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How did global warming start?

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Quick Answer

Most scientists agree that man-made climate change, or global warming, began in earnest during the industrial revolution, which occurred between the 18th and 19th centuries. This occurred, they say, as a result of a large number of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere. However, in 2008, researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison concluded that global warming began as many as 8,000 years earlier with the advent of agriculture and deforestation.

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Greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere during and since the industrial revolution remain trapped, where they continue to accumulate. They also serve to retain heat, which has had a series of effects on the planet's climate.

Early in the 20th century, most scientists and industrial leaders believed it was possible to alter a local climate but not the global climate, based on local activities. Although some scientists, including Svante Arrhenius, a Swedish chemist, saw the possibility for global climate change, they were dismissed as being alarmists.

Beginning in the late 1950s, scientists observed a steady increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere based on precise measurements. By the 1980s, the global temperature had begun to increase to such a degree that the media heard about it and began to spread the news.

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