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The Global Cooling Scare Revisited (‘Ice Age' Holdren had plenty of company)

“Predictions of future climate trends by Stephen Schneider and other leading climatologists, based on the prevailing knowledge of the atmosphere in the early 1970s, gave more weight to the potential problem of global cooling than it now appears to merit.”

- Paul and Anne Ehrlich, Betrayal of Science and Reason (Washington: Island Press, 1996), p. 34.

Recent attention has been paid to the coming Ice Age talk of John Holdren and Steven Schneider before they got global warming religion.

Here are some “global cooling” quotations and comments from an earlier era. While such concern was not a scientific ‘consensus,’ such as that created by the United Nations’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in favor of high-sensitivity anthropogenic global warming, the Ice Age scare was a very active hypothesis that should give pause to the Boiling Age purveyors of today.

“Certainly the threat of another ice age was the topic of much scientific and popular discussion in the 1970s. Books and articles entitled ‘The Cooling,’ ‘Blizzard,’ ‘Ice,’ and ‘A Mini Ice Age Could Begin in a Decade,’ abounded. The ‘snow blitz’ theory was popularized on the public television presentation of ‘The Weather Machine’ in 1975. And certainly the winters of the late 1970s were enough to send shivers through our imaginations.”

- Harold Bernard, Jr., The Greenhouse Effect (Cambridge, MA: Ballinger Publishing, 1980), p. 20.

“The worriers about cooling included Science, the most influential scientific journal in the world, quoting an official of the World Meteorological Organization; the National Academy of Sciences worrying about the onset of a 10,000 year ice age; Newsweek warning that food production could be adversely affected within a decade; the New York Times quoting an official of the National Center for Atmospheric Research; and Science Digest, the science periodical with the largest circulation.”

- Julian Simon, “What Does the Future Hold? The Forecast in a Nutshell,” in Simon, ed., The State of Humanity (Cambridge, Mass: Blackwell, 1995), p. 646. 

“In the early 1970s, the northern hemisphere appeared to have been cooling at an alarming rate. There was frequent talk of a new ice age. Books and documentaries appeared, hypothesizing a snowblitz or sporting titles such as The Cooling. Even the CIA got into the act, sponsoring several meetings and writing a controversial report warning of threats to American security from the potential collapse of Third World Governments in the wake of climate change.”

- Stephen Schneider, Global Warming: Are We Entering the Greenhouse Century? (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1989), p. 199.

 “Some climatologists believe that the average temperature in the Northern Hemisphere, at least, may decline by two or three degrees by the end of the century. If that climate change occurs, there will be megadeaths and social upheaval because grain production in high latitudes (Canada, northern regions of China and the Soviet Union) will decrease.”

- George Will, “A Change in the Weather,” Washington Post, January 24, 1975, quoted in James Fleming, Historical Perspectives on Climate Change (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), pp. 132-33.

“The dramatic importance of climate changes to the world’s future has been dangerously underestimated by many, often because we have been lulled by modern technology into thinking we have conquered nature. This well-written book points out in clear language that the climatic threat could be as awesome as any we might face, and that massive world-wide actions to hedge against that threat deserve immediate consideration.”

- Stephen Schneider, Back cover endorsement, Lowell Ponte, The Cooling: Has The Next Ice Age Already Begun? Can We Survive It (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1976).

“Our climate has swung wildly from severe warming during the Dust Bowl era of the 1930s to severe cooling during the 1960s. . . . The cooling is a fact.”

- Lowell Ponte, The Cooling: Has The Next Ice Age Already Begun? Can We Survive It (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1976), p. 31.

“Earth’s climate has been cooling. This fact seems to contradict theories that say it should be warming. But the prophets of warming are describing real forces that influence climate, and like other scientists they are still learning how these forces interact to produce a balance of heating and cooling on our planet. It may well turn out that the growing instability of Earth’s climate is caused by human influences adding both heating and cooling forces to the balance, thereby making it more and more ‘unnatural’ and precarious. The prophets of both warming and cooling agree on at least one thing: climatic changes can come quickly, within centuries or even decades, and can have devastating consequences for humankind. Climatology has ceased to be a drab science. Its findings have taken on an urgent importance for all of us.”

- Lowell Ponte, The Cooling: Has The Next Ice Age Already Begun? Can We Survive It (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1976), p. 31.

“The continued rapid cooling of the earth since World War II is also in accord with the increased global air pollution associated with industrialization, mechanization, urbanization, and an exploding population, added to a renewal of volcanic activity.”

- Reid Bryson, “‘All Other Factors Being Constant . . .’ A Reconciliation of Several Theories of Climate Change,” in John Holdren and Paul Ehrlich, eds., Global Ecology: Readings Towards a Rational Strategy for Man (New York: Harcourt, Brace Jovanovich, 1971), p. 84.

“The generally cold period worldwide during the 1960s and early 1970s caused speculation that the world was heading for an ice age. A British television programme about climate change called ‘The ice age cometh’ was prepared early in the early 1970s and widely screened—but the cold trend soon came to an end. We must not be misled by our relatively short memories.”

