RESOURCES > Timeline
In April of 2006 TIME magazine featured a cover image of a polar bear on a small ice floe along with the headline "Be Worried. Be VERY Worried. Climate change isn't some vague future problem it's already damaging the planet at an alarming pace." Several months later the media was abuzz with the news that conservative evangelical leader Pat Robertson had become a "convert" to the need to address global warming. In August 2006 California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger crossed party lines to
sign into law the nation's first bill to cap man-made greenhouse gas emissions. California has often led the nation in environmental legislation the effect of the California initiative remains to be seen. California is the world's 12th largest emitter of greenhouse gases.
Below you'll find a brief timeline of major developments in U.S. environmental legislation, the public perception of global warming and the development of the evangelical environmental debate. For more information on matters referred to in "Is God Green?" and the MOYERS ON AMERICA Citizens Class, visit the Glossary, Documents, and Sites of Interest sections.
|1904:||Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius was, according to NASA, "the first person to investigate the effect that doubling atmospheric carbon dioxide would have on global climate." Arrhenius began studying rapid increases in anthropogenic human-caused carbon emissions, determining that "the slight percentage of carbonic acid in the atmosphere may, by the advances of industry, be changed to a noticeable degree in the course of a few centuries."
|1916:||The National Park Service (NPS) was created by the "Organic Act" expanding the Antiques Act of 1906 which had created the nation's national monument system.
|1950s:||Geophysicist Roger Revelle, with the help of Hans Suess, demonstrated that carbon dioxide levels in the air had increased as a result of the use of fossil fuels. |
|1955:|| The Air Pollution Control Act of 1955, the first federal clean-air act, is passed. The legislation resulted from an investigation into the October, 1948 incident in which the Monongahela River Valley town of Donora, Pennsylvania was subsumed in a noxious smog. In the five days between October 26 and 31, 20 people died, more than 7,000 were sickened. |
|1963:|| Congress passed the nation's Clean Air Act of 1963. This act dealt with reducing air pollution by setting emissions standards for stationary sources such as power plants and steel mills. Amendments to the Clean Air Act were passed in 1965, 1966, 1967, and 1969 among which were the first standards for auto emissions. (More on the Clean Air Acts)|
The Wilderness Act created a mechanism to forever protect from any sort of development some remote lands. (More on theWilderness Act)
|1965:||Serving on the President's Science Advisory Committee Panel on Environmental Pollution in 1965, Roger Revelle helped publish the first high-level government mention of global warming. The book-length report identified many of the environmental troubles the nation faced, and mentioned in a "subpanel report" the potential for global warming by carbon dioxide. |
|1966:||Auto tailpipe emission standards for hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide are adopted by the California Motor Vehicle Pollution Control Board. They are the first of their kind in the nation. California Highway Patrol begins random roadside inspections of vehicle smog control devices. Ten years later in 1976, California is the first state to limit lead in gasoline.|
|1970||National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) signed. Environmental Protection Agency created. The Clean Air Act of 1970 established stringent new goals for limits on emissions from stationary and mobile sources to be enforced by both state and federal governments, and increased funds for air pollution research.
In July 1970, the Department of Health, Education and Welfare's Bureau of Water Hygiene reported that 30 percent of drinking water samples had chemicals exceeding the recommended Public Health Service limits.
The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) releases a strongly worded policy resolution called "Ecology" asking all Christians "to support every legitimate effort to maintain balance in ecology, preservation of our resources, and avoidance of the cluttering of our natural beauty with the waster of our society." Further, the resolution adds, "Today those who thoughtlessly destroy a God-ordained balance of nature are guilty of sin against God's creation."
|1971||The FDA reported in February 1971 that 87 percent of swordfish samples had mercury at levels that were unfit for human consumption.|
|1972||Passed in 1972, the goal of the Clean Water Act was to "restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of our nation's waters." The law called for "zero discharge of pollutants into navigable waters by 1985, and fishable and swimmable waters by 1983." (More on the Clean Water Act)|
|1973:||"The Endangered Species Act was the last of the core environmental legislation passed in the 1960s and 1970s after the publicity surrounding publications like Rachel Carson's SILENT SPRING. Signed by President Nixon in 1973, the Act strengthened two earlier bills and strengthened mechanisms to protect species and habitats. (More on theEndangered Species Act)|
|1977:||"In 1977 the nonpartisan National Academy of Sciences issued a study called Energy and Climate, which carefully suggested that the possibility of global warming 'should lead neither to panic nor to complacency.' The primary recommendation was for more research." |
|1980s||Representative Al Gore (D-TN) co-sponsored the first Congressional hearings to study the implications of global warming and to encourage the development of environmental technologies to combat global warming. |
|1982||Roger Revelle published a widely-read article in SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN addressing the rise in global sea level and the "relative role played by the melting of glaciers and ice sheets versus the thermal expansion of the warming surface waters." |
|1983:||The Environmental Protection Agency released a report detailing some of the possible threats of the anthropogenic emission of carbon dioxide. |
|1988:||NASA climate scientist James Hansen and his team reported to Congress on global warming, explaining, "the greenhouse warming should be clearly identifiable in the 1990s" and that "the temperature changes are sufficiently large to have major impacts on people and other parts of the biosphere, as shown by computed changes in the frequency of extreme events and comparison with previous climate trends."
