President Obama’s science adviser, Dr. John Holdren, a Harvard physicist and persistent global-warming alarmist, made the news recently with a stunning and bold idea on how to halt the imminent danger posed by global warming—sorry, global climate change. Holdren has discussed the feasibility of geoengineering, a deliberate attempt at manmade climate change to counteract dreaded global warming. He says that although geoengineering may be farfetched, it might become necessary as a last-ditch attempt to save the planet, especially if greenhouse-gas emissions are not cut soon enough or deeply enough.
Global-warming skeptics like to point out the vanity of the idea that human activity can actually change the climate of the planet. If there is a significant change in average temperatures, skeptics argue, it comes from massive and unstoppable natural forces, not human activity. Skeptics also like to point out the inconsistency of climate-change fear-mongers, particularly the widespread fear of global cooling as recently as the late 1970s.
Green activists and global-warming skeptics alike might be surprised to learn that the idea of manmade climate change has been around in the United States since the middle of the nineteenth century. Much like today, this early wave of climate-change fever was vouched for by many prominent scientists and publications, and had many adherents among the general public. Instead of alarm and distress about the danger of climate change, though, in the later 1800s there was excitement and anticipation about what it portended for American agriculture. Although the two episodes differ in this important aspect—whether climate change was to be viewed as a bane or a boon—there is undoubtedly much to learn by examining the nature of nineteenth-century climate-change thinking and its impact on the U.S. economy.