- John Houghton, Global Warming: The Complete Briefing (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1997), p. 7. 

“Reid Bryson of the University of Wisconsin points out that the Earth’s average temperature during the great Ice Ages was only about seven degrees lower than during its warmest eras—and that the present decline has taken the planet about a sixth of the way toward the Ice Age average. Others regard the cooling as a reversion to the “little ice age” conditions that brought bitter winters to much of Europe and northern America between 1600 and 1900.

- Peter Gwynne, “The Cooling World,” Newsweek, April 28, 1975, p. 64.

“There are ominous signs that the Earth’s weather patterns have begun to change dramatically and that these changes may portend a drastic decline in food production—with serious political implications for just about every nation on Earth. The drop in food output could begin quite soon, perhaps only 10 years from now.”

- Peter Gwynne, “The Cooling World,” Newsweek, April 28, 1975, p. 64.

“Climatologists are pessimistic that political leaders will take any positive action to compensate for the climatic change, or even to allay its effects. They concede that some of the more spectacular solutions proposed, such as melting the Arctic ice cap by covering it with black soot or diverting arctic rivers, might create problems far greater than those they solve. . . . The longer the planners delay, the more difficult will they find it to cope with climatic change once the results become grim reality.”

- Peter Gwynne, “The Cooling World,” Newsweek, April 28, 1975, p. 64.

“Several schools of thought in climate science interpret existing data in different ways. One argues that, instead of growing warmer, the Earth may enter an Ice Age as a result of man-made fuels combustion. The combustion of fossil fuels releases large quantities of particulate matter into the atmosphere, which may reflect sunlight away from the Earth, thus cooling the planet.”

- Wilson Clark, Energy for Survival: The Alternative to Extinction (Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1974), p. 117.

16 comments

1 Andrew { 09.26.09 at 1:53 am }

The quote from WaPo back in 75…surely that’s not the George Will?

2 Noblesse Oblige { 09.26.09 at 10:21 am }

I guess this makes the point .. that the point is to keep us all in a “State of Fear,” whatever the nature or reality of the threat. During the brief 1990s interregnum between the end of the Cold War and the rise of Global Warming hysteria, we were bombarded with news articles and TV documentaries about the threat of a large meteor or comet impact. Those media pieces had one thing right — such impacts are more of a threat than global warming.

3 Rob Bradley { 09.26.09 at 11:55 am }

And now ‘global warming’ has gone to ‘climate change’, and climate change is going to ocean acidification.

What might be next if, indeed, these are transient?

4 Andrew { 09.26.09 at 12:11 pm }

They will move on from environmental justifications to populist economic ones like “energy independence”.

5 Charles { 09.27.09 at 6:15 pm }

I think the larger problem shows in this example, that the media has a significant role to play in all this ‘alarmism’. It is the uncritical reporting of various contributors (who are selected on the basis of the popular theme) that creates these issues and allows the subsequent entry of carpet-baggers, rent-seekers and charlatans to exploit the situation.

This recipe has been successful for a long time, and most likely has been borrowed from religion in the way it goes about its proselytising business. The question is, is there a way to break this specious exercise?

6 Richard W. Fulmer { 09.27.09 at 7:18 pm }

As much as I hate to admit it, at least some of this can be attributed to free market competition. News outlets vie for consumers’ attention, and bad news sells. If anyone has a solution, I’d love to hear it.

7 Andrew { 09.27.09 at 7:39 pm }

Other than education? Got me on that one. I thinks that is the only possible response to such madness. Educate people.

8 Orson { 09.28.09 at 12:55 am }

Having snapped up a used copy of Nigel Calder’s book “The Climate Connection,” one forgets what young sciences geology and climatology were in the 60s and 70s.

For instance, the notion that until then, only FOUR ices ages were the dogma for the paleoclimatology of the 20th C is simply astounding!

I have to give scientists back then a break, even as I see a coverup by greedy and politicized science still underway.

9 Andrew { 09.28.09 at 12:13 pm }

If we take the Hadley Data (despite it’s lack of documentation…) From the last 144 months (September 1997 to August 2009) the trend is:

~ -.014 Degrees per decade.

It appears to me that, since this result also holds for the satellite data (I’ve done the calculations several times) No warming for a full twelve years is a solid conclusion.

10 Andrew { 09.28.09 at 12:13 pm }

Oops, sorry, wrong thread.

11 rbradley { 10.13.09 at 8:51 am }
12 Time Mag Announces Approaching Ice Age « Another View on Climate { 02.18.10 at 6:35 pm }

[...] The Global Cooling Scare Revisited (‘Ice Age’ Holdren had plenty of company) – Recent attention has been paid to the coming Ice Age talk of John Holdren and Steven Schneider before they got global warming religion. Here are some “global cooling” quotations and comments from an earlier era… [...]

13 Robert Bradley Jr. { 03.16.10 at 10:27 am }

A look at global cooling and global warming articles in the New York Times from 1855 to the present was done here:

http://newsbusters.org/node/11640

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