Physicist Gilbert Plass predicted climate change, blaming fossil fuels for rising temperatures

It’s often assumed that most people in the 1950s were blissfully unaware of climate change, but in fact there were already alarm bells ringing. In 1953, the Canadian physicist Gilbert Plass talked to a scientific meeting about the dangers of carbon dioxide pollution. “The large increase in industrial activity during the present century is discharging so much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that the average temperature is rising at the rate of 1.5 degrees [fahrenheit] per century,” he announced in a sensational statement that became headline news around the world.

Although climate scientists had realised that world temperatures were rising, they put forward other explanations for the warming, such as sunspots or wobbles in the Earth’s orbit around the sun. Plass had researched the climate in his spare time while working at the Ford motor company, before publishing his research in two science journals, as well as writing a popular piece in a science magazine. In 1961, he went further and blamed fossil fuels for most of the global warming. His words were prophetic – CO2 levels in the atmosphere were about 310 parts per million and now they are over 420ppm and rising each year, along with global temperatures.

Read more: TheGuardian

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