You are browsing the archive for 2020 April 07.

Avatar of admin

by admin

Kyoto Protocol first adopted in Japan

April 7, 2020 in History

By History.com Editors

On December 11, 1997 in Kyoto, Japan, the United Nations adopts a new treaty for the purpose of limiting greenhouse gas emissions. The Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was a revolutionary attempt to forestall climate change, an admirable effort that yielded mixed results.

In the ’80s and ’90s, the international community began to fully internalize the ramifications of climate change and the impact of human activity on the environment. The Kyoto Protocol committed different nations to different actions. Some nations were held to binding targets for reducing emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases, while others, including major emitters like China and India, did not having binding targets. Nations that could not meet their objectives had options of ways to contribute to emissions reductions in the “developing” world by doing things like investing in emissions-reducing infrastructure or “trading” emissions by purchasing another nation’s rights to a certain amount of emissions.

READ MORE: Climate Change History

84 nations signed onto the Kyoto Protocol, and nearly every United Nations member became a party to it. The most notable exception was the United States. President Bill Clinton signed the treaty on his country’s behalf but did not send it to Congress for ratification, understanding that it would not pass. His successor, George W. Bush, opposed the agreement, saying that the United States’ economy would be harmed if it committed to reductions while so many other nations were exempt. Many nations exceeded their emissions targets during the first phase of the Protocol—Canada, Australia and New Zealand chief among them. Others, like the United Kingdom and Germany, met their goals. Many Eastern European nations dramatically outstripped theirs, almost certainly because of the drop in production due to the breakup of the Eastern Bloc.

In 2011, Canada announced its intent to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol. A second phase of the Protocol, the Doha Agreement, was drafted in 2012, but fell seven signatures short of ratification. Innovative but only somewhat effective, the Kyoto Protocol exemplifies both the strength of the international will to improve the climate and the inherent difficulties of bringing world leaders together for that purpose.

…read more

Source: HISTORY

Avatar of admin

by admin

Clean Air Act becomes law

April 7, 2020 in History

By History.com Editors

On December 17, 1963, one of the first major pieces of environmental legislation in the United States becomes law. The Clean Air Act empowers federal and state agencies to research and regulate air pollution, marking a major expansion of government efforts to fight back against the damage being done to the climate.

A 1955 law, the Air Pollution Control Act, had allocated $15 million to the study of air pollution across the country. As the federal government and the states conducted this research, it became clear that further legislation would be needed. After passing through Congress relatively swiftly, a stronger act was signed into law on December 17, 1963 by President Lyndon B. Johnson, who had been in power for less than a month following the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

The landmark act and its subsequent amendments—updates were passed in 1967, 1970, 1977 and 1990—comprise some of the most comprehensive air-quality legislation in the world. Shortly after its creation in 1970, the EPA began using its powers under the CAA to set quality standards for areas affected by air pollution, and it has subsequently been invoked to ban specific harmful chemicals and tackle specific environmental problems such as acid rain or the chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) which directly contributed to the “hole” in the Ozone Layer. Though there is a very long way to go, national emissions dropped 63% between 1980 and 2015, despite overall economic growth and an increase in the number of miles driven over that time, thanks largely to the provisions of the Clean Air Act and its successors.

READ MORE: Climate Change History

…read more

Source: HISTORY

Avatar of admin

by admin

Clean Water Act becomes law

April 7, 2020 in History

By History.com Editors

The Clean Water Act becomes law on October 18, 1972. After centuries of reckless treatment of American rivers, streams, lakes and bays, the landmark act institutes strict regulations on pollution and quality controls for the nation’s waters for the first time in its history.

The ’60s had been marked by some truly horrific revelations regarding water pollution. A 1968 survey revealed that pollution in the Chesapeake Bay resulted in millions of dollars of lost revenue for fisherman, while a 1969 study found that bacteria levels in the Hudson River to be at 170 times the legal limit. The same year, pollution from local food processing plants killed 26 million fish in one lake in Florida, the largest fish kill on record, and an oil slick resulted in an infamous fire on the Cuyahoga River near Cleveland. When President Richard Nixon established the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970, it was clear that water pollution would be one of its top priorities.

