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 Anyway: in the published scientific literature, the global cooling idea started in fact evaporating in 1975, and had been replaced by global warming at full speed from 1979 or so (curiously, in sync with the PDO…).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.