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How Stones Were Key to Building a Sustainable Path

May 10, 2018
By: 
Francois Jost
Valley of Bagnes, Switzerland

Almost a thousand years ago, in the Shaanxi province of China, the scientist Shen Kuo, after observing petrified bamboos in a dry-climate area unsuitable for their growth, deduced that climate change occured naturally over a huge span of time. In the absence of further research, his hypothesis remained dormant for centuries.

Almost 800 years passed before Jean-Pierre Perraudin took a pleasant hike in the Valley of Bagnes in the Swiss Alps and noticed that the scattered giant rocks around the valley might have been caused by glaciers. His hypothesis was further studied by Louis Agassiz, who in 1837 was the first to propose a theory of what he termed "Ice Age", starting the research in climate change and glaciology.

Calculations of human-induced climate change started in the late 1890’s, but given the instrumentation of the time, it was not until the 1960’s when the level of CO2 in the atmosphere was proven to be rising. Since then, scientists have warned the world about the harmful effects of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions on the climate.

With further research in climate change, decade after decade, experts have stressed the need to better address and reconcile poverty, global economic growth and the increasing environmental degradation. Research in climate change has been exposed through conferences and world summits, by gathering world leaders and seeking international agreements. Backed by a large body of scientists including the support of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Assessment Reports (since 1990), some of these include: the Stockholm Declaration (1972), the Brundtland Report (aiming for a sustainable development path, 1987), the Earth Summit in Rio (leading to the Kyoto protocol & Agenda 21, 1992), the Bali Action Plan (2007), Rio+20 (2012), and finally the Paris Agreement (2015).

Although a thousand years have passed since its discovery, our will and efforts to gain a better understanding of climate change still persist on the quest for a better and more sustainable future, and to help us better prepare for the years ahead. An example of that can be found in our Meeting the Climate Change Challenge (mc3) research