Though Nixon was generally very proactive on environmental issues, he vetoed the Clean Water Act, even after it sailed through both houses of Congress, on the grounds that its price tag was too high. The legislature overruled his veto the following morning, and the bill became law on October 18, 1972. The CWA mandated the protection of any waters in the country with a “significant nexus” to navigable waters. It established a framework for identifying, licensing, and enforcing standards on originators of “point source pollution,” contamination stemming from a single point like a factory or sewage treatment plant. It also contained many other provisions for finding, regulating and cleaning up water pollution, giving most of these responsibilities to the recently-created EPA.

Since the CWA took effect, levels of pollution have greatly decreased, although many environmentalists believe it did not do enough to control non-point source pollution, the kind of contamination that cannot be traced back to a single origin. Though the CWA clearly had a positive impact, a high percentage of American waterways still do not meet the water quality standards it set forth.

…read more

Source: HISTORY

Avatar of admin

by admin

Endangered Species Act signed into law

April 7, 2020 in History

By History.com Editors

On December 28, 1973, President Richard Nixon signs the Endangered Species Act into law. The act, which Nixon called for the previous year, is considered one of the most significant and influential environmental laws in American history.

The government started taking action to protect endangered species in the early 1900s, as it became apparent that hunting, industry and deforestation were capable of wiping out entire species. The near-extinction of the bison, once extremely common in North America, provided ample evidence that such protections were necessary, as did the death of the last passenger pigeon in 1901. Early acts of Congress focused mostly on animals that were commonly hunted, and although the Department of the Interior began publishing a list of endangered species in 1967, it did not have the adequate powers to help animals in need.

READ MORE: How Nixon Became the Unlikely Champion of the Endangered Species Act

Recognizing the need for proactive legislation, Nixon asked Congress to expand protections. The result was the 1973 Endangered Species Act. Among other things, it mandated that the federal government keep a list of all species in need of protection, prohibited federal agencies from jeopardizing such species or their habitats, and empowered the government to do more to protect wildlife. Though the Act only applied to the actions of the federal government, it was wildly successful. In its first 30 years, the less than one percent of the plants and animals added to the Endangered Species List went extinct, while more than 100 showed a 90 percent recovery rate. Over 200,000 acres of crucial habitats have also been protected under the act. The ESA is widely regarded as the strongest endangered species law in the world, and one of the most successful pieces of environmental legislation in history.

…read more

Source: HISTORY

Avatar of admin

by admin

Keeling Curve, showing increase of carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere, is discovered

April 7, 2020 in History

By History.com Editors

In March of 1958, Dr. Charles David Keeling begins regularly measuring the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawai’i. Over the ensuing years, his research will reveal what is now known as the Keeling Curve: a graph of continuously-taken measurements showing the rapid accumulation of carbon dioxide.

Previously, scientists had not regularly measured the amount of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere. As part of the International Geophysical Year, an international scientific project that took place between 1957 and 1958, Keeling received funding to conduct monitoring at Mauna Loa and at the South Pole. Some colleagues questioned why sustained monitoring was necessary, but Keeling was steadfast in his desire to take detailed and continuous measurements. Though budget cuts forced him to abandon the South Pole monitoring in the 1960s, the Mauna Loa testing continues to this day.

READ MORE: When Global Warming Was Revealed by the Keeling Curve

On a micro level, the curve zig-zags due to the imbalance in the amount of vegetation in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres – there is more land in the Northern Hemisphere and therefore more plants to “breathe out” oxygen in the Northern summer, lowering CO2 levels, which rise again in the Northern winter. Over many years, however, a stark and undeniable picture has emerged. Keeling’s data points form a curve that is steadily increasing, incontrovertible evidence that the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is rising over time. As other scientists began to study atmospheric carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, a consensus emerged that levels were rising to problematic levels. The recognition of this fact, made possible by Keeling, was one of the earliest and most important steps in mankind’s awakening to the reality of climate change.

READ MORE: Climate Change History

…read more

Source: HISTORY