It’s easy to feel as though global warming was invented in the 1980s by the presenters of Blue Peter, and that before then it just wasn’t a thing. Sure, the Industrial Revolution had made a charred, lifeless wasteland of reasonable amounts of Britain long before that point, and there were these huge refuse sites that didn’t seem to be going anywhere, but we weren’t doing any actual damage to the planet, right?
Wrong. It turns out that over a century ago, people were well aware of the hideous and irreparable destruction we were wreaking on the Earth and its atmosphere. 106 years ago this week, in August 1912, a New Zealand newspaper (or “Newzpaper”) called the Rodney and Otamatea Times, Waitemata and Kaipara Gazette printed a small piece that incredibly accurately pinpointed exactly what coming generations would continue to do to ruin our beautiful world.
Here’s the paper:
Firstly, good LORD that’s dense. Old papers were heavy going. Break it up with some cartoons, you goddamm monsters.
Secondly, let’s have a closer look at the fifth story in the third column.
“The furnaces of the world are now burning about 2,000,000,000 tons of coal a year. When this is burned, uniting with oxygen, it adds about 7,000,000,000 tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere yearly. This tends to make the air a more effective blanket for the earth and to raise its temperature. The effect may be considerable in a few centuries.”
That’s… That’s exactly what is happened. The terminology isn’t quite there (it’s called an ozone layer, you stupid old idiots!) but that’s basically it. It was all worked out, all that time ago. And we did absolutely nothing.