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Response to Zombie Blog (Greenfyre’s)

Hello Greenfyre

I certainly support letting everybody perfectly free to use their own definitions. As long as it is clear what they are talking about.

That 1961 New York meeting I have blogged about, was sponsored by the American Metereological Association and The New York Academy of Sciences. That should be enough to consider it an important conference. And it was co-chaired by Rhodes W. Fairbridge, not a minor figure in the last 40/50 years of climatology. Furthermore, it was followed by another meeting in Rome, organized by UNESCO and again with major climatologists in attendance (J. Murray Mitchell, Jr. C. C. Wallén , E. Kraus).

Once again in Rome, they all agreed that the world was cooling. The full proceedings are available and I extracted some interesting snippets.

If scientific experts meet once, and then meet again, and there is general agreement among them that the world is cooling, I’d say most people will agree that THAT is evidence for “global cooling scientific consensus”.

I am just using perfectly common and sensible definitions for “cooling”, “global” and “consensus”.

If instead you decide e.g. that “global cooling” has to mean “predicting future cooling”, feel free to do so: but please do yourself a favor and provide reasons for your choice.

Because of course the more we restrict a definition, the less the chance that anything will fall into that category.

This “restricting the definition until there is nothing left” is after all what Thomas C. Peterson, William M. Connolley, and John Fleck have done in their largely mistitled “The Myth of the 1970s Global Cooling Scientific Consensus”.

  1. 2011/04/05 at 03:47

    UN: “I am just using perfectly common and sensible definitions for “cooling”, “global” and “consensus”.
    If instead you decide e.g. that “global cooling” has to mean “predicting future cooling”, feel free to do so: but please do yourself a favor and provide reasons for your choice.”
    ~ ~ ~
    What makes your above post so misleading is that you neglect to mention concerns for dangerous cooling centered around projected observed increasing aerosols and sulfur dioxide emissions, atmospheric concentration into the future.

    Had we continued exponentially adding aerosols, indeed we would be in a very different crisis today, not even considering the damage acid rain would have rained down on our life supporting biosphere. But, no, beginning in the late seventeen’s serious commitment to reducing those emissions eliminated that danger.

    But, that left CO2. Why not mention the widespread concern for CO2’s potential warming influence? What about the Gilbert Plass article in the July 1959 Scientific American article: “Carbon Dioxide and Climate”? Unfortunately, no attempt at reigning in our ever increasing CO2 emission has occurred – thus Earth currently has CO2 levels not experienced in millions of years. So we are understandable on a different course.

    See: “Coupling of CO2 and Ice Sheet Stability Over Major Climate Transitions of the Last 20 Million Years” Tripati, Roberts, Eagle ~ Science ~ 4 December 2009
    “During the Middle Miocene, when temperatures were ~3° to 6°C warmer and sea level was 25 to 40 meters higher than at present, pCO2 appears to have been similar to modern levels.”

  2. 2008/10/18 at 07:42

    Au contraire Steve…all Connolley and the others would have had to do was to clarify their concern was to describe the myth of a scientific consensus in the 1970s of an impending ice age (rather than just “currently-undergoing global cooling”). By overstretching themselves, they’re guilty of clouding the issue just as Chrichton was…with the added minus of sounding hypocritical.

    Was there a consensus on global cooling up to 1975-1976? Yes. Is that equivalent to present-day consensus on global warming? No. Are they completely different beasts? Not exactly (perhaps I’ll elaborate on that in the near future).

    And can we meaningfully understand historical facts without being aware of their historical context? Not at all.

    What people make of stuff, furthermore, should not be taken into consideration when we define the aforementioned stuff. Otherwise it’ll all and always be all politics.

  3. Steve Bloom
    2008/10/18 at 01:10

    You’re chopping this up rather too finely, Maurizio. The question is whether there was any equivalency between the present consensus and the state of the science in the early ’70s, and to answer that in the affirmative you need to establish that there was agreement about the likely future trend and its causes. There wasn’t. Denialists who raise the point now do not do so because they care about the present short-term trend in and of itself.

    Re computer models of warming, recall Rasool and Schneider, and that it was quickly pointed out that they were in error. It’s unsurprising that their effort was not followed by others making the same mistake (over-weighting aerosol cooling).

  4. 2008/10/17 at 16:09

    > it excited no one particularly

    well, some people WERE excited about an upcoming global cooling/ice age…and by pure chance, the necessary computing power for climate predictions (more appropriately: climate scenario analysis) became available just as scientists were getting more interested in CO2 rather than aerosols.

    Thereafter, the “insight into what might happen next” was bound to be around warming.

  5. 2008/10/17 at 11:30

    And here’s more about the MIT conference (and more):


    “Global Warming and Global Politics” By Matthew Paterson
    Published by Routledge, 1996
    ISBN 041513871X, 9780415138710
    238 pages

    where the following can be found:

    (a) Everybody agreed in the early 1970s that the world had been cooling since the 1940s

    (b) The MIT conference’s final report stated they did not know about the (effective) role of CO2; the participants discussed about the relative role of aerosols as cooling agents, and CO2 as warming agent, reaching no conclusion (about the _future_ tendency)

    (c) Following the MIT conference, from 1972-1973 research programmes “expanded into the field of long-term climatic trends and conditions” (and that’s why there are not that many papers forecasting global cooling: climate forecasting started alongside the shift towards CO2/warming studies)

    (d) At the GARP 1974 Conference in Stockholm, there were still specialists believing that the cooling trend would continue. Other participants were not sure. This means that (i) the world had kept cooling up to 1974 at least and (ii) the consensus at the time was on “cooling” or “don’t know”, definitely not on “warming”

    (e) The 1975 Norwich WMO International Symposium on Long-Term Climate Fluctuations established that aerosols “do not” cool the atmosphere (if that’s still part of the consensus, I am not sure), thereby moving the whole focus towards CO2 and warming

  6. 2008/10/17 at 10:53

    thank you Steve for the links. I was under the impression that the “popular press” was not considered the appropriate place to investigate the presence or absence of a consensus.

