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Timely warnings about climate change

By Russell Grenning - posted Wednesday, 11 October 2017


When such prestigious news magazines such as Newsweek and Time publish almost matching stories quoting eminent scientists about a looming ecological disaster because of climate change, even the doubters and deniers have to sit up and take notice.

The experts quoted by both predicted utter disaster for human civilisation with the onset of droughts, floods and other freak weather events which would devastate huge areas of agricultural land leading to mass starvation on a global scale.

Time, for example, pointed out that, "In England, farmers have seen their growing season decline by about two weeks since 1950, with a resultant overall loss in grain production estimated at up to 100,000 tons annually" all due to the alarming fact that, according to Newsweek, "Rainy Britain...has suffered from uncharacteristic dry spells the past few springs."

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In their assessments of why this is happening, the two magazines had slightly different explanations: Newsweek attributed this coming Armageddon to "large numbers of pressure centres in the upper atmosphere" which were breaking up air flows and creating stagnant air thus producing "extremes of local weather such as droughts, floods, extended dry spells, long freezes, delayed monsoons and even local temperature increases."

Time believed on the best available scientific evidence that the "expansion of the great belt of dry, high-altitude polar winds – the so-called circumpolarvortex" was blocking moisture-bearing winds thus causing droughts in the subtropical belt and tornadoes in the Midwest of the USA.

This was truly scary stuff. Yes, the very best climate scientists believed completely and sincerely that the earth was undergoing an irreversible global cooling.

For these dire predictions to have had any effect on you at the time of publication you would have to have been born any time before about 1960 – the Newsweek article was published in April, 1975 and the Time piece appeared in June, 1974. Both insightful articles were based on irrefutable current scientific knowledge and both came to the same conclusion – a new ice way was on its way.

Newsweek, in its lead article entitled, "The Cooling World" on 28 April, 1975, summed up the consensus view of the world's best scientists, "The central fact is that after three quarters of a century of extraordinarily mild conditions, the Earth's climate seems to be cooling down. Meteorologists disagree about the cause and extent of the cooling trend, as well as over its specific impact on localweather conditions. But they are almost unanimous in the view that the trend will reduce agricultural productivity for the rest of the century."

Newsweek explained at the time, "...what causes the onset of major and minorice ages remains a mystery" and gravely warned, "... the scientists see few signs that government leaders anywhere are even prepared to take the simple measures of stockpiling food or of introducing the variables of climatic uncertainty into economic future food supplies".

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Warming to its subject – and no pun intended – Newsweek warned that "... the resulting famines could be catastrophic" and there would be "drought and desolation" not to mention "the most devastating outbreak of tornadoes everrecorded" and that it would be "impossible for starving people to migrate" and, ominously, "... the present decline has taken the planet about a sixth of the way towards the Ice Age."

These articles were not scare-mongering.

The US National Science Board in 1972 and 1974 issued reports confirming global cooling. Its 1974 report stated, "During the last 20 – 30 years, world temperature has fallen, irregularly at first but more sharply over the next decade."

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About the Author

Russell Grenning is a retired political adviser and journalist who began his career at the ABC in 1968 and subsequently worked for the then Brisbane afternoon daily, The Telegraph and later as a columnist for The Courier Mail and The Australian.

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