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Live Earth: How Global Warming Became Cool

Once embraced only by tree huggers but now by Madonna, Sting and other stars, global warming had a turbulent ride before being adopted as a celebrity campaign issue in Saturday's Live Earth concerts.

For much of its history, climate change has faced indifference or ignorance, thanks mainly to sceptics who challenged the sometimes-sketchy evidence and fossil-fuel lobbyists who dismissed it as nothing more than a greenmongering scare.

Thirty years ago, only a tiny number of individuals -- "climate scientists and the granola-and-sandals brigade," says US historian Spencer Weart -- took notice of the idea that unbridled burning of oil, gas and coal might eventually mess up the climate system.

In fact, the apocalyptic fear of the mid-1970s was not global warming -- but global cooling.

This was the notion that Earth was about to be plunged into a deep freeze, as shifts in its orbit and axis unleashed a catastrophic drop in warmth from the Sun.

In 1977, the big media buzz was for a book called "The Weather Conspiracy: The Coming of the New Ice Age," which conjured fears of a snowball planet where survivors eked out a troglodytic life in beaver skins.

But evidence for the greenhouse effect was already trickling out.

By the end of the 1970s, warming had tipped the balance over cooling in the battle for expert opinion as to which way the climate was heading.

In 1979, the US National Academy of Sciences issued a landmark report, backing predictions that a doubling of carbon dioxide (CO2) would cause atmospheric warming of between 1.5-4.5 degrees C (2.7-8.1 degrees F).

In the 1980s, further research added intriguing new pieces to the global warming puzzle. But scientists fretted over the many remaining blanks and debated fiercely over what the picture actually meant.

Although some saw a looming threat, no action was taken politically, give
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