The Climate Crisis

Climate emergencies surround us today. The gap between the severity of the climate crisis and the inadequate response in schools threatens students’ lives and the future of the planet. The Zinn Education Project has developed this timeline to invite teachers and students to examine the choices and stakes that animate the climate crisis, and to work together toward meaningful solutions. ;xNLx;;xNLx;Our timeline traces its roots from European colonial expansion and racial capitalism to present-day fossil fuel industry and government projects that exploit and destroy the Earth in the name of maximum profit. It also emphasizes moments and movements of resistance and activism that inform climate justice work today. Scientific discoveries and disinformation — who knew what, when, and to what ends — punctuate this history, as do accelerating catastrophes that emphasize the urgency of the crisis.;xNLx;;xNLx;This timeline is a brand new resource, and we’re eager to hear how you use it in your classrooms and curricula. Experiment with it, send us your teaching stories, and spread the word on social media (#TeachClimateJustice). Find contact info, more context on the timeline, related teaching ideas, and other resources at the [Zinn Education Project site](;xNLx;;xNLx;Background art by Jill Pelto. Her description: "Landscape of Change uses data about sea level rise, glacier volume decline, increasing global temperatures, and the increasing use of fossil fuels. These data lines compose a landscape shaped by the changing climate, a world in which we are now living." [See Jill Pelto's gallery](;xNLx;;xNLx;Learn more about [this timeline](

1452-03-01 00:00:00

Doctrine of Discovery

1460-01-01 00:00:00

First “Cash Crop” Plantation

1492-01-01 00:00:00

Columbus and Spanish Invasion

1492-02-02 00:00:00

The “Great Dying”

1501-01-01 00:00:00

Transatlantic Slave Trade

1521-03-01 00:00:00

Enslaved People Revolt

1571-01-01 00:00:00

Global Trade Routes

1600-01-01 00:00:00


1641-01-01 00:00:00

"Society" vs. "Nature"

1750-01-01 00:00:00

Dawn of the Industrial Revolution

1788-01-01 15:08:52

Rotary Steam Engine Invented

1825-01-01 15:08:52

Coal Use Soars

1827-01-01 23:17:03

Greenhouse Effect Discovered

1850-01-01 10:29:05

Modern Oil Industry Begins

1856-01-01 00:00:00

"Greenhouse Effect" Confirmed

1880-01-01 10:29:05

Gas-Powered Cars Invented

1884-10-01 04:58:39

Berlin Conference

1889-01-01 20:48:28

Coal Miners Strike

1890-01-01 20:48:28

Wage Workers Strike

1896-01-01 07:21:16

Coal Use Linked to Hotter Earth

1900-09-01 04:31:52

Galveston Hurricane

1908-01-01 04:58:39

Model T Invented

1908-01-01 04:58:39

First Commercial Oil Well in the Middle East

1912-03-01 06:23:08

Article Links Coal Burning and Global Temperatures

1914-01-01 06:23:08

World War I

1938-10-01 04:58:39

Callendar Effect

1941-12-01 03:10:18

World War II

1941-12-02 03:10:18

Petroleum Administration for War

1945-01-01 14:38:19

Vietnam War

1948-01-01 02:02:43

Europe Shifts from Coal to Oil

1950-01-01 02:02:43

U.S. Department of Defense Leads Climate Change Research

1953-01-01 02:02:43

Coup in Iran

1956-10-01 04:58:39

Oil Extraction in the Niger Delta

1957-01-01 02:02:43

ExxonMobil Studies Link Between Fossil Fuels and CO₂

1957-01-01 02:02:43

Scientists Establish Link Between Atmospheric CO₂ and Fossil Fuels

1958-01-01 02:02:43

Popular TV Program Warns of Global Warming

1958-01-01 02:51:33

Keeling Curve

1960-01-01 02:51:33

Scientists Warn Ford and GM Executives

1961-10-01 04:58:39

Scientists Warn Kennedy Administration

1963-01-01 02:51:33

Clean Air Act

1968-01-01 23:04:00

Fossil Fuel Companies Study Impacts of CO₂

1970-04-01 02:51:33

First Earth Day

1978-01-01 02:51:33

China’s “Open Door” Policy

1979-01-01 02:51:33

National Academy of Sciences Report

1980-01-01 02:51:33

Oil, Gas, Auto, and Electric Companies Privately Lead Research Programs

1981-01-01 02:51:33

Council on Environmental Quality Warns Reagan Administration

1981-08-01 02:51:33

New York Times Publishes Climate Trends and Predictions

1982-03-01 02:51:33

Congressional Hearings on the “Greenhouse” or “Microwave” Effect

1983-10-01 02:51:33

New York Times Downplays Threat of Global Warming

1985-01-01 15:57:33

A “Hole in the Ozone”

The Climate Crisis

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