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Another denier talking point — ‘global cooling’ — bites the dust

By Joe Romm on February 22, 2008 at 12:26 pm

"Another denier talking point — ‘global cooling’ — bites the dust"

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day_after_tomorrow_300—300.jpgUSA Today reports on an important review article:

The supposed “global cooling” consensus among scientists in the 1970s — frequently offered by global-warming skeptics as proof that climatologists can’t make up their minds — is a myth, according to a survey of the scientific literature of the era….

But Thomas Peterson of the National Climatic Data Center surveyed dozens of peer-reviewed scientific articles from 1965 to 1979 and found that only seven supported global cooling, while 44 predicted warming. Peterson says 20 others were neutral in their assessments of climate trends.

The study reports, “There was no scientific consensus in the 1970s that the Earth was headed into an imminent ice age.

“A review of the literature suggests that, to the contrary, greenhouse warming even then dominated scientists’ thinking about the most important forces shaping Earth’s climate on human time scales.”

Now this isn’t really news to readers of Climate Progress or Real Climate (here and here) or William Connolley, but the global cooling nonsense is still the most common way people dismiss global warming to me. Michael Crichton repeats this attack in his novel State of Fear, when he has one of his fictional environmentalists say, “In the 1970′s all the climate scientists believed an ice age was coming.

This clever and popular attack tries to make present global-warming fears seem faddish, saying current climate science is nothing more than finger-in-the-wind guessing. This attack appeals especially to conservatives who want to link their attack on climate scientists to their favorite attack against progressive presidential candidates — that they are flip-floppers. But it just isn’t true, and it’s good to see this analysis is going to be published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (BAMS). [I'll link to the study when it is up.]

Interestingly, USA Today gives famed denier Pat Michaels a chance to respond, but he makes a bizarrely lame argument, which, for anyone who understands the subject (or has read my book), should make one more worried about catastrophic global warming, not less:

Some have doubts about the new survey. “The paper does not place the late ’70s in its climatic context,” says Pat Michaels, a senior fellow in environmental studies at the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C.

“The temperature records we had at the time showed a very sharp cooling from the mid-’40s to the mid-’70s,” Michaels says. “And scientists attempted to explain that as a consequence of the pollution that was preventing solar radiation from reaching the surface.

“At the time, scientists thought the cooling effect of pollution was greater than the warming effect of carbon dioxide,” Michaels adds. “They were attempting to explain the dramatic cooling of the ’70s.”

 

Well, it wasn’t “very sharp” or “dramatic” cooling. But yes, scientists were trying to come to grips with why global warming trends stalled for a couple of decades. I explain what this really means in my book:

Global warming leveled off between 1940 and 1975. As explained in Chapter Two, this was largely a result of dust and aerosols sent by humans (and volcanoes) into the atmosphere, which temporarily overwhelmed the already well-understood warming effect from greenhouse gases. In the 1970s, a few scientists wondered whether the cooling effect from aerosols would be greater than the heating produced from greenhouse gases, and some popular publications ran articles about a new Ice Age. Most climate scientists were far more worried about the long-term greenhouse gas trends, even in the midst of short-term cooling-and they proved to be right.

[That is precisely what the new BAMS study demonstrates.]

The aerosol effect was fully explained in the 1980s, and became part of scientific modeling “that is in remarkable agreement with the observations,” as Tom Wigley, a leading climatologist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research, wrote in a 2003 letter to the U.S. Senate. Ignoring the science, the Deniers keep repeating the fiction as if it were the latest argument, sounding a bit like Flat-Earthers, but much more dangerous. Senator Inhofe used this smear in his 2005 Senate hearing [on climate change]….

A spring 2003 workshop of top atmospheric scientists in Berlin concluded that the shielding effect of aerosols may be far greater than previously estimated. Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen said, “It looks like the warming today may be only about a quarter of what we would have got without aerosols. This conclusion would suggest the planet may be far more susceptible to warming than previously thought. Crutzen noted that aerosols “are giving us a false sense of security right now.” A 2005 study led by researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [subs. req'd] concluded, “Natural and anthropogenic aerosols have substantially delayed and lessened the total amount of global ocean warming–and therefore of sea level rise–that would have arisen purely in response to increasing greenhouse gases.”

