Did a newspaper article from 1912 predict climate change due to coal?


A scan of an article from over a century ago mentioning climate change due to coal has spread on social media.


One image shows a 1912 newspaper clipping in which the prospect of coal contributes to climate change.

Twitter account @learnhistory shared the image on August 12 with the caption: “Predicting climate change from 1912.”

The image had the date of the cut circled in red.

At the time of writing, the post has over 4,000 retweets and over 15,000 likes.


The image shows an article under the banner “Scientific Notes and News” with the title “COAL CONSUMPTION AFFECTING THE CLIMATE”.

It also shows the title of the newspaper, The Rodney and Otamatea Times, and the date of August 14, 1912, over a century ago.

The report highlighted the amount of coal burned at the time and the carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere each year.

“This tends to make the air a more efficient cover for the earth and raise its temperature,” the article says.

“The effect can be considerable in a few centuries.

Searching for the contents of the news article brings up a copy of it on the website of the National Library of New Zealand, which downloaded digitized versions of newspapers from the 19th and 20th centuries.

This confirms that the article was on page 7 of The Rodney and Otamatea times and the Waitemata and Kaipara Gazette August 14, 1912.

The article has been widely shared on social media several times before.

The text also appeared in the magazine Popular mechanics, before its inclusion in the 1912 newspaper article shared on Twitter.

A copy of the publication, dated March 1912, which was uploaded to Google Books shows that the text captioned a picture of coal ovens on page 341.

Burning coal is known to be a major contributor to rising global temperatures.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website, “the combustion of coal, natural gas and petroleum for electricity and heating is the largest source of global greenhouse gas emissions.”

The EPA explains that “an increase in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases produces a positive climate forcing, or warming effect.”

“Climate forcing refers to a change in the Earth’s energy balance, causing a warming or cooling effect over time,” says the EPA.




The article in question is authentic and the text was published in newspapers and a magazine in 1912, pointing out that more than a century ago people anticipated the climatic problems associated with burning coal for the energy that we see today.

Coal-fired power station in Adamsville Alabama
Steam rises from the Miller coal-fired power plant in Adamsville, Alabama on April 11, 2021. A 1912 article highlighted the potential of using coal to contribute to climate change.
Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / AFP via Getty Images

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