Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Newsweek on climate change: Plus ça change 

The Extreme Mortman and Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby remind us why so many of us non-experts -- even those of us unaccountably not on the payroll of Big Oil -- do not believe the most hysterical claims made by journalists who in the case of the global climate change have turned into advocates. Jacoby:

Introducing Newsweek's Aug. 13 cover story on global warming "denial," editor Jon Meacham brings up an embarrassing blast from his magazine's past: an April 1975 story about global cooling, and the coming ice age that scientists then were predicting. Meacham concedes that "those who doubt that greenhouse gases are causing significant climate change have long pointed to the 1975 Newsweek piece as an example of how wrong journalists and researchers can be." But rather than acknowledge that the skeptics may have a point, Meacham dismisses it.

"On global cooling," he writes, "there was never anything even remotely approaching the current scientific consensus that the world is growing warmer because of the emission of greenhouse gases."

Really? Newsweek took rather a different line in 1975. Then, the magazine reported that scientists were "almost unanimous" in believing that the looming Big Chill would mean a decline in food production, with some warning that "the resulting famines could be catastrophic." Moreover, it said, "the evidence in support of these predictions" -- everything from shrinking growing seasons to increased North American snow cover -- had "begun to accumulate so massively that meteorologists are hard-pressed to keep up with it."

Yet Meacham, quoting none of this, simply brushes aside the 1975 report as "alarmist" and "discredited." Today, he assures his readers, Newsweek's climate-change anxieties rest "on the safest of scientific ground." (bold emphasis added)

The ExMort helpfully provides a copy of the original Newsweek piece from 32 years ago, and it is extraordinary. Read it below. My all-too-obvious commentary follows.

Newsweek article on global cooling


In many ways, nothing has changed but the direction of the problem. You have the same claims of scientific consensus:

Meteorologists disagree about the cause and extent of the cooling trend, as well as its specific impact on local weather conditions. But they are almost unanimous in the view that the trend will reduce agricultural productivity for the rest of the century.

Well, we now know that meteorologists do not know jack about the foundations of agricultural productivity, which soared during the rest of the 20th century. If they were "almost unanimous" in 1975, then they were almost unanimously wrong.

But wait, there's more. Back in 1975, Newsweek cited random severe weather factoids in support of its argument:
Last April, in the most devestating outbreak of tornadoes ever recorded, 148 twisters killed more than 300 people and caused half a billion dollars' worth of damage in thirteen U.S. states.

How similar is this to the claims post-Katrina that we were going to be blown away by an unprecedented surge in hurricanes, only to see the supposedly worse 2006 season fizzle into pacific calm?

There are the same references to historical climate data, which remind us that today's graphs that show global warming since the late 19th century reflect temperature increases over a very cold baseline:
Others regard the cooling as a reversion to the "little ice age" conditions that brought bitter winters to much of Europe and northern America between 1600 and 1900 -- years when the Thames used to freeze so solidly that Londoners roasted oxen on the ice and when iceboats sailed the Hudson River almost as far south as New York City.

And, of course, there is the same fretting that politicians will not take the extreme steps necessary to avert inevitable catastrophe:
Climatologists are pessimistic that political leaders will take any positive action to compensate for the climatic change, or even allay its effects. They concede that some of the more spectacular solutions proposed, such as melting the arctic ice cap by covering it with black soot or diverting arctic rivers, might create problems far greater than those they solve.... The longer the planners delay, the more difficult will they find it to cope with climatic change once the results become grim reality.

Now, Newsweek's stupendous wrongness in 1975 is hardly evidence that it is wrong today. Newsweek, after all, is just a magazine with reporters and editors who write the stuff that scientists say in as engaging a style as possible. However, a couple of implications do flow from this. First, everybody over the age of roughly 45-50 has heard all of these predictions of climate-induced disaster before, and none of them have come true. That has made those of us with memories understandably, well, skeptical. The skepticism that Newsweek ascribes to the perfidy of oil companies in fact derives from the misguided alarmism of the last generation of journalists, including particularly Newsweek. Newsweek essentially pre-impeached the argument it made in its cover story last week.

