Veridian’s Diary - Papers Past article from 1912 predicting climate change goes viral - again!

An article from the National Library of New Zealand’s (NLNZ) multilingual Papers Past collection, titled ‘Coal consumption affecting climate,’ has achieved something not often seen in the digital newspaper collection world; it has gone viral.

What’s more, this article from the August 14, 1912 edition of the Rodney & Otamatea Times has achieved widespread reach (in the millions) on numerous occasions, going viral in 2016, 2018 and 2021, with the latest sharing spike coming on its 110th birthday last year.

Under ‘Science Notes and News’ and only hitting 67 words, it could be considered an unsuspecting candidate for virality. As a New Zealand journalist points out, it was certainly not the first article to draw attention to global warming, and was in fact re-published from Australian and British titles. Detailing key figures on how much coal the world was burning at the time, and thus how much carbon dioxide was being released into the atmosphere, it makes a simple connection between the two with the result being the earth’s temperature rising over the coming centuries.

While we can only speculate as to why it has grabbed the cultural zeitgeist over the last seven years, we (in conjunction with our friends at NLNZ) are also proud that the same journalist calls Papers Past New Zealand’s best website. Considering there are over 750,000 domains registered, we consider that high praise!