1824: Discovery of the greenhouse effect

Joseph Fourier discovered the greenhouse effect in 1824. The greenhouse effect is responsible for keeping our planet warm and habitable. At the same time, it is also a fundamental mechanism in climate change. The effect works by allowing solar radiation to fall on the Earth’s surface and be diffusely reflected from there into the atmosphere. In the process, part of the thermal radiation is retained by the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, while the rest escapes into space. This means that the more such greenhouse gases there are in the atmosphere, the more thermal radiation is retained, which consequently leads to a warming of the earth’s surface.

The most important greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4). To counteract further warming, not only must new emissions be prevented, but existing ones must also be filtered out of the air.

Source: Rahmstorf (2013), Wild et al. (2017)