The Man Who Discovered Climate Change Finally Gets His Due

The blizzard lashed at the men digging out a giant red bus-tank hybrid out of snowdrifts on the Antarctic Peninsula. The whiteout lasted 10 days, and by the end, 23-year-old glaciologist Claude Lorius felt a decade older, he said in "Ice and the Sky," a new documentary on his life that will soon be released in the United States.

It was 1956, and Antarctica was a scientific mystery. Over the half-century, Lorius would meticulously assemble proof from the continent showing that humans are warming the planet by pumping out carbon at rates never before seen in Earth's history. He would lay the foundation for polar science, and his findings would become the bedrock of scientific knowledge about climate change.

And yet very few people have heard of Lorius. Profoundly humble, he let graduate students and young collaborators take credit for landmark discoveries from his lab, scientists said. He never tried to promote Team Lorius; it was always Team Ice Core, said James White, director of the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research at the University of Colorado, Boulder, who trained in Lorius' lab as a young postdoctoral scientist.

"If you look at the legacy of Claude Lorius, it is just enormous, it is so impactful, it just defines where we are today in terms of our understanding of climate," he said. "Without Claude Lorius, we would be nowhere close to where we are right now."