With the increased awareness of global warming issues, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme to assess scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant for the understanding of climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation. The IPCC was the first international effort of this scale to address environmental issues. (More on global warming)
|1990:|| The Clean Air Act of 1990 addressed five main areas: air-quality standards, motor vehicle emissions and alternative fuels, toxic air pollutants, acid rain, and stratospheric ozone depletion. |
Congress passed and President George Bush signed Public Law 101-606 "The Global Change Research Act" of 1990. The purpose of the legislation was "to require the establishment of a United States Global Change Research Program aimed at understanding and responding to global change, including the cumulative effects of human activities and natural processes on the environment, to promote discussions towards international protocols in global change research, and for other purposes."
Pope John Paul II gives a World Day of Peace message calling for environmental responsibility titled, "The Ecological Crisis: A Common Responsibility." The Pope specifically mentions the greenhouse effect, the burning of fossil fuels, and deforestation as major ecological problems to address.
Dr. Carl Sagan spearheads a joint appeal to the religious and scientific communities for environmental action in a widely circulated "Open Letter to the American Religious Community." Thirty-two Nobel laureates and other eminent scientists signs the letter, which is presented at the Global Forum of Spiritual and Parliamentary Leaders Conference in Moscow, Russia.
|1992:||In June of 1992, over 100 government leaders, representatives from 170 countries, and some 30,000 participants met in Rio de Janeiro at the U.N. Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED or the "Earth Summit"). There, an international assembly formally recognized the need to integrate economic development and environmental protection into the goal of sustainable development. |
The Evangelical Environmental Network was formed in 1993 by Evangelicals for Social Action (ESA), a national organization of progressive evangelicals formed in 1973 that focuses on poverty and family issues. (More on The EEN) |
|1997||In December 1997, more than 160 nations met in Kyoto, Japan, to negotiate binding limitations on greenhouse gases for the developed nations, pursuant to the objectives of the Framework Convention on Climate Change of 1992. The outcome of the meeting was the Kyoto Protocol, in which the developed nations agreed to limit their greenhouse gas emissions, relative to the levels emitted in 1990. The United States agreed to reduce emissions from 1990 levels by 7 percent during the period 2008 to 2012.
Also that year, the United States Senate unanimously passed the Hagel-Byrd Resolution notifying the Clinton Administration that the Senate would not ratify any treaty that would (a) impose mandatory greenhouse gas emissions reductions for the United States without also imposing such reductions for developing nations, or (b) result in serious harm to our economy. (More on The Kyoto Protocol)
Bartholomew I, spiritual leader of Orthodox Christians, says at the same Symposium on Religion, Science, and the Environment, "To commit a crime against the natural world is a sin."
|1999|| Interfaith Coalition for Environmental Stewardship (ICES) releases The Cornwall Declaration. (More on The Cornwall Declaration) |
Before he leaves office in January, 2001, President Bill Clinton issued the Roadless Area Conservation Policy directive, ending virtually all logging; roadbuilding; and coal, gas, oil, and other mineral leasing in 58 million acres of the wildest remaining national forests lands.
Also in January 2001, the United States Supreme Court issued a 5-to-4 opinion the Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County v. Army Corps of Engineers that denied Federal Clean Water Act protection for thousands of wetlands that serve as habitat for migratory birds. The Supreme Court ruled that Clean Water Act was being applied too broadly "an impingement of states' power" and ruled that the law cannot be used to protect isolated wetlands.
The IPCC released its third assessment report, concluding on the basis of "new and stronger evidence that most of the observed warming over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities." They also observed that "the globally averaged surface temperature is projected to increase by 1.4 to 5.8 degrees Celsius over the period 1990 to 2100."
The same year, President George W. Bush announced that the United States would not ratify the Kyoto Protocol. The Protocol is now in limbo until one of the two crucial holdouts Russia or the United States will ratify the treaty.
|2002:|| The Milan conference of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was just one in a series of international meetings to negotiate points of the Kyoto Protocol, and the tension surrounding the issue brought both scientists and the energy industry to the table.
