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Why The Global Cooling Story Is So Important…In The Anthropogenic Global Warming Debate

On the face of it, the whole debate about “global cooling in the 1970’s” is a matter of despair. If we can’t agree on what has happened less than 40 years ago, and is still remembered by many people, despite the avalanche of available snippets of information, a great deal of them accessible to all via the Internet…then what can we agree on? And what is the meaning of “history” at all??

So the only way to rescue our knowledge of the Renaissance, Ancient Rome or the Pharaos is by establishing that there is something special about the “global cooling the 1970’s debate“, something the unfortunately gets in the way and prevents people from recognizing what has happened within living memory. What is it?

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The story so far…Did the scientists believe in the 1970s that there was global cooling? Yes. A paper by Mitchell in 1972 consolidated the idea. The Peterson, Connolley and Fleck article usually paraded around, it says just as much. Here I quote them again, with some added emphasis for those hard of seeing:

By the early 1970s, when Mitchell updated his work (Mitchell 1972),

THE NOTION OF A GLOBAL COOLING TREND WAS WIDELY ACCEPTED

, albeit poorly understood

In fact, we now know that “the world” was not cooling at the time, but “the Northern Hemisphere” was. Only thing, the scientists in 1972 had no way to know it was just a Northern Hemisphere thing. All of this is actually quite inconsequential wrt the original question (once again: “Did the scientists believe in the 1970s that there was global cooling?“). Anyway: in the published scientific literature, the global cooling idea started in fact evaporating in 1975, and had been replaced by global warming at full speed from 1979 or so (curiously, in sync with the PDO…). The same happened but much more slowly outside the world of research, so most people have been exposed to “global cooling” (actually, to global cooling consensus) well into the 1980s.

I am not saying I have found the last word on this, but the story above makes much more sense than the usual worldwide newsmedia sensationalism conspiracy as suggested by those adamantly opposed to any memory of the global cooling scare. What is it, that they can’t digest, to the point of denying recent history even if it stares at them from the ink of their own writing?

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If one believes in contemporary global warming, the most obvious and logical reply to anybody saying “there was a global cooling consensus in the 1970s” should be “Yes, but…” followed by a long explanation on why the consensus is right this time and was wrong at the time. After all some consensuses have been right in the past, and some wrong.

This would cut off all sorts of sterile polemics and actually contribute to an increase in reputation of the average warmist daring to launch into such an argument, facing reality rather than fudging it. But nobody goes in that direction. Why?

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As far as I can understand it to date, there are two main reasons for such a peculiar behavior: the AGWers’ unhealthy attachment to catastrophism (that forces them into defending absurdist ocean-boiling claims), and their single-minded determination not to allow the mere possibility of anybody uttering any suggestion that anything about AGW could be wrong, unless “it’s worse than we thought!” (that forces them into trying to rewrite history, personally attack any disbeliever, blowing up schoolchildren in comedy videos, and all sorts of nasty stuff).

In the AGWer world it is worse than blasphemous even to try to remember that, not so many years ago, there was indeed a climate worry, only it was a worry about the world getting cooler, rather than warmer. With so many easy-to-spot mirror claims (eg Pakistan floods because of cooling then, Pakistan floods because of warming now) logic dictates that the wall of evidence needed to convince people to really care about AGW becomes taller by the minute. And the one needed to acquire the political will to work against catastrophic climate change, it becomes impassable.

This explains why the discussion about global cooling in the 1970s often degenerates with people stupidly claiming “there was no consensus in the 1970s about an ice age“. Yes, there wasn’t. But who cares? Even a cooling of a few degrees, not exactly an ice age, was presented as very worrying, and potentially as harbinger of catastrophes.

Hence, the “ice age” mention is pointless.

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Like the “AGW is a logical impossibility” page, the discussion about the global cooling consensus in the 1970s on this blog by itself will never be enough to put the antiscientific claims about upcoming catastrophic AGW to rest. At the end of the day, those pages are “just” reminders that we should avoid leaps in the dark, and always be very aware of our hubris.

