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John Holdren on Global Cooling (Revisited)

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- August 12, 2009

[Editor Note: An earlier series at MasterResource on John Holdren, President Obama’s science and technology advisor, is being reprinted given the recent controversy surrounding Dr. Holdren’s earlier views. This original post is dated December 30, 2008]

Skeptics of climate alarmism have often trotted out the fact that a number of climate scientists sounded the alarm over global cooling before they sounded the alarm over global warming–an argument for humility in the face of complexity, uncertainty, and change.Global cooling was more than fringe thinking. As Paul Ehrlich and Anne Ehrlich wrote in their 1996 book, Betrayal of Science and Reason (p. 34):

“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.”

President-elect Obama’s new science advisor, John Holdren, was concerned about global cooling too.  In Ecoscience: Population, Resources, and Environment (1977: p. 686), Paul Ehrlich, Anne Ehrlich, and Holdren stated:

“Many observers have speculated that the cooling could be the beginning of a long and persistent trend in that direction—that is, an inevitable departure from an abnormally warm period in climatic history.”

The Ehlrichs and Holdren also gave voice to cooling alarmist Reid Bryson, who said this in his essay in their edited book of essays published in 1971, Global Ecology:

“I believe that increasing global air pollution, through its effect on the reflectivity of the earth, is currently dominant and is responsible for the temperature decline of the past decade or so.”

During the 1970s, there was also concern about anthropogenic global warming at some future date. The Ehrlichs and and Holdren covered this base in Ecoscience (p. 686):

“There can be scant consolation in the idea that a man-made warming trend might cancel out a natural cooling trend. Since the different factors producing the two trends do so by influencing different parts of Earth’s complicated climatic machinery, it is most unlikely that the associated effects on circulation patterns would cancel each other.”

This is a very interesting quotation. It is premised on the notion that any human influence on climate cannot be good because it is human. The externalities must be negative, not neutral or positive.So nature and only nature is optimal? Is that really what the global warming debate is all about? If so, climate alarmism and forced energy transformation is more religion than a sober look at science, economics, and politics from a humanistic perspective.


  1. Andrew  

    Haven’t you heard? The brilliant climate scientists were in universal agreement even as the Earth was cooling/had cooled, that it was warming/going to warm! The number who were predicting continued cooling was exaggerated by the media.

    Oh wait. Could it be that retrospect will allow us to say the same about warming? Maybe…


  2. Richard W. Fulmer  

    Every life form changes the environment by virtue of what it eats, what it emits, and what eats it. Plants and trees, for example, changed the Earth’s environment enormously over the millennium by consuming CO2 and emitting oxygen.

    Even inanimate objects and processes change the environment: volcanoes alter the Earth’s surface and inject particulates and gases into the atmosphere, running water wears down mountains and cuts deep canyons, waves erode the shoreline.

    To demand that mankind not change the environment is to demand that mankind not exist.


  3. MikeK  

    If humans influenced the earth’s climate, it would have been with the invention of agriculture.


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