THE climatologists, the news media and millions of ‘experts’ on radio, TV and Twitter are all telling us there is a climate crisis. The world is heating up rapidly and something must be done, now.
Go back half a century. This is a very short time in climate records but the climatologists, the newspapers and magazines and anyone who could get on radio and TV were all warning us about a different climate crisis: an imminent ice age.
After a scientific conference in December 1972, the Department of Geological Sciences at the US Ivy League Brown University wrote to the then US President Richard Nixon to warn him of ‘glacial temperatures in about a century’. Two years earlier the Boston Globe had carried a headline: ‘Scientist predicts a new ice age by 21st century’.
The warnings lurched between reasonable and catastrophic for around 15 years, but by the mid-80s it was clear that the forecast cooling was not happening. The climatologists realised that to maintain their authority they had to do something. They would debunk the whole unfortunate episode as a myth.
‘One common myth today,’ says the skepticalscience website, ‘misrepresents climate science in the 1970s by saying the general understanding was of an imminent ice age.’
But the forecasts on both sides of the Atlantic were quite clear and often dramatic. ‘Space satellites show new ice age coming, said the Guardian of January 29, 1974. Radio Times is not known for excitement, but the issue of November 14, 1974 really went to town about the forthcoming ‘Weather Machine’ programme based on Nigel Calder’s book. ‘The outlook for the next 1,000 years is changeable,’ it said in large print, ‘with ice, snow and the possibility of widespread floods. Here is an iceberg warning . . .’
‘The Cooling World’, announced Newsweek in April 1975, forecasting a subsequent dramatic decline in food production. And ‘the evidence in support of these predictions has now begun to accumulate so massively that meteorologists are hard-pressed to keep up with it.’
The UK’s Geographical Magazine (again, not known for high drama) asked us in August 1977: ‘How will technological man adapt to the next inevitable glaciation?’ Then there was astronomer Fred Hoyle’s book: ‘Ice: How the next ice age will come and how we can prepare for it’ (Hutchinson, 1981).
By August 1982 the topic had reached a United Nations conference in Vienna. ‘Paint the deserts and snowfields black,’ a scientist advised. John Gribbin, in his book Future Weather book (Penguin, 1983) was positive: ‘The natural trend of temperatures,’ he wrote, ‘is sharply downwards from now until the cold minimum of the next ice age.’
The New Scientist (24 November 1983) had a contributor just as certain. ‘A general decline in insolation in the Northern Hemisphere’, he claimed, was ‘chilling confirmation that the next Ice Age is on the way’.
The Climatic Research Unit at East Anglia University is widely seen as one of the world’s leading institutions concerned with the study of climate change. This is what it said in the Guardian, May 14, 1984: ‘Greater extremes in the climate over the past 20 years . . . are taken as signs of the approaching ice age.’
There is no way all that can be dismissed as just a climate myth. The climatologists are worried that we will keep asking why we should believe them now. Many of them were certain that we were heading for an ice age, just as many of them are now convinced we’re going the other way.
It is claimed that the earlier studies ‘received a lot of media attention . . . the idea made for great headlines (and) the effect of this disproportionate media coverage persists today, as some people and organisations continue to perpetuate the idea that an ice age was predicted in the 1970s.’
But an ice age was predicted in the 1970s, over and over again. The media simply reported what they were told. That letter to the US president in December 1972 said: ‘A global deterioration of climate, by order of magnitude larger than any hitherto experienced by civilised mankind, is a very real possibility and indeed may be due very soon.’
Only 49 years later we are apparently warming, not cooling, and there is again a disproportionate media coverage. ‘The climate disaster is here, Earth is already becoming unliveable,’ proclaimed the Guardian website on October 14, 2021. Talk about blowing hot and cold.