There was no way of knowing on Aug. 8, 1975, just how many readers turned to the new paper in the journal Science by geochemist Wallace Broecker, of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. It was hardly possible to track clicks or likes nearly half a century ago, so Broecker simply had to hope his message got through. It was a pressing one, conveyed directly by its headline: "Climatic Change: Are We on the Brink of a Pronounced Global Warming?"
The headline marked the first time the term "global warming" is known to have appeared in print, according to NASA. Though Broecker, who died in 2019 after devoting decades to studying and writing about climate change, might have hoped for more from his ground-breaking article, there was barely a whisper from the press or the public: The full-text database and search engine LexisNexis turns up only two uses of “global warming” in the five years that followed the Science piece—both of them in the magazine The Economist, during the blistering summer of 1977, when a heat wave led to a 24-hour blackout in New York City, resulting in 3,700 arrests, damage to 1,600 stores and at least 1,000 fires.
Today, of course, things are much different. As we reach the official end of the hottest summer on record, our vocabulary is filled with different terms to describe the phenomenon that is causing all of the suffering: global warming, climate change, climate crisis.
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