests formed the Global Climate Coalition to combat efforts to shift economies away from their products. Britain’s Royal Society and other researchers later determined that oil giant Exxon disbursed millions of dollars annually to think tanks and a handful of supposed experts to sow doubt about the facts.

In 1997, two years after the IPCC declared the “balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate,” the world’s nations gathered in Kyoto, Japan, to try to do something about it. The naysayers were there as well.

“The statement that we’ll have continued warming with an increase in CO2 is opinion, not fact,” oil executive William F. O’Keefe of the Global Climate Coalition insisted to reporters in Kyoto.

The late Bert Bolin, then IPCC chief, despaired.

“I’m not really surprised at the political reaction,” the Swedish climatologist told The Associated Press. “I am surprised at the way some of the scientific findings have been rejected in an unscientific manner.”

In fact, a document emerged years later showing that the industry coalition’s own scientific team had quietly advised it that the basic science of global warming was indisputable.

Kyoto’s final agreement called for limited rollbacks in greenhouse emissions. The United States didn’t even join in that. And by 2000, the CO2 built up in the atmosphere to 369 parts per million _ just 4 ppm less than Broecker predicted _ compared with 280 ppm before the industrial revolution.

Global temperatures rose as well, by 0.6 degrees C (1.1 degrees F) in the 20th century. And the mercury just kept rising. The decade 2000-2009 was the warmest on record, and 2010 and 2005 were the warmest years on record.

Satellite and other monitoring, meanwhile, found nights were warming faster than days, and winters more than summers, and the upper atmosphere was cooling while the lower atmosphere warmed _ all clear signals greenhouse warming was at work, not some other factor.

The impact has been widespread.

Story Continues →