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Vol. 13, No. 25
December 8, 1997
Table of Contents

More on Environmentalism

Hot and Cold Running Alarmism
by Gary Benoit

The threat of catastrophic climatic change is nothing new. For example, the April 28, 1975 issue of Newsweek darkly warned: "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 ten years from now.... The evidence in support of these predictions has now begun to accumulate so massively that meteorologists are hard-pressed to keep up with it."

Unlike today, however, the mounting evidence that atmospheric scientists then struggled to keep up with was principally used to support a theory of global cooling, not global warming, The Newsweek article, entitled "The Cooling World," continued: "In England, farmers have seen their growing season decline by about two weeks since 1950, with a resultant over-all loss in grain production estimated at up to 100,000 tons annually. During the same time, the average temperature around the equator has risen by a fraction of a degree -- a fraction that in some areas can mean drought and desolation. Last April, in the most devastating outbreak of tornadoes ever recorded, 148 twisters killed more than 300 people and caused half a billion dollars' worth of damage in thirteen U.S. states."

"Another Ice Age"

Newsweek patiently explained to its lay readers that scientists thought "these seemingly disparate incidents represent the advance signs of fundamental changes in the world's weather. The central fact is that after three quarters of a century of extraordinarily mild conditions, the earth's climate seems to be cooling down." So much so, in fact, that one possible solution cited by Newsweek was to melt the arctic ice cap by "covering it with black soot." But such a spectacular step, Newsweek acknowledged, might create a "far greater" problem than it solves. Today, of course, the concern among doomsayers is not too much ice, but too little.

Newsweek was not alone in spreading this eco-babble. Time magazine for June 24, 1974 declared: "However widely the weather varies from place to place and time to time, when meteorologists take an average of temperatures around the globe they find that the atmosphere has been growing gradually cooler for the past three decades." Not only did that supposedly alarming trend show "no indication of reversing," but "Climatological Cassandras are becoming increasingly apprehensive, for the weather aberrations they are studying may be the harbinger of another ice age." The Time article even included a map depicting the "expanding Arctic" and referenced one scientific finding that "the area of the ice and snow cover" in the Northern Hemisphere "had suddenly increased by 12% in 1971" and that this increase "has persisted ever since." "Areas of Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic ... were once totally free of any snow in the summer," Time observed. "[N]ow they are covered year round." How different that is from today's alarmist headlines about disappearing glaciers!

Echoing the "cooling" rhetoric, the February 1974 issue of Fortune magazine warned that the temperature had already dropped about 2.7� F since the 1940s. That "hardly seems dramatic," Fortune admitted, "but the effects have been substantial. Icelandic fishing fleets that learned to range northward during the warm period have now had to return to traditional waters to the south. For the first time in this century, ships making for Iceland's ports have found navigation impeded by drifting ice." So serious was the cooling trend that "it could bring massive tragedies for mankind."

Authoritative Opinions

Of course, when issuing its dire predictions about global cooling the mainstream media was quick to cite various prestigious scientific authorities. One such authority widely quoted at the time was Dr. Reid Bryson, director of environmental studies at the University of Wisconsin. Bryson theorized that agricultural and industrial activities were causing an increase of dust and other particles in the atmosphere, and that these particles were increasingly preventing sunlight from reaching the earth, thereby fueling a cooling trend that, sometime after 1930, began overpowering the greenhouse effect of CO2. Fortune quoted Bryson as saying that this trend, "if it continues, will affect the whole human occupation of the earth -- like a billion people starving. The effects are already showing up in rather drastic ways."

Was this the uninformed gibberish of a pseudo-scientist? Not according to Fortune, which quoted another eminent scientist as noting that Bryson "is the most important figure in climatology today." Besides, "most climatologists agree that a diminution of the sunlight as small as 1 percent would suffice to initiate a cool period and perhaps even major glaciation." But now, the same industrialization these "experts" were blaming for part of the cooling is being blamed for part of the warming.

