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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."


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".


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."

In 1975, the US National Academy of Science issued a similar warning.

It warned, "The average surface air temperature in the northern hemisphere increased from the 1880s until about 1940 and has been decreasing hereafter" and this prompted their call for, "... the creation of a new National ClimateResearch Program" because " ... the time has come to initiate a broad and co-ordinated attack on the problem of climate and climatic change."

In November 1978 the BBC reported in its special investigation "The Weather Machine" that we could expect massive global disruption because of cooling and interviewed a leading US expert at the time Professor George Kukla who bluntly stated, "The new ice age is due now anytime."

In 1970, Dr Arnold Reitze, described as a leading expect on the legal aspects of climate change, was reported as asserting, "We will be forced to sacrifice democracy by the laws that will protect us from further pollution." Dr Reitze was an apostle of the new ice age theory.

In 1978, the actor Leonard Nimoy who memorably played Dr Spock in the Star Trek series introduced a hugely popular US TV documentary entitled "The Coming Ice Age" which began, "Climate experts believe that next ice age is on its way. According to recent evidence, it could come sooner than anyone expected."

Now, doesn't that sound eerily familiar?

On 23 October 2006, Newsweek issued a "correction"of its 1975 article saying that it had been "spectacularly wrong about the near-term future"although, to be fair and honest, their 1975 journalists had simply been reporting the overwhelming views of the then acknowledged experts.

Now, of course, we are expected to believe that there is global warming although there has been a subtle shift from that assertion as the evidence piles up that it is simply not happening that it is really "climate change". The convenient thing is that "climate change" could mean anything from a new ice age to sweltering heat and everything in between.

Many scientists managed to smoothly change tack from dire predictions of global cooling in the 1970s to global warming in the 2000s. Typical was Dr Steven Schneider, Professor of Environmental Biology and Global Change at the prestigious US Stanford University. Professor Schneider, who died in 2010, was a White House consultant to seven US Presidents from Nixon to Obama.

In 1978 he was loudly and confidently predicting a complete global environmental catastrophe due to a the impending new ice age and thirty years later, with equal confidence and stridency, he was predicting a huge environmental disaster because of global warming.

In recent years there has been a little-noticed development designed to obliterate from history the 1970s assertions of a new ice age and create the impression that the new ice age predictions were really very, very few and, in any case, were journalistic embellishments and misrepresentations of cautious and highly qualified scientific papers.

At the turn of the century, software engineer William Connolley with two others founded the blog. The UK's The Telegraph in 2009 published a major investigation of what Connolley had been doing to "cleanse" the internet of embarrassing 1970s ice age predictions.

It revealed that he had been quietly removing or rewriting the history of the 1970s global cooling scare from Wikipedia, the world's most influential and accessed information source.

The Telegraph reported, "All told, Connolley created or rewrote 5,428 unique Wikipedia articles. His control over Wikipedia was greater still through the role he obtained at Wikipedia as a website administrator, which allowed him to act with virtual impunity. When Connolley didn't like the subject of a certain article, he removed it – more than 500 articles of various descriptions disappeared at his hand. When he disapproved of the arguments that others were making, he often had them barred – over 2,000 Wikipedia contributors who ran afoul of him found themselves blocked from making further contributions."

It continued, "Acolytes whose writing conformed to Connolley's global warming views, in contrast, were rewarded with Wikipedia's blessings. In these ways, Connolley turned Wikipedia into the missionary wing of the global warming movement."

It will come as no surprise to learn that Connolley has been an unsuccessful UK Green Party candidate.

Eventually, the outcry against Connolley was so great that he was limited by Wikipedia to making just one edit a day. The "Journal of Science Communications in 2009 noted " ... a Wikipedia arbitration in which it was concluded that Connolley had used administrator privileges to his own advantage in content disputes and these privileges were removed.

Connolley and Wikipedia parted company that year but his influence has continued and his campaign to erase inconvenient truths has been embraced by others.

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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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