Home Daily Blitz 30 Years Ago Scientists Warned Congress On Global Warming. What They Said Sounds Eerily Familiar
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30 Years Ago Scientists Warned Congress On Global Warming. What They Said Sounds Eerily Familiar

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thewashingtonpost articleThe following is an excerpt from Chris Mooney | June 11, 2016 | Thewashingtonpost.com |

It was such a different time — and yet, the message was so similar.

Thirty years ago, on June 10 and 11 of 1986, the U.S. Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works commenced two days of hearings, convened by Sen. John H. Chafee (R-R.I.), on the subject of “Ozone Depletion, the Greenhouse Effect, and Climate Change.”

“This is not a matter of Chicken Little telling us the sky is falling,” Chafee said at the hearing. “The scientific evidence … is telling us we have a problem, a serious problem.”

The hearings garnered considerable media coverage, including on the front page of The Washington Post (see below).

“There is no longer any significant difference of opinion within the scientific community about the fact that the greenhouse effect is real and already occurring,” said newly elected Sen. Al Gore, who, as a congressman, had already held several House hearings on the matter. Gore cited the Villach Conference, a scientific meeting held in Austria the previous year (1985), which concluded that “as a result of the increasing greenhouse gases it is now believed that in the first half of the next century (21st century) a rise of global mean temperature could occur which is greater than in any man’s history.”

“They were the breakthrough hearings,” remembers Rafe Pomerance, then a staffer with the World Resources Institute, who helped suggest witnesses. “You never saw front-page coverage of this stuff.”

The scientists assembled included some of the voices that would be unmistakable and constant in coming decades. They included NASA’s James Hansen, who would go on to become the most visible scientist in the world on the topic, and Robert Watson, who would go on to chair the soon-to-be formed United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

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