As long as we humans have existed on Earth, we have affected the environment around us. In the past, the effects of our hunting or agricultural activities on the environment were local. This changed with the Industrial Revolution which began round 1750 and accelerated in the 1800s and 1900s. A revolution is a dramatic social change.

fossil fuels

2. FOSSIL FUELS: Before the industrial revolution, all ships were powered by oars or sail. The first ships with an engine were powered by steam produced from coal. Photo: The NOAA Photo Library (click to enlarge, 140 kB)
The Industrial Revolution took place when people began to mass produce goods in large factories using machines that ran on energy from coal, and later using oil, natural gas, and electricity. This made it much easier for people to produce goods and helped the development of modern technology. In pre-industrial times – that is, the time before the Industrial Revolution – there were no trains, cars, planes, electric lights, factories, telephones, or televisions.

The more we produce and consume, the more we affect the environment around us. Over the last 50 years we have seen clear signs that humans affect the environment of the entire planet. We are creating environmental problems that are not only local but also global. One of these global environmental problems is man-made climate change, also known as global warming.

Author: Camilla Schreiner – CICERO (Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research – Oslo) – Norway.
Scientific reviewers: Andreas Tjernshaugen – CICERO, Norway – 2003-09-15 and Dr. Knut Alfsen – Statistics Norway, Norway – 2003-09-08.
Educational reviewer: Nina Arnesen – Marienlyst School, Oslo, Norway – 2004-03-10.
Last update: 2004-03-27.