Second, Newsweek's cover story attributing global warming skepticism to subversive propaganda was not even useful to the climate change activists. Any lefty blogger could have done that much. The problem that the boosters of climate change theory have is that the boy has cried wolf before. As a practical matter, the alarmism of 30 years ago has made the burden of proof higher than it otherwise would be. Those of us worried about climate change -- and I am in that group -- need the professional journalists to write the substantive arguments in favor of and against the climate change theory clearly and in laymen's terms. We do not need them to level hysterical accusations that the skeptics are wrong because ExxonMobil gave some money to a few right-wing think tanks.

Third, we should figure out who all those "near unanimous" meteorologists were back in 1975. How many of those previously wrong climate scientists are still around and now taking the other side of the argument? They, at least, have a credibility problem, or at least some explaining to do. It seems to me that Newsweek is in a unique position to do an investigative story about climate scientists that previously warned of catastrophic global cooling. Indeed, in light of the various accusations it has leveled in the current debate, it would seem that Newsweek is virtually honor-bound to write such a story. If, that is, there is a shred of intellectual honesty left at that magazine, which is doubtful in light of Jon Meacham's misleading claims about the scientific consensus 32 years ago and today.

CWCID: Glenn Reynolds.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Aug 15, 11:24:00 PM:

The movie "The Day After Tomorrow" about a global warming disaster, was originally a book (The Sixth Winter) about global COOLING published in the 1970s. (I recognised it because Dad had a copy that I read as a kid.)

Which is why The Day After Tomorrow mostly featured ice and snow.

They don't even bother to change the fiction, they just use it again and hope nobody notices.  

By Blogger Miss Ladybug, at Wed Aug 15, 11:34:00 PM:


But, they DO have that covered: global warming with shut down the ocean currents that moves warm water from the tropics to the frozen polar waters, and the cold polar waters back to the tropics, and it will actually cause the next Ice Age....

I watch too much "educational" programming on cable...  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Aug 16, 12:54:00 AM:

NEWSREEK is no different then SLIME magazine its just another left-wing liberal news rag its not worth reading  

By Blogger Purple Avenger, at Thu Aug 16, 01:52:00 AM:

Same old crowd, same old bullshit, new century.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Aug 16, 06:58:00 AM:

Fire and Ice - Journalists have warned of climate change for 100 years, but can’t decide weather we face an ice age or warming

The weather and the media - It's just another money earner, something to put on the front page.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Aug 16, 07:10:00 AM:

Climate scientists told us that CFCs were causing a hole in the ozone layer over the south pole and they were banned (CFCs not, unfortunately, the climate scientists).

Thirty years onward the hole is bigger than ever and they don't know why. When they figure out the well-recorded past, they can claim to predict the weather for a hundred years in the future.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Aug 16, 09:53:00 AM:

My semi-literate guess is that weather varies in a somewhat sinusoidal pattern between two boundaries, in any given climate (lattitude) or season of the year, over long periods of time. These may or may not coincide with solar activity (11 year sunspot maxima and minima, etc.). There may be other mechanisms we do not (surely do not) understand. The Atlantic Conveyor, as dramatized in the Day After Tomorrow, has a ciculation velocity dependent on saline levels and temperature changes associated with that. It drives hurricanes (to an extent) and varies over decades. There is a similar pattern in the Pacific, but it has a different cyclic period, and the two are probably NOT linked.

We see these variations over time, but with no perspective, at a given time, things can look dire, indeed. "If this goes on at the present rate....." !!!!!

What anthropomorphic activity may (MAY, a big qualifier) be doing is amping up these long variations to beyond one or two standard deviations of the boundary temperatures, IN SOME LOCATIONS, which, when taken anecdotally, induces panic in the press, etc.

Something may indeed be going on with the climate changing, I don't deny, but the sort of journalistic fear-mongering used by Newscrack (a drug for faux-informed citizens), only serves to, well, induce panic among the sheeple (that's us).

