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George Will and the “global cooling” myth.



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Recently Washington Post commentator George Will called the scientific consensus that we need to reduce carbon emissions a “hypothetical calamity” (printed Feb. 20 in Kansas City Star, Feb 15th in the Washington Post). He referred to a currently popular notion that climate scientists are fickle and as recently as the 1970s were largely warning of the opposite problem, “global cooling.” While there are many good refutations to the notions in the column, your author suspects that this issue in various forms and from various sources may influence Kansas legislators. (The notion is repeated by the Heartland Institute, which provides literature to Kansas legislators.) Meetings with Kansas legislators suggest that they see the issue of global climate change as largely unsettled in the minds of scientists, and a vast majority have voted to override the Governor’s veto of a bill to allow new coal-fired power plants in Kansas. Below are several links written by highly reputable scientists and science writers on this issue of the so called “global cooling myth:”

Real Climate: The global cooling mole. (By John Fleck, science writer for the Albuquerque Journal, and William Connolley, a former a climate modeller with the British Antarctic Survey.)

George Will and the Global Cooling Scare. (John Fleck’s A reporter’s notebook about science and technology, hosted by the Albuquerque Journal.)

Real Climate, on “global cooling” issue in recent CNN programming.  (By Gavin Schmidt, a climate modeller at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York.)

Real Climate’s Peterson, Connolley, and Fleck did a study to counter the ”myth” that atmospheric scientists were predicting “global cooling” in the 1970’s. (Link is PDF file).

Real Climate: The global cooling myth (William Connolley, includes refuting an identical quote out of context from Will in 2005.)

A specific example, from this last article, deals with Will’s statement that scientists wrote about “extensive Northern Hemisphere glaciation.” (An identical quote from a 2005 editorial which Will repeats.) The problem is that article, from Dec. 10, 1976 Science Magazine, deals with something that may happen sometime in the next 20,000 years or so! Now humans have only built civilizations for the last 6,000 years, and engaged in agriculture for at most 11,000 years. The issue was dealing with something that possibly may take place in a time span many times longer that that of human civilization — but hardly an eminent occurrence. However global climate changes are of immediate scientific concern about events occurring in the next few decades.

A few misguided popular press articles from a time in which climate change science was in its infancy cannot be compared to virtually every science organization of national or international standing’s current warning that climate change is happening now and that greenhouse gas emissions should be reduced.

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