It could have been a completely different story if the climatic changes that we now experience had happened sooner. In fact, things could have been a lot worse if these storm surges and droughts had occurred earlier.
Carbon dioxide was already a naturally-occurring part of the atmosphere so the changes that have been induced through human fossil fuel usage have actually been quite small and have been ongoing for an extended period of time. If the concentrations of carbon dioxide had been a bit lower, we would have felt the effects of greenhouse gas emission earlier. This could have taken place at a different time when mankind did not have the resources available to mitigate the damage.
In the atmosphere, molecules of carbon dioxide are measured as ppm of dry air. In the past, during the era of glacial periods, there was a range of 180 ppm to 260 ppm. Before the start of heavy industrialization in the 1750s, the atmosphere was reading 278 ppm of carbon dioxide according to measurements that were taken from sheet ice in Antarctica.
If the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was 50% of its value we’d be seeing climate changes that aren’t expected to happen until 2050 says David Archer from the University of Chicago. He goes on to add that if there was initially only 1/10 of the carbon dioxide, climate changes we see now would have taken place in 1900. He also says that these changes can be considered as moderate due to the carbon dioxide’s blanketing effect in the atmosphere. Scientists now have the opportunity to better understand fossil fuel emission effects and the climate system on Earth.
The first ideas relating to a greenhouse effect were discussed in 1827 and predictions were made back in 1896 about possible climate changes resulting from carbon dioxide fluctuations. By 1970, however, there was more understanding about fossil fuel and changing climatic conditions due to computer advances. It was at this time that public warnings began circulating.
It would have been a lot more challenging if the climatic impacts due to fossil fuel release had taken place even 50 years earlier. It would have been very difficult for society to understand it and at that time didn’t have the means to prevent it. It would have been difficult and would have offered a completely different humanity outlook at that time.
Study titled “Near miss: the importance of the natural atmospheric CO2 concentration to human historical evolution” by David Archer of the University of Chicago in the US has been published in the journal Climatic Change.