And this brings us to the true irony of Pat Michaels bringing up this issue:

The real irony here is that the aerosol shielding issue, fully explained, gives the public greater reason to act preemptively on climate, not less. The entire record of climate science, rather than being a narrative based on fickle fads, is one of relentless, hard-nosed, continual progression of knowledge, which is characteristic of science, as opposed to politics or propaganda.

Kudos to USA Today for this story and to the climate scientists of the 1970s who continued to warn about the dangers of global warming even as global temperatures temporarily stopped rising.

One final point — if you want to see just how impervious the doubters and deniers are to the facts, read the comments on the USA Today article.

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34 Responses to Another denier talking point — ‘global cooling’ — bites the dust

  1. Beefeater says:

    They got it wrong way back then, but this time, like for sure we’re really really right because, well you know, because we say so.

    The Soviet Union used to do the same thing to history.

  2. Joe says:

    Beefeater — are you incapable of dealing with the facts rather than your biases? “They” — whoever they are — did not get it wrong back then. Looks like you have joined the Denier campaign.

  3. David B. Benson says:

    Beefeater — What is the trend in ocean pH? That should be enough to cause concern.

  4. David says:

    “They” — whoever they are — did not get it wrong back then.

    Really? So this article from Time magazine in 1974 is correct?

    http://www.nationalcenter.org/Time-Ice-Age-06-24-1974-Sm.jpg

    “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. The trend shows no indication of reversing. Climatological Cassandras are becoming increasingly apprehensive, for weather aberrations they are studying may be the harbinger of another ice age.”

    Man. What a difference 34 years makes. It’ll be interesting to see what people are saying in 2042.

  5. Beefeater says:

    “Beefeater — are you incapable of dealing with the facts rather than your biases?”

    My biases? My agenda. How about My life experiences?

    At least I’m consistent, I’m not going back to change history. I was a “Global Cooling” denier in the 70′s. I’ve lived through “duck and cover”, Silent spring, Nuclear winter, radon gas, the “Population Bomb”, bird flue, mad cow and well you name it. Hell, I even survived the great toilet paper shortage of 1973. I owned a Corvair Monza (unsafe at any speed) and lived to tell about it. Global Warming and its variants is just one more thing that I won’t die from.

    Climatological Cassandras indeed!

  6. I’ve been watching Ken Burns’ PBS series The War, and seeing the widespread bombing and burning of cities, factories and fuel dumps, plus the mobilization of so many fuel-burning industries, ships, trucks, tanks and munitions (not to mention the nuclear bombs that wrapped it all up) I had to wonder how those years affected both aerosol presence in the atmosphere and GHG emissions.

    Someone somewhere must have accounted for this, right?

  7. Joe says:

    Sadly, global warming doesn’t care that your life experiences have left you a non-believer in science. I guess you don’t have kids.

  8. Beefeater says:

    Oh, I’m a believer in science, but I also believe in studying history. Unlike the current crop of “global warming” alarmists, I also believe in evolution and am not arrogant enough to think that we have anywhere near all the answers at this time and probably never will. Of course climate changes, that’s what it does. The earth’s climate is either warming or cooling it has never been static, that can’t be controlled. Glaciers either advance or retreat, always have always will. Pointing out 50 to 100 years of human observed climate change only proves 50 to 100 years of change.

    There is a glacier in Greenland that has retreated to the point that the scientist studying it exclaimed that it has exposed land not seen since the 1550′s. How exciting. How did that happen?

  9. Lou Grinzo says:

    Beefeater: So let me get this straight. You denied cooling in the 1970′s, when it really happened. You deny warming now, when it’s really happening. You survived all the other things you mentioned (which all happened during my lifetime, too), and we’re supposed to conclude what, exactly? That you’re right for being adamant just because you were lucky enough not to have been killed off by something else, totally unrelated, already?

    Essentially what you’re saying is that it’s OK to keep pulling the trigger in a game of Russian roulette because you’re still alive, even though people keep warning you that it’s in everyone’s best interest, including your own, to stop.

    Think about all the things that would have become far worse–ozone layer depletion, air pollution in major cities, lead poisoning from gasoline and paint, etc.–where we listened to the experts and took action, to everyone’s benefit.

