I've just finished reading Losing Earth, an excellent explanation of climate change politics that focuses on the period from 1979 to 1989. Nathaniel Rich tries to understand why an emerging consensus in favor of stringent carbon emission standards failed to change the course of history.
The climax of Rich's story occurs when the Bush Administration decides not to sign a global treaty in November 1989 at a meeting in Noordwijk, the Netherlands. Bush's EPA Administrator, William K. Reilly, was in favor of the treaty, but he was overruled by Chief of Staff John Sununu. The treaty would have committed 68 nations to a 20% reduction in emissions by the year 2005.Rafe Pomerance and James Hansen. Pomerance learned about the greenhouse effect after reading a 1978 EPA report, and he became a dogged advocate of governmental action. Throughout the book, Rich incorporates stories about Pomerance bringing together important leaders (scientists, politicians, industry executives) in an attempt to convince them of the problem's seriousness and coordinate a response.
Hansen is a climatologist who gave dramatic testimony during a 1988 Congressional hearing. This hearing was a seminal moment in raising public awareness about the emergency in our midst:
Hansen was invited by Rafe Pomerance to testify before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on June 23, 1988. Hansen testified that "Global warming has reached a level such that we can ascribe with a high degree of confidence a cause and effect relationship between the greenhouse effect and observed warming... the greenhouse effect has been detected and it is changing our climate now."