50 Years Later: Global Warming Pioneer Honored - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

50 Years Later: Global Warming Pioneer Honored

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It's considered one of the most important scientific discoveries. Fifty years ago this month, the Keeling Curve changed the way the world thinks about global warming, and it was created by a scientist here in San Diego. Now his son is carrying on the climate legacy.

You might say it's the sound of music to the ears of climate scientists like Ralph Keeling. A tool designed by his father Dr. Charles David Keeling measures carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Doctor Keeling was a professor at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and 50 years ago he took his first slice of CO-2. Today, his invaluable research is known as the Keeling Curve.

"I think the reason it has attracted attention is because you see a natural behavior of the carbon cycle, nature doing it's own thing having imposed on it this increase, and the increase is large over a few years compared to the natural process. It's not just a tiny perturbation, it's a major perturbation," Dr. Keeling said.

Doctor Keeling's son Ralph Keeling is a climate scientist at Scripps and carrier on his father's concern for the future of our environment.

"My work at SIO/UCSD involves measuring oxygen concentrations in the air, which is decreasing over time mainly because of fossil fuel burning. There is so much oxygen in the air that this is not an environmental concern, but by measuring oxygen we can learn more about what's controlling carbon dioxide," Ralph Keeling said.

The fist measurement were made almost 50 years ago to the day. There is a definitive curve upward, which means as time moves on, so does the increase in carbon dioxide.

"One thing you see in the curve if you look at it is of course it is rising and that was already evident in the first few years. The rise right now is considerably faster than it was in the late 1950s, early 60s, and that's largely understood simply because we're burning fossil fuels now at a higher rate than in the 1950s. There are more cars on the road, there are more power plants, there are more people. There is more combustion," Ralph Keeling said.

A growing population could mean more pollution for the future. Thanks to the research that created the Keeling Curve, scientists can carefully monitor the health of our atmosphere.

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