  10. Jay Alt says:

    Joe, I remember the popular press articles. It was very rare for scientists to make anything approaching a prediction. And any made were always qualified. So I’m surprised anyone could fit the scientific literature into 3 clean categories.

    David’s quotes are an example of the opposite kind of story. The kind where the reporter quotes no one at all. They are very popular at confusionist websites. Like a Newsweek story on a 1970s climatological conference in Germany. Hundreds of attendees but not even 1 direct quote. Yet they all agreed . . . (right)

    Take bad reporting for what it is worth -

    http://newweb.cistera.com/nucleus/media/9/20060801-Blind_man_1.jpg

  11. Dano says:

    I believe Naomi Oreskes’ presentation adequately addresses the FUD that the denialists here are hoping to spread. In it, she details how the science back then got today pretty much right.

    Keep squawking, widdle denialists. Your squawks are getting less and less audible as society moves farther from you. Tell us you’re still there so we know we can still ignore you.

    Best,

    D

  12. Nick says:

    Did Beefy even read your Post, Joe (or the USA Today article)??? Good rebuttal, Lou. Wish we had a way to rate comments, like on Youtube.

    On a side note, I think it’s funny the skeptics still quote Michael Crichton (clearly an academic scholar on the subject of climate change…).

  13. Beefeater says:

    Lou, we didn’t “survive” anything, that’s my point. We lived through the alarmists warnings. And many more, there’s always someone.

  14. Nick says:

    Of course, you’d live through the warnings if the events have not yet reach a tipping point.

    That’s like saying I survived heart disease just because my cholesterol levels were high last year.

  15. Joe says:

    The media (or a few articles anyway) hyped the “Global Cooling” story. That’s why I stick with what the scientific research says. If you believe in science, if you believe in evolution, than you have to believe in global warming — since it is backed up by far more verified predictions than evolution — then you have to realize we are on the precipice of destroying the livability of the planet — because that’s what the science says.

    Again, if you don’t believe in science, you might as well get medical treatment from a voodoo doctor.

  16. David Appell says:

    Beefeater: So then, what does *your* scientific analysis say about the consequences of quickly putting 35% more CO2 into the Earth’s atmosphere? We’re modifying a system. What consequences, if any, should we expect, and why?

  17. Anonymous says:

    Another take on this is from the nice website Skeptical Science, which:

    1) Lists the top denialist arguments on one page, linked to:

    2) A page per argument, summarizing it, and then showing the errors, with plenty of links to good sources, as well as examples of use.

    This topic is:
    7 Ice age predicted in the 70′s [ice70s]

    I think beefeater also alludes to:
    2 Climate’s changed before [change]

    I’ve found this a valuable reference, especially for letters-to-editor or posts atwordlgnth-constrained sites, to avoid repeating endless arguments, and to avoid fighting battles where it is trivial to cause confusion, and takes a lot of work to create clarity.

  18. Beefeater says:

    David,
    I’ve seen some studies that would indicate an increase in C02 occurs after a warming event not preceding one. I don’t know it they are accurate or not, but I also don’t pretend to have all the answers like some experts.

  19. Nick says:

    Part of the reason I don’t want to make substantive comments on here regarding Beefeater is because, I for one, am tired of “debating” the skeptics into the irrationality of their non-belief. The fact of the matter is that the debate is over- all the major candidates in the Presidential primaries acknowledge and have some sort of plan to deal with global warming (varying in effectiveness, of course). The fact of the matter is that major players in Wall Street are changing their business practices around to reflect a need to go green (http://www.citigroup.com/citigroup/press/2008/080204a.htm). Heck, we even passed a major bill last December.

    The tides have turned. You can either live in the past or join the future.

  20. Sorghum Crow says:

    Wow. The trolls are hungry today.

    Beefeater please go to

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php

    and pick the argument you want debunked. You’ll find CO2 lags temperature as an entry.
    (Please cite the studies you’ve seen, I would like to read them. I’ve seen Joe Barton’s assertions, but they are plain wrong.)

  21. Nick says:

    “but I also don’t pretend to have all the answers like some experts”

    Because… you’re not an expert.

    But, name those studies- I’ll explain what’s wrong with their methodology for you.

