Climate Change Theory History Timeline
Conflicting Views on Climate Change: Fire and Ice
This isn’t a question of science. It’s a question of whether Americans can trust what the media tell them about science. Most scientists do agree that the earth has warmed a little more than a degree in the last 100 years. That doesn’t mean that scientists concur mankind is to blame.
Journalists have warned of climate change for 100 years, but can’t decide whether we face an ice age or warming
Global Research Editor’s Note
This article first published in May 2006 provides an interesting review of the debate on Climate Change.
It was five years before the turn of the century and major media were warning of disastrous climate change. Page six of The New York Times was headlined with the serious concerns of “geologists.” Only the president at the time wasn’t Bill Clinton; it was Grover Cleveland. And the Times wasn’t warning about global warming – it was telling readers the looming dangers of a new ice age.
The year was 1895, and it was just one of four different time periods in the last 100 years when major print media predicted an impending climate crisis. Each prediction carried its own elements of doom, saying Canada could be “wiped out” or lower crop yields would mean “billions will die.”
Just as the weather has changed over time, so has the reporting – blowing hot or cold with short-term changes in temperature.
Following the ice age threats from the late 1800s, fears of an imminent and icy catastrophe were compounded in the 1920s by Arctic explorer Donald MacMillan and an obsession with the news of his polar expedition. As the Times put it on Feb. 24, 1895, “Geologists Think the World May Be Frozen Up Again.”
Those concerns lasted well into the late 1920s. But when the earth’s surface warmed less than half a degree, newspapers and magazines responded with stories about the new threat. Once again the Times was out in front, cautioning “the earth is steadily growing warmer.”
Global Cooling: 1895-1932
Fear spread through the print media over the next three decades. A few months after the sinking of the Titanic, on Oct. 7, 1912, page one of the Times reported, “Prof. Schmidt Warns Us of an Encroaching Ice Age.”
Scientists knew of four ice ages in the past, leading Professor Nathaniel Schmidt of Cornell University to conclude that one day we will need scientific knowledge “to combat the perils” of the next one.
The same day the Los Angeles Times ran an article about Schmidt as well, entitled “Fifth ice age is on the way.” It was subtitled “Human race will have to fight for its existence against cold.”
That end-of-the-world tone wasn’t unusual. “Scientist says Arctic ice will wipe out Canada,” declared a front-page Chicago Tribune headline on Aug. 9, 1923. “Professor Gregory” of Yale University stated that “another world ice-epoch is due.” He was the American representative to the Pan-Pacific Science Congress and warned that North America would disappear as far south as the Great Lakes, and huge parts of Asia and Europe would be “wiped out.”
Then on Sept. 18, 1924, The New York Times declared the threat was real, saying “MacMillan Reports Signs of New Ice Age.”
Global Warming: 1929-1969
Today’s global warming advocates probably don’t even realize their claims aren’t original. Before the cooling worries of the ’70s, America went through global warming fever for several decades around World War II.
The nation entered the “longest warm spell since 1776,” according to a March 27, 1933, New York Times headline. Shifting climate gears from ice to heat, the Associated Press article began “That next ice age, if one is coming … is still a long way off.”
One year earlier, the paper reported that “the earth is steadily growing warmer” in its May 15 edition. The Washington Post felt the heat as well and titled an article simply “Hot weather” on August 2, 1930.
That article, reminiscent of a stand-up comedy routine, told readers that the heat was so bad, people were going to be saying, “Ah, do you remember that torrid summer of 1930. It was so hot that * * *.”
The Los Angeles Times beat both papers to the heat with the headline: “Is another ice age coming?” on March 11, 1929. Its answer to that question: “Most geologists think the world is growing warmer, and that it will continue to get warmer.”
Global Cooling: 1954-1976
The ice age is coming, the sun’s zooming in
Engines stop running, the wheat is growing thin
A nuclear era, but I have no fear
’Cause London is drowning, and I live by the river
— The Clash “London Calling,” released in 1979
The first Earth Day was celebrated on April 22, 1970, amidst hysteria about the dangers of a new ice age. The media had been spreading warnings of a cooling period since the 1950s, but those alarms grew louder in the 1970s.
Three months before, on January 11, The Washington Post told readers to “get a good grip on your long johns, cold weather haters – the worst may be yet to come,” in an article titled “Colder Winters Held Dawn of New Ice Age.” The article quoted climatologist Reid Bryson, who said “there’s no relief in sight” about the cooling trend.