Anyway…for me at least, these two subjects are evolving into a kind of “litmus test” that will help to tell the honest warmers from the rabid ones. The honest ones, you see, don’t worry about facing reality, including history.

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  1. shawn
    2011/01/10 at 16:33

    I moved to raliegh nc for work oin 2004 and they had a blizzard and no one can ever remember having a blizzard there. maybe global warming took the winter off, my last tour in iraq it snowed for the first time in 50 years. Maybe it forgot about that area. Our temperatures where i am at now are 10 degrees BELOW the average for this area. And this year is way warmer than last year. Maybe im in the part of the country global wrming doesnt apply to.

  2. John A. Jauregui
    2010/11/27 at 21:51

    Facts: Nitrogen constitutes 78% of the atmosphere, oxygen 21% and trace gases just 1%. Water vapor is the most significant trace gas and the most significant green house gas (GHG). According to IPCC technical reports carbon dioxide is the least significant trace gas both by volume and by Global Warming Potential (GWP).

    Question: What are the chances an infinitesimal (.04%) trace gas (CO2), essential to photosynthesis and therefore life on this planet, is responsible for runaway Global Warming?

    Answer: Infinitesimal

    Discussion: The IPCC now agrees. See the IPCC Technical Report section entitled Global Warming Potential (GWP). And the GWP for CO2? Just 1, (one), unity, the lowest of all green house gases (GHG). What’s more, trace gases which include GHG constitute less than 1% of the atmosphere. Of that 1%, water vapor, the most powerful GHG, makes ups 40% of the total. Carbon dioxide is 1/10th of that amount, an insignificant .04%. If carbon dioxide levels were cut in half to 200PPM, all plant growth would stop according to agricultural scientists. It’s no accident that commercial green house owner/operators invest heavily in CO2 generators to increase production, revenues and profits. Prof. Michael Mann’s Bristle cone tree proxy data (Hockey stick) proves nothing has done more to GREEN (verb) the planet over the past few decades than moderate sun-driven warming (see solar inertial motion) together with elevated levels of CO2, regardless of the source. None of these facts have been reported in the national media. Why?

    http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/opedcolumnists/meltdown_of_the_climate_consensus_G0kWdclUvwhVr6DYH6A4uJ

  3. 2010/11/14 at 10:44

    Yes, the current cooling will douse heavy climate rent-seeking behavior when thousands of climate bureaucrats and officials will meet in Cancun in 2 weeks,
    http://funwithgovernment.blogspot.com/2010/10/un-fccc-meeting-in-cancun-wheres-global.html

  4. Fay Tuncay
    2010/11/13 at 21:51

    I mean what is the purpose of these global narratives? Aren’t we all just becoming, not just sceptical, but cynical.

    Scare stories I have known: (1) Global cooling (2) USSR threat/nuclear holocaust (remember those nuclear bunkers for the back garden) (3) China Syndrome the movie (4) acid rain (5) AIDS (6) Ozone layer (7) Immigration – whatever happened to all those “boat people”? (8) “Feed the world, let them know it’s Christmas time” (9) global warming (10) cot death (11)Y2K bug nonsense! (12) WMD/“War on Terror” (13) MMR vaccine (14) Swine flu (15) Airport security. So what’s next?

    Perhaps back to the nuclear holocaust – again?
    Survival Shelters Bunkers Underground Houses Bomb Nuclear 2012 end of days

    • geoffchambers
      2010/11/14 at 08:07

      Fay
      I don’t think it’s helpful to lump all scare stories together. AIDS and poverty do really kill millions, (and nuclear weapons might). The global warming / cooling story is different because it has been created to have the appearance of a real threat, but one which can be solved – not by the messy business of tackling umpteen complex socio / medico/ economic problems in a hundred countries – but by the decisions of brave politicians and scientists in the comfort of their conference rooms. It’s a video game for men in suits.
      And the importance of the global cooling story is that it reveals the truth of the narrative – that it is just that – a story to which you are free to add your own ending, and change it at will.

