In the May/June 2009 issue of Skeptical Inquirer, your Czar found an article titled The Great Global Cooling Myth and the Politics of Science by John Fleck. SI has, true to its nature, retained a fairly conservative and skeptical opinion of the whole global warming discussion, preferring to authenticate or debunk items on a fact-by-fact basis, rather than draw any sweeping conclusions. Therefore, the Czar was interested in this title, because the Czar has a long memory.
Many of us over the age of 40 remember well the stories going around in the 1970s that scientists were predicting our descent into an ice age. Historical data was showing temperatures cooling, and the spate of cold winters and less hostile summers in 1976-1979 really fueled the concern that by, who knows, 1988, we would be under feet of snow and ice, crops would fail, and most of Canada would be inhospitable. Well, that last part may be true (just kidding, Canada: we need your readership), but evidently by the 1980s we were much concerned about the complete loss of the ozone layer by 1991. Which became melted ice caps by 1999. And so on.
Jumping forward to today, many critics of global warming bring up the Impending Ice Age concern, rightfully asking You said you used historical data over the last few decades to discover that average temperatures were trending downward and an ice age was inevitable; today, you are saying that by using the same historical data over the last few decades, our world is heating up into a fatal oven. If you were wrong in the 1970s, why should we think you are right today?
Interestingly, this is more the sort of anecdote that gets repeated around, more so than printed up. Great cocktail fodder: Hey, you remember when those scientists all told us we were going to freeze?
Anyway, the SI article goes onto disprove this, saying thatas a rebuttal of global warming claimsits a specious argument: no one genuinely made these claims. Fleck and others investigated the history of this argument and discoveredto no surprisethe media pretty much ran away with the story.
What really happened: in the early 1970s, scientists were beginning to perfect the study of past temperatures by studying ice cores and other evidence, when they discovered that Earth has endured many ice ages. They come and go, lasting as long as 10,000 years in some cases. The most recent ice age (think mammoths and glaciers and Wisconsin Dells and John Leguizamo sloths) was a dinky one, and although we are out of it, we will likely go through some future ice age. Heck, the average temperature dip might be the earliest sign…although it would take thousands and thousands of years to get there.
This gets written up by a 1972 National Science Board report as Judging from the record of the past interglacial ages, the present time of high temperatures should be drawing to an end…leading into the next glacial age…some 20,000 years from now. The mainstream media picks that up as Scientists predict we are presently heading into a massive ice age. And so the story goes around and around, with no one quoting the original source.
So if you support the global warming position, you should rejoice, right? After all, this embarrassing reminder is now proven to be false. Yes, the anti-AGW crowd is wrong…scientists were not predicting a global cooling ice age starting in the 1980s.
Well, not so fast. Your Volgi found this article, which reminds everybody that the global warming crowd may also be falling prey to an equal series of misquotes and mangled analysis.
Within, the article reminds us that much of the data supporting global warming is based on numerical models that have never been vetted, scrutinized, or tested. A model may predict an adverse effect, but that outcome is inconclusive; however, that allows someone else to use part of it to support another study, and so on, until like the telephone game, we are at some inconvenient truth. Both this item and the SI article agree that when a scientific question becomes politicized for a partisan agenda, Bad Stuff results.
So which is it? The answer is we do not know yet. Many noted meteorologists and climatologists refuse to get into the global warming game. Tom Skilling, AMS, repeatedly confirms that data is conflicting, as does Weather Channel founder John Coleman. Guess which guys the Czar advises we listen to?