Cato’s David Boaz Joins George Will in Peddling Bogus “Global Cooling” Stories

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I did a post last month on some of the differences between classical liberalism and modern libertarianism but I don’t think I was making myself very clear. A practical example, however, helps.

Nowhere in the works of Adam Smith or John Stuart Mill, for example, is there anything about how if science indicates that certain form of human activity that was long thought to be harmless to others is, in fact, doing massive, hard-to-reverse damage to the long-term interests of billions of people that the correct response is to retreat into dogma and ignorance. And yet here’s Cato Institute Executive Vice President David Boaz teaming up with Washington Post columnist George Will to push the idea that there was a 1970s-era scientific consensus that we were facing dangerous “global cooling” and that, therefore, we shouldn’t take today’s warnings about global warming seriously.

The fact of the matter is that there was a bunch of media hype in the 1970s about a cooling trend. Now as probably know, the media sometimes hypes up bogus trend stories with no real basis in evidence. Neither Will nor Boaz are small children or lobotomy victims, so presumably they understand this, too. And that’s exactly what was happening in the 70s:

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.

The ’70s was an unusually cold decade. Newsweek, Time, The New York Times and National Geographic published articles at the time speculating on the causes of the unusual cold and about the possibility of a new ice age.

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.

Yes, that’s right, even in the 60s and 70s the bulk of scientific concern was about warming. The evidence was, at that time, tenuous. But it’s grown steadily in every passing decade. This is not media hype. It’s real science. It’s possible, of course, that the vast majority of competent scientists are all part of a vast conspiracy to defraud the public into believing that human activity is causing the planet to warm. But it’s hard to see why that would happen. It is, however, easy to see why polluting industries and their hirelings in the think tank world would want to pretend that this is what’s happening.