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1970s Global Cooling Consensus Not A Myth – The Unassailable Argument

There are still many otherwise learned and reasonable people fooling themselves into thinking that the “1970s Global Cooling consensus” was a myth.  No matter how much they try to massage historical evidence, the evident truth is that they are mistaken.

In the 1970s (I am not saying, for the whole decade) there was a consensus about global cooling. How is such a conclusion reached? By asking the right question.

In fact, the very reason the question is asked is because it is relevant to the world of today.  Some have publicly declared that their skepticism on catastrophical Global Warming is based on their memories about catastrophical Global Cooling sometimes in the 1970s. Much is being done about Newsweek or New York Times articles of the time. The issue concerns therefore what we of 2010 would call a meme, and a popular one at that since it appeared and was propagated in general-interest newspapers and magazines.

That pretty much invalidates nerdy analyses of the scientific literature of the time, hardly a primary source of popular memes. Besides, one suspects it was far easier to publish a work on warming despite the underlying acceptance by prominent scientists of global cooling: surely at the time there was nothing remotely resembling the climategate gang, bent on preventing publication to anything challenging their beliefs. Fabricated unanimities just did not exist.

Hence the right question to ask is: did people sometimes in the 1970s live under the impression that there was a scientific consensus on Global Cooling? Note once again: it is a matter of impressions, not of some kind of unperceived reality.

Take this example: when Napoleon abdicated at Fontainebleau on 11 April 1814, all big political guns in Europe were under the impression that he was finished. Of course we know now that it wasn’t true (Napoleon escaped from his Elba prison 10 months later, and came tantalizingly close to win back his power in full).

Was there in 1814 a consensus that Napoleon was a defeated man? Yes. Was he? No, as far as we understand.  Yes, as far as contemporaries understood.

Likewise for Global Cooling…we have for a fact that world temperatures have not been declining in the last 30-40 years (rather, the opposite has happened). We also know that not every scientist in the 1970s believed in Global Cooling. And yet…for a person of 1974/1975 with an average scientific interest for example, the consensus on Global Cooling was a fact of life. Why, even the CIA did not hesitate to describe such a consensus, and to organize a scientific conference about it.

History is like a foreign country…the only way to understand it is to respect it, and to be careful when dealing with it. Unfortunately, in the heated world of the AGW believer, respect and care are seldom to be found.

  1. Stuck in AP Human Geography
    2011/12/31 at 21:38

    Global Warming, Global Cooling, it’s all the Natural global cycle. I mean, think about it: the dinosaurs were reptiles, and they were cold blooded. So, for a huge reptile to move, it must have taken a lot of heat to provide the animal with movement. So, back when dinos were around, the globe must’ve been pretty hot. Then, think about the ice age. It was super cold, and although scientists keep changing their minds about what caused it, we do know that it happened. Then, in think of the Little Ice Age (from the 14th century to the 19th century). Temperatures were significantly colder during this time period. Also, think of the ’70’s global cooling, and today’s global warming.
    When you add in the fact that the tectonic plates are shifting, thus moving landmasses to different latitudes and longitudes, the different landmasses that have slowly been moving away from each other, the landmasses will experience new temperatures and new climates. So, the globe is on a global cycle, not a constant hot streak, and not a constant cold streak.

  2. xlm
    2010/04/12 at 12:41

    Omnologos – Well it seems that for the public there was a consensus, but it was not the case in the scientific community. So people who say it’s a myth are right if they mean “scientific consensus”…
    And that’s why you need to claim that today’s consensus is “Fabricated” to make your point.
    But where are the proofs of such a thing ?

  3. PKD
    2010/03/28 at 01:52

    Good god. Your Napoleon comparison is about as inane a long straw as I have ever heard.
    You make the 1st mistake of understanding History too, in that the hardest thing to undertanding History is that we know their futures. Its easy to be judgmental like you do when you know Napoleon escapes his Elba prison.

    The reality was Napoloeon *was* a defeated man, and it was only by the gross incomptence of the Western powers in dealing with him that allowed him to get his 2nd chance of power.

    Trying sticking to the science – you’re better at it…well, marginally!

    • 2010/03/28 at 08:00

      PKD – you have obviously missed this passage from the Peterson, Connolley and Fleck article

      By the early 1970s, when [Dr Murray] Mitchell updated his work (Mitchell 1972), the notion of a global cooling trend was widely accepted, albeit poorly understood

      The “we know their futures” argument is actually my argument. It is easy to review the 1970s scientific literature in 2008 and come up with overarching conclusions about the extent of the scientific consensus on anything at the time.

      But what would have been the understanding of it for a person, say, in “the early 1970s”? Considering the wide acceptance of the work by Mitchell, the caliber of the experts the CIA was able to convene, the result of innumerable conferences, the steady supply of experts available to the likes of Newsweek, The Washington Post and The New York Times to talk about global cooling…

      Did people in the early 1970s believe in a scientific consensus on global cooling? We have all elements to think so. As a bonus, that easily explains the widespread memories of a “scientific consensus on global cooling in the 1970s”.

      What would convince you, I wonder?

  4. geoff chambers
    2010/03/26 at 05:47

    Your example about Napoleon being “finished” in 1814 is excellent. I’ve just been reading the diary of an English artist who visited Paris in 1814 and it’s precisely true. Napoleon was the past.
    Of course, history is not science, so a historian can never prove that his vision is the only true one, or that his examples haven’t been cherry-picked. That’s why in history departments (and in the humanities in general) monarchists and republicans, Marxists and conservatives, have generally learned to rub along together.

    • 2010/03/26 at 06:31

      name of the artist? is the book on Google?

      • geoff chambers
        2010/03/26 at 09:30

        Benjamin Robert Haydon. He visits Fontainebleau and Versailles, sits in Napoleon’s office, etc.
        On the seventies, I can remember reading the Club of Rome report about the imminent end of civilisation with a feeling that I was doing something morally good, simply in reading it. And of course, the fact that it was anonymous lent it extra authority.

  5. Les Johnson
    2010/03/23 at 15:20

    Apparently Petersen et al missed this summary of cooling, and consensus, in the 70s’. As its from the NOAA, too, its more than passing strange that it was missed.

    Click to access Reeves.pdf

    My summary of the NOAA paper.

    1972 – Kukla-Mathews publishes in Science, an article about the end of the current inter glacial. Also writes a letter to Nixon in 1972, specifically warning about global cooling.
    1973 – First Climate office started in Feb 1973 (ad hoc Panel on the Present Inter Glacial). This was after a meeting of 42 of the most prominent climatologists, and apparently there was consensus about cooling. Especially as the NOAA, NWS and ICAS were involved.
    1974 – Office of Climate Dynamics opened.
    1978 -Carter signs Climate Program Act, partly due to the SEVERE WINTER experienced the preceding winter.

    Also see:


    Its also strange that there is no reference to Lamb in Petersen’s paper, who had warned of cooling since the early 60’s.

  1. 2012/03/13 at 05:57
  2. 2010/11/12 at 12:02

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