The NYT’s Coverage Of Climate In The 1970s Was A Megaphone For Science, Not ‘Global Cooling’ Alarmism

Our guest blogger is Robert Brulle, professor of sociology and environmental science at Drexel University.

The New York Times’ climate science coverage in the 1970s reflected the lack of consensus among scientists.

In “Climate Science in a Tornado,” George F. Will has completely misrepresented the historical New York Times coverage of the “global cooling” issue. Despite Will’s claim that the New York Times was a “megaphone for the alarmed” during “1970s predictions about the near certainty of calamitous global cooling,” its coverage was actually nuanced and prescient.

On December 21, 1969, the New York Times ran a UPI wire story, “Scientists Caution on Changes In Climate as Result of Pollution,” which reported that scientists discussed the possible threat of manmade global warming at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union, with calls for greater monitoring of the climate:

J.O. Fletcher, a physical scientist for the Rand Corporation in Santa Monica, Calif., said that “man had only a few decades to solve the problem of global warming caused by pollution.” Global warming could cause further melting of the polar ice caps and affect the earth’s climate.

On December 29, 1974, the New York Times ran the story, “Forecast for Forecasting: Cloudy.” This article is a long discussion of the state of climate forecasting, and has an extensive discussion of the process of global cooling due to aerosols, and the contrary impact of increasing CO2 in the atmosphere, and the great difficulty in developing valid and reliable climate forecasting models. The lead paragraph:

In the long term, climate is cooling off — or is it warming up? As for tomorrow’s weather, even the world’s biggest computer can’t say for sure what it will be.

On May 21, 1975, the New York Times ran the story, “Scientists Ask Why the Climate is Changing; Major Cooling May Be Ahead.” This article begins with a clear statement of uncertainty:

The world’s climate is changing. Of that scientists are firmly convinced. But in what direction and why are subjects of deepening debate.

On August 14, 1975, the New York Times ran, “Warming Trend Seen in Climate.” In this article, the New York Times discusses two scientific articles that focus on the overall climate patterns. It covers the debate over global cooling due to aerosols and global warming due to CO2 increases:

Dr. [Wally] Broecker’s argument is that the present cooling trend in the north will be reversed as more and more carbon dioxide is introduced into the atmosphere by the burning of fuels.

In the decades since, of course, scientists have come to the consensus that our continued burning of fossil fuels are tied to the warming of the planet. It is not the New York Times that is dishonest in its coverage, it is George F. Will.


Andy Alexander, in his first column as the Washington Post ombudsman, takes on George Will’s “Dark Green Doomsayers.” He reviews one of the many factual errors in Will’s column and finds Will misrepresented the Arctic Climate Research Center:

The editors who checked the Arctic Research Climate Center Web site believe it did not, on balance, run counter to Will’s assertion that global sea ice levels “now equal those of 1979.” I reviewed the same Web citation and reached a different conclusion.

Alexander did not address any of the other lies.

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