Many Seattleites pride themselves on a fanatical environmentalism that frankly defies reason. On Earth Day, we commonly hear dark predictions about the looming horrors of global warming (a typical example, “What is at stake [is] our ability to live on planet Earth,” Al Gore).
Yet not so long ago the news media issued dire warnings about global cooling and a coming Ice Age. Consider these headlines:
- “The Earth’s Cooling Climate,” Science News, November 15, 1969.
- “Colder Winters Held Dawn of New Ice Age,” Washington Post, January 11, 1970.
- “Science: Another Ice Age?” Time Magazine, June 24, 1974.
- “The Ice Age Cometh!” Science News, March 1, 1975.
- “The Cooling World,” Newsweek, April 28, 1975.
- “Scientists Ask Why World Climate is Changing; Major Cooling May Be Ahead,” New York Times, May 21, 1975.
- “In the Grip of a New Ice Age?” International Wildlife July-August, 1975.
- “A Major Cooling Widely Considered to Be Inevitable,” New York Times, September 14, 1975.
- “Variations in the Earth’s Orbit, Pacemaker of the Ice Ages,” Science magazine, December 10, 1976.
Reporters told the public about global cooling in the same confident tone used in today’s coverage about global warming, creating the strong impression that no reasonable person could disagree. Here are some examples:
- “The evidence in support of these predictions [global cooling] has now begun to accumulate so massively that meteorologists are hard-pressed to keep up with it.” The Cooling World
- “A study release last month by two NOAA scientists that the amount of sunshine reaching the ground in the continental U.S. diminished by 1.3% between 1964 and 1972.” The Cooling World
- “Telltale signs are everywhere...the thickness of the pack ice...the southward migration of warmth-loving creatures like the armadillo...” Another Ice Age?
- “Since the 1940s the mean global temperature has dropped about 2.7 degrees.” Another Ice Age?
- “The threat of a new ice age must now stand alongside nuclear war as a likely source of wholesale death and misery for mankind,” The Ice Age Cometh!
Critics will often say there was no scientific consensus in the 1970s that the world was cooling, but that’s not how the media reported it to the public. Similarly, today some scientists want to debate global warming and its possible causes, but so often the media presents global warming as a settled issue, not to be questioned. Since the reporting today about world climate is the opposite of what it was 30 years ago, maybe the skepticism about the worst predictions surrounding global warming is quite reasonable after all.