October 25 (Reuters) – This year, the UN climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, marks the 26th time since 1995 that world leaders have gathered to face global warming. But the realization that industrial activity was causing climate change and discussions about what to do about it began much earlier.
Here are some highlights from the global climate debate:
1800 – During the 1800s, some European scientists study how different gases and vapors can block heat in the Earth’s atmosphere. In the 1890s, the Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius calculates the effect of temperature of atmospheric CO2 doubling, indicating that burning fossil fuels is likely to warm the planet.
1938 – Compiling historical weather data, British engineer Guy Callendar first shows the planet’s temperatures are rising in the modern era. He correlates temperature trends with measured atmospheric CO2 rises and proposes that temperature change be related.
1958 – American scientist Charles David Keeling begins to systematically measure atmospheric CO2 levels at the Hawaiis Mauna Loa Observatory. His findings result in the Keeling Curve, a graph showing steadily rising CO2 concentrations.
1988 – James Hansen, an American climate scientist, testifies before Congress that the planet is warming due to the accumulation of man-made greenhouse gases, and notes that this is already changing the climate and weather.
1990 – At the UN so-called Second World Climate Conference, scientists highlight the dangers of global warming to nature and society. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher says binding emission targets are needed.
1992 – Countries sign the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change at the Earth Summit in Rio. The purpose of the UNFCCCs is to control emissions to prevent extreme climate change, but it also embodies the idea of shared but differentiated responsibilities, which means that developed countries need to do more because they are responsible for most historical emissions. The treaty does not set binding emission targets.
1995 – Members of the UNFCCC treaty convene for the first Conference of the Parties, or COP, in Berlin. The final document calls for legally binding emission targets.
1997 – At COP3 in Kyoto, Japan, the parties agree on the first treaty requiring specific emission reductions. Under the Kyoto Protocol, developed countries are obliged to reduce emissions between 2008 and 2012 from 1990 levels, with different limits set for different countries. In the United States, leading Senate Republicans denounce the deal as dead on arrival.
2001 – US President George W. Bush takes office and calls the Kyoto Protocol a fatal flaw, with his rejection signaling the country’s effective exit.
2005 – The Kyoto Protocol enters into force after Russia ratifies it, meeting the requirement that at least 55 countries, which account for at least 55% of emissions, ratify the treaty.
2007 – Delegates agree to COP13 in Bali to work on a new binding agreement involving both developed and developing countries.
2009 – COP15 talks in Copenhagen nearly collapse amid squabbles over binding commitments over the expiration of the Kyoto Protocol. Instead of creating a new framework, as proposed by the Bali Roadmap, countries vote to consider a non-binding political statement.
2010 – COP16 in Cancun again fails to set new mandatory emission targets. The Cancun Agreements, however, create a Green Climate Fund to assist developing nations with adaptation and mitigation, and set a goal of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial average.
2011 – COP17 talks in Durban, South Africa fail as China, the United States and India refuse to sign mandatory emission cuts before 2015. Instead, UNFCCC parties agree to extend the Kyoto Protocol until 2017.
2012 – As Russia, Japan and New Zealand resist new emission targets that do not extend to developing countries, countries agree to COP18 in Doha to extend the Kyoto Protocol until 2020.
2013 – At COP19 in Warsaw, representatives from the poorest nations speak for hours on the lack of agreement on how to address climate-related losses and damage. A softened agreement is eventually reached.
2015 – Global warming exceeds 1 degree Celsius. Extreme weather events including floods, droughts and wildfires continue to become more frequent and severe across the globe, and more and more countries are facing these immediate threats of climate change.
2015 – The Paris Agreement is the first global pact to call for emission pledges from developed and developing countries, which are required to pledge Nationally Defined Contributions (NDCs), with growing ambitions every five years. The signatories promise to try to keep global warming within 1.5 degrees C of the pre-industrial average.
2017 – President Donald Trump calls the Paris Treaty bad for the economy and says the United States will withdraw. This becomes official in 2020.
2018 – Teen activist Greta Thunberg draws global attention as she protests outside the Swedish parliament, and over time gathers young people around the world to join her on Friday for the Future movement to demand climate action.
2019 – UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres calls the lack of ambition shown at COP25 in Madrid a missed opportunity.
2020 – Annual COP postponed due to coronavirus pandemic.
2021 – One of the first actions of US President Joe Bidens in office is to reunite with the Paris Agreement.
2021 – COP26 is scheduled to move forward October 31-November. 12 in Glasgow, Scotland. Highlights to be discussed include emissions promises, climate financing and the phasing out of coal use.
Reporting by Andrea Januta Editing by Katy Daigle and Frances Kerry
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