The world was talking about the impacts of climate change long before we knew it was happening

19 October 2015

For the first time, a new analysis shows an impact of climate change on human society long before we knew the climate was actually changing.

Exploring Google's scanned book collection, the analysis by CPAS lecturer Will Grant and ANU Centre for Research on Ageing, Health and Wellbeing post doctoral research fellow Erin Walsh finds that the world increasingly discussed some of the predicted effects of climate change – such as heat waves, drought, and flooding – long before current global weather alterations were widely known about.

The authors note that while the science of climate change and climate action has come under sustained political attack, buttressing the physical record with social evidence presents a useful counterargument.

"Though climate change came to global attention in the late 1980s, this analysis suggests we humans were responding to it far earlier," said Dr. Will Grant. "In fact, in this very precise area we humans are perhaps more responsive to climate change than even traditional physical indicators of climate change like tree ring measurements."

The article is available from the journal Weather.