Myth Busting: “In Search Of…” 1970′s “Global Cooling” hype.
While Washington D.C. and the surrounding area attempts to dig itself out from under “The Snow-pocolypse”, Global Warming deniers are back at it again, pointing to it and the unusually blizzardly (pardon the new word) Winter we’ve been having… mixed in with last Falls “leaked Climate-Gate emails” as PROOF that “Global Warming” is actually a giant fraud (or, according to Utah State-Representative Mike Noel, a secret plot by Liberals aimed at “population control”… because Republicans are SO concerned about Liberal attempts to suppress the number of brown people in the world… unless they think “Global Warming” exists everywhere EXCEPT the United States. Nah. That can’t be it.)
The DailyKOS released a poll last week echoing what we’ve all known for quite sometime now: these people are NUTS! But the KOS poll left out one CRUCIAL question IMHO: Level of Education. Because I’m certain if you asked, the less educated you are, the more likely you are to be a Right-wing loon with ridiculous views. (One corollary to this rule… the richer you are, the easier it is for a dumb person to graduate from a prestigious school… eg: Dubya attending both Harvard and Yale.)
Anyway, back on topic:
Climate Change deniers love to cite “1970′s hysteria” over “Global Cooling” and articles written at the time predicting “the coming ice age”. Conservative columnist George Will loves pointing to “Global Cooling” reports in the ’70s frequently as a way to ridicule “Climate Change” science today. That’s a bit like ridiculing The Internet today because Bill Gates once called it “a passing fad” in his 1995 book “The Road Ahead” (or was it during a Presser for “MSN: The Microsoft Network” that same year?).
I personally am old enough to remember claims of “the coming ice age” in the 70′s. I remember reading an except in Readers Digest about The Great Blizzard of 1888, where over 4′ of snow (40″-50″ inches) fell in the space of one week over New York, New Jersey, and parts of Connecticut. That was but one example given as “proof” the Earth was cooling and we were headed for another ice age (“every 10,000 years” they claimed, thus we were due.)
So I did a little research regarding these “Global Cooling” claims in the 1970′s and found some fascinating stuff.
One of my favorite TV shows in the 70′s was “In Search Of…”, a weekly 1/2 hour pseudo-science series hosted by Leonard Nimoy (of Star Trek fame… which pre-dated me). Among topics like the search for Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster, Season Two included an episode entitled “The Coming Ice Age”, of which I found a copy online on the Usenet (binary newsgroups. Don’t ask me to explain). The entire basis for the “Global Cooling” argument consisted almost entirely of anecdotal evidence:
First broadcast in May of 1978, I watched the entire episode (twice) listening for their “proof” upon which they were basing their claims. “Canada, the Northern United States, and much of Europe were buried under a two mile thick sheet of ice some 18 thousand years ago”, Leonard remarks. “The world’s population has flourished to over 5 billion people during this interval of abnormal warmth“, we are told. Presumably, a warm Earth just isn’t natural. So another “ice age” is therefore inevitable.
“Proof”? Forgedaboudit. “Evidence”? There was none to be found. No facts. The “coming ice age” was simply a foregone conclusion.
The only evidence the program presented to support the claim were “Ice cores” drilled in the Antarctic supposedly showing that “89,000 years ago” there was “a sudden and abrupt change in the climate…” resulting in “widespread freezing occurring with dramatic suddenness.” How did this happen? One scientist theorizes that “volcanic activity” put enough ash into the atmosphere to block enough sunlight to cause an ice age.
As to why we should expect this to happen again…? “We’re due.” We are told repeatedly in the program that there have been “eight ice ages” in our history, and “we know how long between each ice age”, therefore, “we’re due”.
And THAT, dear reader, was the extent of the “Global Cooling” science in 1978. Not years of temperature data from around the globe showing a gradual drop in yearly average temperatures, or even photographic evidence of increased ice accumulation or growing glaciers (though the scientist in vid#2 did claim to have evidence the Greenlandic glacier he studies is/was still growing “100 years ago”). No, the entire argument was simply: “we’re due”.
The “volcanic ash blocking the sun” argument supporting “global cooling” gained the most traction in the late 70′s when “volcanic ash” was replaced with “pollution from cars, trucks and factories”. The argument at that time was that “all that pollution would block the sun, reflect the heat and cause the next ice age.” They were observing the same phenomena we see today and drawing the exact opposite conclusion. But the fact air pollution had the power to affect global temperatures was evident even then.
One prescient climatologist towards the end does warn that attempts to “fix” Global Cooling could backfire and cause more trouble than it solves:
The remaining half of the program was dedicated to describing the consequences an ice-age would have on the United States. Not providing evidence demonstrating that the climate curve was bending downwards.
Today it’s the “Snowpocolypse” or “Snomageddon” as some places are calling it, tongue planted firmly in cheek. A record breaking snowstorm has struck the North East! A snowstorm! In the middle of Winter no less! Finally, the proof “Global Cooling” advocates have been longing for since the 1970′s!
…unless, of course, you factor in El Niño… the notorious warm-water formation off the Pacific coast of South America, which is being blamed for the increase in moisture that is dumping all this snow on the North East.
Oops! Sorry Climate-Change deniers. Once again, reality tracks mud all over your nice shiny picture of reality.
(UPDATE: A more scientific look into the “Global Cooling Myth” can be found here at “RealClimate.org”. Thanks to DU’s “Dead Parrot” for the link.)
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