Svante Arrhenius would feel at home among the vast majority of scientists who today draw a link between industrialization and climate change. After all, he predicted it in 1895.
The Swedish scientist, who would go on to win a Novel Prize for chemistry in 1903, was the first person to investigate the effect that doubling atmospheric carbon dioxide would have on global climate. Arrhenius raised the issue at a sensitive time, as industrialization was spreading throughout the United States and Europe.
The question was debated throughout the early part of the 20th century and is still a main concern of earth scientists today, notes NASA's Earth Observatory.
Arrhenius uncovered secrets of the Earth's atmosphere and in doing so triggered research into what many see as the biggest threat to modern humans. He is arguably the father of climate change science.
In 1895, Arrhenius presented a paper to the Stockholm Physical Society titled, "On the Influence of Carbonic Acid in the Air upon the Temperature of the Ground." This article described an energy budget model that considered the radiative effects of carbon dioxide (carbonic acid) and water vapor on the surface temperature of the Earth, and variations in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations.
This was a revolutionary discovery, if little-noticed in its day. At that time it was thought that human influences were insignificant in planet climate variance, compared to natural forces, such as solar activity and ocean circulation. It was also believed that the oceans were such great carbon sinks that they would automatically cancel out pollution. Water vapor was seen as a much more influential greenhouse gas.
Those theories have been largely debunked by modern climate science. And Arrhenius was impressively accurate in his scientific predictions about climate change before the dawn of the 20th century, according to Bill Chameides, dean of Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. In 2011 Chameides wrote about Arrhenius's pioneering work in Huffington Post.
He did pretty darn well on the greenhouse effect. More than one hundred years after his climate work, and hundreds of thousands of observations later (including from space-borne platforms and the use of sophisticated computer models), the basic climate findings of Arrhenius have been confirmed. Although it appears he did overestimate the sensitivity of the climate to a doubling of CO2. Best estimates are that the temperature change is closer to 2 to 4.5 degrees Celsius.
Via NASA's Earth Observatory, and Huffington Post.