A Lifetime of Global Warming

Una Vida con Calentamiento Global

Nov 2, 2016

Both major party candidates for president were born in the late 1940s — Donald Trump on June 14, 1946, and Hillary Clinton on Oct. 26, 1947. Since that time, the average global temperature has risen about 1.5°F.

During the candidates’ youth, there was not much of a warming trend, and environmental regulations were just starting to be developed. Both were in high school when the Clean Air Act went into effect in 1963, and in college two years later when President Johnson became the first President to mention the steady increase in carbon dioxide from fossil fuels. In 1970, just a couple of years after they graduated, major amendments to the Clean Air Act were passed, one of which established the Environmental Protection Agency.

The last year the average global temperature was below average was 1976. Two years later, just after each was married, the National Climate Act (aimed at establishing a national climate policy) went into effect. One year later, the first WMO World Climate Conference was held in Switzerland, where scientists and policymakers discussed what climate change could mean for humanity.

As the candidates reached their 40s in the late 1980s, carbon dioxide levels reached 350 parts per million, and warming was beginning to accelerate. James Hansen famously testified before Congress about the dangers climate change posed during a heat wave in 1988. A year later the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published its First Assessment Report, further raising the alarm about climate change. That report showed that if emissions of greenhouse gases continued at their 1990 rate, the global mean temperature would rise by about 1°C (1.8°F) by 2025.

In 1997, about the time they were both 50, the Kyoto Protocol was signed by most nations of the world, although it was never ratified by the U.S.. Three years later, the first U.S. National Climate Assessment was released, highlighting what the climate looked like in the U.S.

With the candidates now around 70, they have seen the 4 hottest global years on record all come in this decade, with 2016’s record heat about to add a fifth year to that list. Carbon dioxide concentrations have reached 400 ppm in the atmosphere, and the global average temperature has already warmed more than 1.8°F in the last century. Last year’s landmark Paris climate agreement goes into effect this month.