      • 2010/11/14 at 08:12

        Geoff – I think the last “scare stories” with a truth in them must have been AIDS and the Ethiopian 1980s famine. Am I forgetting anything important that has happened since?

      • geoffchambers
        2010/11/14 at 14:27

        The perils of nuclear weapons went out of fashion at the time of the fall of the Soviet Union, just as they fell into the hands of the new states of Ukraine and Khazakstan. Making Poverty History dropped out of the news as soon as the heads of state got home from the Gleneagles summit, and the organisation wound itself up soon after. Poverty and nuclear weapons still exist, of course, but politicians have deflected the attention of the lemming-brained left towards gobal warming, which can be taxed and signed away into oblivion for fifty years.

      • Fay Tuncay
        2010/11/15 at 17:14

        Dear Geoff, I thought lumping together scares would help get things into perspective. The initial projections of scare and the outcome.

        These are examples of scares, which I think had a psychological impact on my life at the time, but which I later found not to be quite so alarming – hence I felt “scare” was appropriate. I had one friend who died from AIDS in the 80’s – not everyone I had ever known – which was often projected.

        On Live Aid/Feed the World, I agree “scare” perhaps should be replaced by duped. When I donated to Live Aid I had no idea I was funding a resettlement programme: “Dergue’s resettlement policy – of moving 600,000 people from the north while enforcing the “villagisation” of three million others – was at least in part a military campaign, masquerading as a humanitarian effort. And it was assisted by western aid money.” (The Guardian June 2005) I guess it’s hard to do an audit on aid.

        But going back to the cooling scare – the long term trend is cooling, which has been interrupted by a brief warming cycle, are we addressing this fact here. So if we are agreed on this isn’t cooling not a scare, but a genuine cause for concern. A cooling world is much more harmful than a warming one.

  5. Steve Koch
    2010/11/12 at 18:52

    Did you know that a stoat is a weasel? Stoat is a good name for a blog authored by William Connelly. Connelly is the infamous propagandist who specialized in rewriting climate science entries on Wikipedia and turning Wikipedia into a CAGW propaganda source until he was banned by the Wikipedia authorities from doing so.

    A person who is willing to pervert a wonderful resource like Wikipedia to accomplish his own selfish political goals needs to be reminded of his crime every time he pokes his head out of his burrow. Connelly should not be permitted in any civilized conversation until he has first prefaced his contribution with a profuse apology for his crimes against science and an update on the progress he is making on righting the wrongs he has committed.

  6. TinyCO2
    2010/11/12 at 16:09

    I always think there should be a nodding icon for articles like this, so I can nod along to everything. The only thing I’d add is the difference between belief and knowledge. A lot of scientists, public and media alike believed in global cooling, just as they believe in global warming. They believe in it because they don’t think about it. They hear about an impeding catastrophe, have a little frisson of fear and then get on with real life. Once the catastrophe fails to emerge they forget they ever believed.

    Many people believe in God but they know the tax man exists, so they commit sin and pay their taxes. People only believe in climate science but will be asked to pay climate taxes and stop committing CO2 sin. It will be the test of their faith and one I suspect will fail very quickly.

  7. Luke Warmer
    2010/11/12 at 12:31

    M.

    Excellent stuff as usual, thanks for digging through and translating. Right on point, the “Yes, but…” is always missing. The same should be true for CO2 levels being higher, the Eemian being hotter, O2 is pollution (GOEvent) etc.

    The Stoat paper stuck to peer reviewed papers rather than news headlines, pronouncements or public perceptions. As I commented to him on the debate then, he’ll be able to write exactly the same paper in 30 years claiming that there was never a consensus on runaway or catastrophic AGW in the peer reviewed scientific literature and be factually 100% correct.

    Someone once quipped, history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.

  1. 2010/11/20 at 19:08
  2. 2010/11/18 at 18:09
  3. 2010/11/16 at 01:11
  4. 2010/11/12 at 17:48
  5. 2010/11/12 at 14:51
  6. 2010/11/12 at 12:28

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