  22. RhapsodyInGlue says:

    Certainly there are examples of overblown concerns in history. Though as this blog entry is pointing out, the concern in the 70′s of an impending ice age, to the extent that the concern existed, probably existed largely in the hype of the popular media. Beefeater probably cannot make a distinction between the situation then and now because, I’m guessing, he doesn’t read many scientific journals or understand how scientific consensus is established.

    Stating that we didn’t understand everything about climate science in the 60′s and 70′s as proof that all of today’s understanding of climate change is likely baseless is similar to concluding that because the Wright brothers didn’t understand everything about aerodynamics in 1903 that the planes of the 40′s (including jets) couldn’t possibly be based on sound science. Though there appears to have been no serious misunderstanding of warming vs cooling in the 70′s… the field of climate science has in any case made order of magnitude advances in it’s understanding since then.

    Also if one studies history… and not merely the anecdotal history of one’s own life… there are many examples of people being accused of hyping warnings when in reality the warnings should have been taken more seriously. Those who raised the early warnings of the rise of Nazi Germany were met with accusations of fear mongering… ignoring those warnings certainly had serious consequences. A small community of scientists had warned of the lack of tsunami research and warning mechanisms in the world… think of what could have been avoided in 2004 if moderate spending had occurred prior to that to install a warning system in the Indian Ocean similar to the one now in the Pacific. I remember reading articles about New Orleans before Katrina which basically said that sort of thing was inevitable if changes were not made.

    So, Mr. Beefeater, we all recognize that your good fortune is a source of pleasure to yourself. But for the rest of the world… there usually are serious consequences from ignoring well founded warnings.

  23. David B. Benson says:

    One bit of alarmist Beefeater lived thorugh was the ozone hole. Warnings were indeed issued, most alarming ones. Fortunately, back then all the governments were same and CFCs were banned.

    Most places.

    The rest are banning CFCs soon, I believe.

    Beefeater — Go check the ocean pH levels. I assert what you will discover is alarming.

  24. RhapsodyInGlue says:

    Unfortunately, for the types that are still in total denial of the science, even empirical evidence of climate change doesn’t alter a key point of their denial strategy which is… ok the temperature may rise but some force of nature is sure to intervene and make it fall again, ok oceans are becoming more acidic but some force of nature will intervene and make it all right again. It’s faith based climate.

    If we succeed in quickly mobilizing the world to address climate change and 50 years from now the world has actually avoided catastrophe, these people will be saying… look, nothing bad happened and it wouldn’t have anyway, so it was just a waste of money. Some people will only believe in dangers if they personally have been bitten on the backside by it.

  25. David Appell says:

    Beefeater: so you don’t have an alternate theory, haven’t done any calculations or data-gathering yourself, and are utterly unable to tell us what the consequences, if any, of a 35% increase in the planet’s atmosphere’s CO2 will entail.

    Yet you’re sure others — who *have* done these calculations and who have dedicated their lives to studying these questions — are wrong.

    You are a fool.

    > I’ve seen some studies that would indicate an
    > increase in C02 occurs after a warming event
    > not preceding one.

    This old saw has been explained by climatologists years ago. If you don’t know the answer to it, you really haven’t tried to find out, and we all have better things to do than explain something simple to someone who won’t educate themselves in the first place.

  26. Dan Pangburn says:

    The drop in average global temperature from Jan 2007 through Jan 2008 was more than the total rise from 1901 through 2001. If you are actually curious about what is happening with the climate there are lots of credible site addresses at http://www.worldpassports.org/australia_legal/233882

  27. David Appell says:

    Dan Pangborn: It’s called “climate change,” not “weather change.” Global warming applies to many years worth of weather, not a month or two. Have you noticed that the last decade has been extremely hot, even with Jan-08?

    So then, what does *your* scientific analysis say about the consequences of quickly putting 35% more CO2 into the Earth’s atmosphere? We’re modifying a system. What consequences, if any, should we expect, and why?

  28. Steven Kimball says:

    Dan Pangburn:

    2007 tied with 1998 for the second warmest year on record, 2005 being the warmest.

    See: http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/2007/

  29. Beefeater says:

    David, I posted my “research” elsewhere on this site. Not computer modelor vodoo predictions, but proven science. Explain this…

    John, I’m not denieing “Climate Change”! I accept it probably more than AlGore! But explain this for me.

