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The 1912 article that predicts devastating impact of fossil fuels

An article (pictured) which ran in the Rodney and Otamatea Times in New Zealand on the 14 August 1912 suggests people understood the effects of burning coal earlier than thought.

The clipping from 14 August 1912 was published in the Rodney and Otamatea Times and found online at the National Library of New Zealand.

The four-sentence article was sandwiched between an article on a skipping machine and another about a proposed Russian tunnel that would connect the Black and Caspian Sea.

The piece had also appeared in Australian newspapers – on 10 July 1912 in the Shoalhaven Telegraph and then in the Brainwood Dispatch on 17 July of the same year.

‘The furnaces of the world are now burning about 2,000,000,000 tons of coal a year’, the unknown journalist wrote.

‘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’, he said.

The article finished with the prophetic line; ‘The effect may be considerable in a few centuries’.

The finding suggests people knew about global warming and the impacts of burning coal earlier than originally thought.

And its predictions appear to be coming true.

Today, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide in the atmosphere are at their highest for at least the last 800,000 years.

Fourteen of the sixteen warmest years on record have occurred since 2000, with 2015 confirmed as the warmest year globally on record.

‘Such a run of high temperatures is extremely unlikely to have occurred in the absence of human-caused climate change,’ it says….[ ]

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