Another '70s proponent of the global cooling theory was Dr. Stephen Schneider, who spent two decades at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado before joining the faculty at Stanford University in 1992. In an article he co-authored for the July 9, 1971 issue of Science magazine, Schneider warned that "an increase by a factor of 4 in the equilibrium dust concentration in the global atmosphere, which cannot be ruled out as a possibility within the next century, could decrease the mean surface temperature by as much as 3.5� K [6.3� F]. If sustained over a period of several years, such a temperature decrease could be sufficient to trigger an ice age!" On the other hand, the warming effect of CO2 was much less significant, since, "as more CO2 is added to the atmosphere, the rate of temperature increase is proportionally less and less, and the increase eventually levels off." "[I]f CO2 is augmented by another 10 percent in the next 30 years, the increase in the global temperature may be as small as 0.1� K [0.18� F]," Schneider calculated, and doubling CO2 would change global temperature by 0.8� K (1.4� F). Consequently, "the net result" between the sunlight-blocking dust and greenhouse CO2 "will be a cooling of Earth."

But Schneider has now jumped from the "global cooling" bandwagon to sound the alarm about global warming, and places far more importance on the effect of CO2 on temperature. Regarding MIT scientist Richard Lindzen's estimate that a doubling of CO2 would result in an increase of only 1� F, for instance, Schneider scoffed: "I don't know what line from God he has." Unfortunately, the article in the June 18, 1996 New York Times that recorded this priceless contribution to the global warming debate somehow overlooked Schneider's 1971 predictions -- as have other elements of the establishment echo chamber that cite Schneider as an expert on the global warming phenomenon.

In 1976, 13 years before he wrote his book Global Warming, Schneider endorsed Lowell Ponte's book The Cooling, claiming that it "points out in clear language that the climatic threat could be as awesome as any we might face...." U.S. Senator Claiborne Pell (D-RI) agreed, writing in the foreword that "The Cooling could prove to be the most important and prophetic popular science book of the 1970s."

The book warned that "the cooling will cause world famine, world chaos, and probably world war, and this could all come by the year 2000." And it cited the southward migration of the warm-climate armadillo as just one effect of the cooling that had already taken place. Now environmentalist Vice President Al Gore and others are voicing concern about global warming causing a northward migration of the warm-climate disease malaria. What they don't bother to mention is that the banning of DDT -- not global warming -- has made the resurgence of that disease all but inevitable.

Covering the Bases

Climatological "experts" who once embraced the global cooling theory have now rejected it in favor of global warming. Yet even in the context of the present debate, the spectre of global cooling can still haunt the excited imaginations of climatological chicken littles. Sometimes all it takes to provoke such speculation is a single cold snap, such as occurred in the winter of 1994. The January 31, 1994 issue of Time magazine published an article entitled "The Ice Age Cometh?" that pondered: "What ever happened to global warming? Scientists have issued apocalyptic warnings for years, claiming that gases from cars, power plants, and factories are creating a greenhouse effect that will boost the temperature dangerously.... But if last week is any indication of winters to come, it might be more to the point to start worrying about the next Ice Age instead."

Of course, the temperature sometimes goes up and other times goes down. In an attempt to cover all the bases, Newsweek went so far as to publish a cover story in its January 22, 1996 issue blaming global warming for blizzards as well as for floods and hurricanes. "According to the boldest climatological theories, global warming will produce more extreme weather of all kinds -- hot as well as cold and, especially, wet as well as dry," claimed Newsweek. "The Blizzard of '96 [which had occurred while the magazine was preparing its "global warming" story] was the perfect peg to look at the issue of global warming. And so we have" -- complete with a photo of blizzard conditions on the cover to complement the chilling headline "The Hot Zone." Thus, if we are to accept this theory, man-induced "global warming" must be held accountable for whatever bad weather takes place.

Stephen Schneider once noted that "as scientists ... ethically bound to the scientific method ... we must include all the doubts, the caveats, the ifs, ands, and buts." On the other hand, "we need to get some broad-based support, to capture the public's imagination," which entails "getting loads of media coverage." Consequently, that means "we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have." This dilemma for Schneider and his fellow catastrophic climatologists is made easier by the fact that the opinion cartel has assigned their embarrassing "ice age" predictions to the memory hole.

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