From Global Warming Art


Svante Arrhenius was the 1903 Nobel laureate in chemistry (for his understanding of electrolytic chemistry) and the first person to calculate the greenhouse warming associated with carbon dioxide (Arrhenius 1896, PDF (4 MB)). Combining this with existing work suggesting that the burning of fossil fuels could significantly alter the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (Högbom 1894), Arrhenius became the first person to predict the possibility of man-made global warming. His prediction that significant global warming would take ~3000 years to develop (Arrhenius 1908) is now recognized as a substantial underestimate due in part to his failure to foresee the rapid increases in fossil fuel use during the twentieth century.

Arrhenius is also sometimes mistakenly credited with discovering the greenhouse effect. The possibility that the atmosphere trapped heat (i.e. the greenhouse effect) had been widely discussed by Arrhenius' contemporaries and predecessors (e.g. Fourier 1827); however, Arrhenius should be recognized as the first to quantify the significance of carbon dioxide to this process. His original crude estimate of ~5 °C warming from a doubling of carbon dioxide, is larger but not greatly different from the 1.5-4.5 °C now estimated for such a doubling (IPCC 2001).


This image, part of the collection of the Swedish Royal Library, Stockholm, is in the public domain as its copyright has expired after originally appearing in 1918.

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This image is believed to be in the public domain in the United States because it was first published prior to January 1, 1923. Other jurisdictions have different dates of expiration into the public domain, and this image might not be in the public domain in countries outside the United States.


  • Svante Arrhenius (1896). "On the Influence of Carbonic Acid in the Air upon the Temperature of the Ground". Philosophical Magazine and Journal of Science (fifth series) 41: 237–275. 
  • Svante Arrhenius (1908). Das Werden der Welten. Leipzig: Academic Publishing House. 
  • Högbom (1894). Svensk kemisk Tulskrift, p. 169. 
  • Fourier (1827). Mémoires de l'Académie des sciences de l'Institut de France. 

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