On 5 August, the New York Times Magazine published an article entitled Losing Earth about the history of climate change activism in the US. The paper’s writer-at-large Nathaniel Rich recounts the roles that some key players had in bringing the concept to public and political attention between 1979 and 1989. Amongst these figures are Rafe Pomerance, a Washington lobbyist for Friends of the Earth, geophysicist Gordon MacDonald, James Hansen of the Goddard Space Institute, and a then-thirty-something congressman named Al Gore (who, of course, would later become vice-president and famous in the climate movement for his film An Inconvenient Truth).
Rich argues that the opportunity existed in the late 1980s, when the science had been largely settled and with the issue enjoying bipartisan support, to take the necessary action to contain the impending crisis being caused by carbon dioxide emissions. The front cover of the magazine consists of an entirely blank black page, with one sentence in white across its middle: “Thirty years ago, we could have saved the planet.” Rich suggests that there was a growing movement in the US congress and wider political community to introduce binding international treaties, with the US taking a leadership role.