    Also please note that you appear to be defining “global cooling” as “future global cooling”, so I’ll have to disagree on the “crystal clarity”.

    Feel free to provide more details such as the proceedings of the 1971 MIT conference.

    ps the second link is from 1976 when, as shown by Connolley and the others, the cooling vs warming debate was in full swing. It cannot say much about the overall agreement a few years before, that temperatures were going down worldwide.

  7. Steve Bloom
    2008/10/17 at 10:19

    A little research in the popular press makes it crystal clear that by the 1970s there was no scientific cooling consensus (here and here e.g.), or much of an alarm in the popular press for that matter..

  8. 2008/10/17 at 04:23

    Never! 8)

    Actually I think we can say there was a consensus in the sense that the obvious truth of the data concerning what had been happening was generally accepted and not seriously questioned (as far as I know). As such it excited no one particularly and they all got on with trying to figure out what the possible mechanism might be, and from there perhaps garner some insight into what might happen next. Good enough? 😉

  9. 2008/10/16 at 15:43

    > Do we have consensus

    Only if you are not going to use it against me 8)

    Actually, there is one important detail to consider: scientists up to the 1970s were not in the business of predicting future climates. Peterson, Connolley and Fleck recognize that, and admit being forced to use their own interpretation as most of the articles did not make any “clear prediction”.

    “While some of these articles make clear predictions of global surface temperature change by the year 2000, most of these articles do not. Many of the articles simply examined some aspect of climate forcing.“

    And so, as for the relevance to current consensus, I wouldn’t go too far either way.

    We cannot say that Thomas Jefferson did not understand and value freedom “just” because he was a slave owner. But of course his concept of “freedom” is not exactly ours.

    By that I mean that historical studies need to be made considering the context. And that is a recurring critique of mine, regarding the “Global Cooling Myth” article.

  10. 2008/10/15 at 23:37

    “Hopefully we agree now that that claim is false. ”

    Sadly no, but perhaps moving towards clarity (which is a good thing). Let’s parse this a bit, paying particular attention to tense (rather than getting tense ;-))

    i) I freely grant that a number (perhaps a large number, perhaps most) of prominent meteorologists generally agreed
    – call that a consensus if you like, but it still nowhere near the scale of the current scientific consensus on climate change http://debunking.pbwiki.com/%22There+is+no+Consensus%22+Myth;

    ii) that the earth had been cooling for a couple of decades,
    – the past perfect; there was no agreement that this would continue which is a crucial point as the current Denier spin is that there was some sort of scientific consensus that the world was heading into an ice age, and that is simply nonsense;

    iii) but there was no agreement on possible mechanisms and hence no generally accepted notion of how the climate might behave in the future
    – another crucial difference between this agreement and the current consensus on anthropogenic climate change.

    So, if there is clarity about exactly what the agreement actually was, particularly it’s limitations wrt predictions about the future, and that it bore almost no resemblance to the current consensus on anthropogenic climate change, then I am happy to agree that:

    “I freely grant that a number (perhaps a large number, perhaps most) of prominent meteorologists generally agreed (consensus if you will) that the earth had been cooling for a couple of decades, but there was no agreement on possible mechanisms, hence no generally accepted notion of how the climate might behave in the future, and hence this is not particularly relevant to the current consensus on anthropogenic climate change.”

    Do we have consensus 🙂

  11. 2008/10/15 at 20:58

    thank you Mike. Am not sure if I qualify now as skeptic or denier at this moment.

    In any case: my blogs were and are in response to the claim that a global cooling scientific consensus in the 1970s was just a myth. Hopefully we agree now that that claim is false.

    One could argue that the current consensus for global warming is not at the same level as the 1970s consensus for global cooling. But that’s not what Connolley and the others have done.

    Using one of your analogies: shrews are no elephants, but it’s just as wrong to state that it is a myth to consider shrews as mammals

    ps hope you don’t mind if I slightly edited the formatting of your comment for clarity

  12. 2008/10/15 at 20:22

    As I say over at the posting

    What is missing from your comment is that the Denialosphere is attempting to equate the limited agreement among some meteorologists about a limited data set from two meetings with the massive and real scientific consensus that now exists with respect to climate change.

    In the more abstract and less precise version that you present here, sure, that’s a not unreasonable interpretation and perhaps quite valid for casual discussion. However when one then tries to equate them then the differences become critical because the two are not the same at all.

    By anaology we may agree that in many ways shrews and elephants are “the same” being both mammals and sharing many characteristics (live birth, hair, blah blah) and that is all well and good. However as soon as someone tries to suggest that they therefore are exactly the same, then the multiple, large differences between them become critical points for refuting the ridiculous notion.

    It’s a red herring anyway. That the historic medical consensus that disease was caused by internal imbalances of humours proved to be ridiculous in no way throws the current consensus that disease is caused by bacteria, viruses, etc into doubt.

    The latter notion of disease stands or falls based on it’s own merit and evidence, as does climate science. Even if there had been a consensus equivalent to the current one it is a logical fallacy to suggest that the earlier consensus somehow undermines the current, different data. An understanding of this mythical earlier consensus might provide clues as to what to look for to check if the current work might also be flawed, but the demonstration of the earlier flaw would not in and of itself negate the current evidence.


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