The Bush Administration announces The Clear Skies Initiative. The administration calls it "the most significant step America has ever taken to cut power plant emissions" and said it would "aggressively reduce air pollution from electricity generators and improve air quality throughout the country." Critics of argue that it greatly weakens the standards of the Clean Air Act.
|2003:||Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) co-sponsored a proposal for mandatory caps on "greenhouse gas" emissions from utilities and other industries. The proposal was rejected in the Senate by a margin of 55 to 43.
A coalition of ranchers, landowners, and environmental groups filed three separate lawsuits to stop coalbed methane development in the Powder River Basin in Montana and Wyoming. Their main legal argument is that the Bureau of Land Management failed to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires federal agencies to evaluate the environmental impacts of federal decisions and consider alternative approaches.
|2004:||In July, the Bush administration announces its plan to eliminate the "Roadless Area Conservation Rule."
In August, an annual report by the Climate Change Science Program and the Subcommittee on Global Change Research "Our Changing Planet: The U.S. Climate Change Science Program for Fiscal Years 2004 and 2005" was submitted to Congress. In what the NEW YORK TIMES called a "striking shift in the way the Bush administration has portrayed the science of climate change," the report indicated that "emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases are the only likely explanation for global warming over the last three decades."
On August 25, 2004, the Environmental Protection Agency released new data showing that pollution in one out of every three lakes and nearly one out of every four rivers in the U.S. is so severe that people should avoid eating fish caught there. The figures also showed that today 48 out of 50 states issued fish advisories in 2003, up from 44 in 1993.
In late 2004, the Bush Administration came into conflict with the world community when it appeared to take issue with parts of an eight-nation report compiled by 250 scientists which contended that the Arctic is warming almost twice as fast as the rest of the planet due to a buildup of heat-trapping gases. The U.S. State Department argued that the group lacked the evidence to prepare detailed policy proposals. British Prime Minister Tony Blair pledged to pressure Washington to take the threat of global warming more seriously.
|2005:|| In January 2005 Senator James Inhofe made a speech on the Senate floor again condemning the idea of global warming as "the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people." Inhofe made frequent references to STATE OF FEAR, the fictional work by JURASSIC PARK author Michael Crichton, in which eco-terrorists engineer disasters to prove their theories about global warming. (More on Inhofe and Crichton)
The Kyoto Protocol entered into force on February 16, 2005. Industrialized countries have committed to cut their combined emissions to 5% below 1990 levels by 2008 - 2012. The emissions covered under the treaty are: Carbon dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4), Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), Perfluorocarbons (PFCs), Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6). As of April 19, 2005, 149 states and regional economic integration organizations have deposited instruments of ratifications, accessions, approvals or acceptances. (More about Kyoto.)
In early March 2005, the Clear Skies Initiative did not move out of committee when the committee members deadlocked 9-9 and the initiative appeared dead. The EPA then implements some of the elements of Clear Skies administratively. The EPA issues the Clean Air Mercury Rule (CAMR) for regulating mercury emissions from coal-burning power plants, eliminating MACT standards and utilizing a "cap and trade" system. (More about mercury emissions.)
On June 13, USA TODAY runs a story entitled "The Debate's Over: The Globe is Warming." FoxNews calls the article alarmist and published a rebuttal: "Global Warming Doubt Dispelled? Not Really."
November 21, 2005 - Interfaith Stewardship Alliance releases "An Examination of the Scientific, Ethical and Theological Implications of Climate Change Policy," with E. Calvin Beisner, a founding member of ISA as one of the authors. The paper argues the uncertainties of climate change, and to "apply the principles of prudence" Jesus Christ espoused when addressing the issue.
(Read the document)
December 23, 2005 - The FINANCIAL TIMES reports in "Evangelicals Converted on the Environment" that the National Association of Evangelicals "is circulating among its leadership a draft policy statement that would demand strong action against the causes of climate change."
|2006:||January 2006 - Interfaith Stewardship Alliance sends a letter to National Association of Evangelicals requesting that the NAE "not adopt any official position on the issue of global climate change." Read the document. On February 8, 2006 The "Evangelical Climate Initiative" (ECI) is announced. (Read the Statement of the ECI "Climate Change: An Evangelical Call to Action." Read the document. |
In August, the California Legislature passed the nation's first bill to cap man-made greenhouse gas emissions.
September: The BBC reports on new evidence from the British Antarctic Survey which shows that "Carbon dioxide levels are substantially higher now than at any time in the last 800,000 years." Read more on the study.
|Sources: United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change; CBS News; NASA's Earth Observatory; Environmental Research Foundation; THE ATLANTIC; SOCIAL PROBLEMS; Global Change Research Information Office;"The Clean Water Act: 30 Years of Success in Peril," prepared by the Democratic Staff of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, October 18, 2002; "Clean Water Act: Fast Facts" from Environmental Media Services; "
Clean Water Act," U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.