    Imagine you are a SCUBA diver exploring the bottom of southern Lake Huron. In the gloomy light near the bottom, you see what appears to be a log, some branches, and other wood debris. You take little notice of these until you see a stump, with some obvious roots penetrating into the bottom. This seems impossible since it suggests this tree once grew here, a few miles offshore in 40 ft of water. Although the logs and branches could have floated out from shore and sunk once they became waterlogged, the stump could have grown in this position only if this area was once dry land.
    Scenes like this are found in several areas of the Great Lakes. They represent undeniable evidence that water levels in the Great Lakes were once radically lower than they are today, making some of our concerns about recent low water levels pale in comparison. Imagine 300 feet lower!
    At various periods during the past 11,000 years (the Holocene Epoch) the levels of Lakes Michigan and Huron were higher as well as lower than at present. During the last period of low water, forests spread over much of the area that was formerly under water. Later, as the lakes refilled from glacial melt-water and experienced redirected drainage, the trees were killed as they became flooded, leaving behind evidence of their existence in the form of logs and stumps comprising a “drowned forest”.
    Divers examine a stump rooted on the bottom of Lake Huron
    Before the Holocene Epoch, there were multiple periods of glaciation over the 2 million years known as the Pleistocene Epoch or“ice age”. During the Pleistocene, geologists have documented that glaciers repeatedly advanced and retreated, often covering major parts of North America, including the Great Lakes, with a kilometer or more of ice. The last of these, known as the Wisconsin glaciation,has left behind a number of clues attesting to its existence and extent.

    http://www2.oakland.edu/ biology/ files/ drownedforest.pdf

    Read this bit of history, the science channel did a program on the subject also, and then explain to me what part of climate change you don’t understand.

    It changes all the time whether human animals are around or not! How arrogant do you have to be to think that we can control the climate?

  30. David says:

    Beefeater, what is the link to your previously published “research?”

  31. David B. Benson says:

    Beefeater wrote “How arrogant do you have to be to think that we can control the climate?”

    Zero. We have and are continuing to ‘control’ the climate.

    By adding fossil carbon to the active carbon cycle.

    Which will make it warmer and even drier where Beefeater claims to reside.

  32. Ronald says:

    Here’s the problem some people have about understanding global warming.

    People who have not had a drink of alcohol have gotten into a car or other vehicle and had a crash that killed people. Does that mean if you can kill people in a car by not having a drink of alcohol, it’s ok to drive a car or other vehicle drunk? We should still not allow drunk driving even if you can kill someone without drunk driving.

    You survived the cold war without a nuclear bomb going off, which means that it was all a hoax. We didn’t need to spend all that money of diplomacy or a military, it was just a scam for spending money. I have never or anybody I know has ever seen a Soviet Union nuclear bomb, so it all must have been a hoax.

    The planet has been at a different climate with the level of carbon dioxide that it has now. That doesn’t mean that if we add carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, we not going to change the atmosphere to a level of heating that we are not going to like. We are fortunate that we may have some way of slowing the global warming caused by more carbon dioxide in the atmoshere.

    We can’t change all the other reasons that the climate may change, but we can do something about the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that changes climate. And that’s what we should do. Maybe someday, the orbit and wobble of the earth changes again to reduce the amount of sunlight hitting the earth and the earth’s occupants may want to increase the amount carbon dioxide to increase it’s temperature. That’s for another age. Now we want to decrease the level of carbon dioxide we add to the atmosphere so we don’t over heat the planet.

    If it was a huge meteor (asteroid) that was going to slam into the planet, would people be then saying, well millions of years ago the planet got hit by a meteor, why should we try to stop this next meteor that might slam into our planet? Meteors have slammed into our planet and huge meteors can cause a lot of damage. We should try to stop them if we could. The climate has changed before and that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t stop it if we could.

    If a car was heading straight for me at a high speed, I’m not going to say to myself, why jump out of the way, many other people have been hit by a car, maybe it’s just my time. I’m going to jump out of the way. If the planet has gone though colder and warmer climates, that doesn’t mean we have to just stand in the way. We need to jump out of the way if we can. This carbon dioxide increase global warming we can jump out of the way of and we should.

  33. USA Akbar says:

    In a few years global cooling deniers will claim that Obama cooled off the planet.