Thanks to A.F. Branco at Legal Insurrection for his great cartoon
Journalists took the threat of another ice age seriously. Fortune magazine actually won a “Science Writing Award” from the American Institute of Physics for its own analysis of the danger. “As for the present cooling trend a number of leading climatologists have concluded that it is very bad news indeed,” Fortune announced in February 1974.
The New York Times noted that in 1972 the “mantle of polar ice increased by 12 percent” and had not returned to “normal” size.
Was the ice melting at record levels, as the headline stated, or at a level seen decades ago, as the first line mentioned?
On Sept. 14, 2005, the Times reported the recession of glaciers “seen from Peru to Tibet to Greenland” could accelerate and become abrupt.
This, in turn, could increase the rise of the sea level and block the Gulf Stream. Hence “a modern counterpart of the 18,000-year-old global-warming event could trigger a new ice age.”
Government Comes to the Rescue
Mankind managed to survive three phases of fear about global warming and cooling without massive bureaucracy and government intervention, but aggressive lobbying by environmental groups finally changed that reality.
The Kyoto treaty, new emissions standards and foreign regulations are but a few examples.
Global Warming: 1981-Present and Beyond
The media have bombarded Americans almost daily with the most recent version of the climate apocalypse.
Global warming has replaced the media’s ice age claims, but the results somehow have stayed the same – the deaths of millions or even billions of people, widespread devastation and starvation.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Nicholas D. Kristof of The New York Times wrote a column that lamented the lack of federal spending on global warming.
2005— New Term: “Climate Change”
“We spend about $500 billion a year on a military budget, yet we don’t want to spend peanuts to protect against climate change,” he said in a Sept. 27, 2005, piece.
Kristof’s words were noteworthy, not for his argument about spending, but for his obvious use of the term “climate change.” While his column was filled with references to “global warming,” it also reflected the latest trend as the coverage has morphed once again.
The two terms are often used interchangeably, but can mean something entirely different.
The latest threat has little to do with global warming and has everything to do with … everything.
The latest predictions claim that warming might well trigger another ice age.
What can one conclude from 110 years of conflicting climate coverage except that the weather changes and the media are just as capricious?
Certainly, their record speaks for itself. Four separate and distinct climate theories targeted at a public taught to believe the news. Only all four versions of the truth can’t possibly be accurate.
For ordinary Americans to judge the media’s version of current events about global warming, it is necessary to admit that journalists have misrepresented the story three other times.
Yet no one in the media is owning up to that fact. Newspapers that pride themselves on correction policies for the smallest errors now find themselves facing a historical record that is enormous and unforgiving.
It is time for the news media to admit a consistent failure to report this issue fairly or accurately, with due skepticism of scientific claims.
It would be difficult for the media to do a worse job with climate change coverage. Perhaps the most important suggestion would be to remember the basic rules about journalism and set aside biases — a simple suggestion, but far from easy given the overwhelming extent of the problem.
Three of the guidelines from the Society of Professional Journalists are especially appropriate:
“Support the open exchange of views, even views they find repugnant.”
“Give voice to the voiceless; official and unofficial sources of information can be equally valid.”
“Distinguish between advocacy and news reporting. Analysis and commentary should be labeled and not misrepresent fact or context.”
Some other important points include:
Don’t Stifle Debate:
Most scientists do agree that the earth has warmed a little more than a degree in the last 100 years. That doesn’t mean that scientists concur mankind is to blame. Even if that were the case, the impact of warming is unclear.
People in northern climes might enjoy improved weather and longer growing seasons.
Don’t Ignore the Cost:
Global warming solutions pushed by environmental groups are notoriously expensive. Just signing on to the Kyoto treaty would have cost the United States several hundred billion dollars each year, according to estimates from the U.S. government generated during President Bill Clinton’s term.
Every story that talks about new regulations or forced cutbacks on emissions should discuss the cost of those proposals.
Report Accurately on Statistics:
Accurate temperature records have been kept only since the end of the 19th Century, shortly after the world left the Little Ice Age. So while recorded temperatures are increasing, they are not the warmest ever. A 2003 study by Harvard and the Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, “20th Century Climate Not So Hot,” “determined that the 20th century is neither the warmest century nor the century with the most extreme weather of the past 1,000 years.
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Remember the fable of “Chicken Little?” See this related post for an amusing view of today’s hysterical journalists.