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English engineer Guy Stewart Callendar. Photograph: University of East Anglia Archives. English engineer Guy Stewart Callendar. Photograph: University of East Anglia Archives.  

Guy who discovered global warming thought rising temperatures were good

Steam engineer and amateur scientist Guy Stewart Callendar, who first theorized a link between global warming and carbon dioxide emissions 75 years ago, believed that global warming would be a boon to mankind.

“Callendar, who died in 1964, aged 66, thought global warming was good because it would stop what he called ‘deadly glaciers’ returning and could boost the growth of crops at high latitude,” The BBC reports.

Callendar’s claim may not be that far off. For example, Reuters reported that Greenland residents are able to grow crops they previously couldn’t because of longer, warmer summers. Thawing ice sheets have also spurred increased mining and oil exploration.

Global warming could also allow more shipping through once impassable areas of the Arctic. Fortune reports that geographers are predicting that sea ice melt will open up new Arctic shipping routes by the mid-century which would “shave off costly travel time in the late summer and reduce Russia’s control over trans-Arctic shipping.”

The Canadian-born Callendar first published his research on global warming in the Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society in April 1938. His research, which suggested that a warming earth was related to carbon dioxide emissions, became known as the “Callendar Effect”.

“Callendar was the first to discover that the planet had warmed,” said Professor Phil Jones of the University of East Anglia in Norwich, who recently co-authored a paper commemorating Callendar’s contributions to climate science. “He collected world temperature measurements and suggested that this warming was related to carbon dioxide emissions.”

“He is still relatively unknown as a scientist but his contribution was fundamental to climate science today,” Jones said.

Scientists today are still debating the relationship between carbon dioxide emissions and global warming, especially as carbon dioxide emissions continue to rise while global temperatures have leveled off for at least a decade.

“If you look at the monthly temperature anomalies from the University of East Anglia you see no significant trend in any direction going back to the fall of 1996, which would put us at 17 years of no trend,” said Patrick Michaels, director of the Center for the Study of Science at the libertarian Cato Institute.

“Scientists at the time also couldn’t really believe that humans could impact such a large system as the climate — a problem that climate science still encounters from some people today, despite the compelling evidence to the contrary,” said Dr. Ed Hawkins, from the University of Reading, who co-authored the paper with Jones.

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