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All IPCC definitions taken from Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Working Group I Contribution to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Annex I, Glossary, pp. 941-954. Cambridge University Press.

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Why didn't we have global warming during the Industrial Revolution?

What the science says...

Global CO2 emissions during the Industrial Revolution were a fraction of the CO2 we are currently emitting now.

Climate Myth...

We didn't have global warming during the Industrial Revolution

'Why didn’t we have global warming during the Industrial Revolution? In those days you couldn’t have seen across the street for all the carbon emissions and the crap coming out of the chimneys.' (Alan Titchmarsh)

The Industrial Revolution spanned the 18th and early 19th Century. Over this period, global CO2 emissions were a fraction of current levels. During the 18th Century, global CO2 emissions were around 3 to 7 million tonnes per year. During the early 19th Century, CO2 emissions steadily rose reaching 54 million tonnes per year by 1850. Currently we are emitting over 8000 million tonnes per year.

Global carbon emissions

Last updated on 9 July 2010 by John Cook.

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Comments 1 to 4:

  1. Alan Titchmarsh was correct when he said you couldn't have seen across the street in the early days of the Industrial Revolution for all the carbon emissions and crap- If you take Carbon emissions literally- i.e. NOT CO2; just soot!

  2. I like the graph: it has mutiple inflection points that may serve us all well as a time guide. For instance I might like to reflect on the Keeling Curve in comparison to it, for example--> it is my opinion that the rise of China hasn't been reflected in the Keeling Curve yet though I am willing to be corrected.

  3. I think that in the industrial revolution, CO2 started to emit rapidly but it didn't reach the point that we can detect it clearly that there is global warming. But I want to know is there other factors that cause this?


    There are several factors that have influenced CO2 levels since the industrial revolution, not just CO2 from burning fossil fuels, although that is he biggest factor. Also likely other factors before the industrial revolution

    1. CO2 from fossil fuels is the biggest factor
    2. CO2 from land clearance is an important factor. Clearing forest particularly to make agricultural land means the carbon from the forests ends up in the atmosphere. Often this change means more carbon is released from the soil as well and this can be bigger source than the original forest. Land clearance has been a common means of producing food for 1000's of years. Not only to make more farmland, but because land that has been cleared may only be fertile for a few years then more land has to be cleared. Only some soils and climates are suitable for being continuously farmed for very long periods without artificial fertilisers which only were important from the mid-20th century onwards. Paddy based rice farming in Asia combined with things like the use of 'night-soil' in Japan are examples where land can be used for long periods.
    3. As farming increased, release of more methane occurred due to changes in land use and the presence of many more animals. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, then eventually becomes CO2 in the atmosphere.
    4. from the mid 20th century on, the use of nitrogen based artificial fetilisers increased the crop yields of much farmland. But this also increased emissions of Nitrous Oxide, a greenhouse gas.
    5. Later the development of refrigerant gases for refrigeration such as CFC's and later HFC's meant they also started to be added to the atmosphere and are greenhouse gases.
    6. There is reasonable evidence that humans have had a smaller but still real effect on the climate for 1000's of years. The early development of farming and land clearing, domestication of animals, and particularly the development of the wet paddy system of rice farming 1000's of years ago appears to have meant the Earth didn't cool down as much as we would expect over those years. Professor Bill Ruddiman and his team have investigated this for many years.
    7. He even thinks that major social events in the 15th to 17th centuries may have had small climate impacts. A substantial culture in North America, based in the Mississippi Valley collapsed shortly before Europeans arrived in America. This society had substantial towns and small cities, agriculture etc. Then after it had collapsed, the arrival of Europeans introduced diseases that devastated the native American population. Most of this impact was unintentional by the Europeans although there were some bad cases of deliberate infection. The population of native americans crashed. And a reforestation of farmland may have happened as a result, reducing CO2 levels slightly. A second effect later may have occurred due to the slave trade. The population of West Africa may have dropped significantly due to the slave trade to the Americas and reforestation of farmland in west Africa may also have lowered CO2 levels a little.

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