This is fed by egotistical 'authorities' such as that dimwit Paul Erlich and that guy Hanson as NASA, who is so terribly persecuted. That's probably what made them mess up their algorithms for reporting temperatures in the US.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Aug 16, 10:30:00 AM:

Is it global warming or global lying........?

Hey, it doesn't matter as long as it's 'written in an engaging style'......and the left can lever some dimwits out of theor money.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Aug 16, 10:53:00 AM:

Well there was that silly movie WATERWORLD where KEVIN KOSNER was swimming about looking like a complet dork and then there was THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW and long before there was SOYLENT GREEN and the movie version of VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA where the global warming was cuased by freak meteor shower igiting the VAN ALLEN RADIATION BELT and it was stopped using a NUCULAR MISSLE  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Aug 16, 11:44:00 AM:

Anthropogenic, not anthropomorphic.



By Blogger D.E. Cloutier, at Thu Aug 16, 12:24:00 PM:

"Hey, it doesn't matter as long as it's 'written in an engaging style'......and the left can lever some dimwits out of their money."


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Aug 16, 01:22:00 PM:

Global warming scientists are the modern analogues to witch doctors and "seers".

"Gimme money, or I won't be able to predict the really bad shit that's about to go down! You're gonna be sorry!"  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Aug 16, 04:45:00 PM:

Of course, no scaremongering article would be complete without a frightening visual of the plummeting temperatures.....in tenths of degrees.....Fahrenheit.

As Count Floyd would say, "Very scary!"


By Blogger Papa Ray, at Thu Aug 16, 06:13:00 PM:

There is one statement of truth in the 1975 article that is still true today and most likely will be true in another 40 years.

They state that they don't even know enought about the weather to ask the right questions, let alone know the answers.

Now that is a true statement.

Papa Ray
West Texas

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Aug 16, 09:08:00 PM:

The earth is a big old rock ... who actually believes even 100 years of data as predictive of what cycles happen over the course of time? 100 over billions hardly seems like a statistically significant period.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Aug 17, 03:00:00 PM:

Two months ago, I thought I had the whole global warming thing boiled down to one, simple question:

Why is Greenland called "Greenland"?

As you probably know, it's called that because when Leif Ericson discovered it a thousand years ago, it was green. That, alone, proves that intense global warming (and cooling) is both cyclical and natural.

Throw the prime motivational factors of money and power into the equation and the whole global warming agenda just snaps into place.

But I've changed my mind since then.

Rather than be deniers, we should be accepters. It isn't the core belief that's wrong, it's our message.

World peace through global warming?

You read it here first. :)  

By Blogger D.E. Cloutier, at Fri Aug 17, 06:09:00 PM:

"Why is Greenland called 'Greenland'?"

It probably was nothing more than early marketing hype. The Vikings were trying to attract Norse settlers. The "promoters" probably named the place Greenland to make it sound more attractive. On some early maps, Greenland was called "Gruntland." "Grunt" means ground.

You might want to do some online research to see who discovered Greenland. It wasn't Leif Ericson. You need look no future than "Erik the Red" on Wiki:

"Even though popular history credits Erik as the founder of Greenland, earlier Norsemen both discovered and tried to settle it before him. Tradition credits Gunnbjörn Ulfsson (also known as Gunnbjörn Ulf-Krakuson) with the first sighting the land mass."  

By Blogger D.E. Cloutier, at Fri Aug 17, 07:08:00 PM:

P.S. However, you probably are right in your key point that there was more "greenness" during the time of Erik the Red and Leif Ericson. The "Medieval Warm Period" lasted from about the tenth century to about the fourteenth century.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Aug 17, 08:55:00 PM:

DEC - Interesting about ol' Eric not being the one to actually discover Greenland, thanks. So much for my knowledge of Norse history. It reminds me of the time a few years ago when I found out Ferdinand Magellan wasn't the first person to circumnavigate the globe. I'd always read he was. Guy barely got halfway around it on the final trip. They just gave him credit because he was the first person to cross all of the globe's meridians. Hmm.  

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