About those headlines from the past century about global cooling…

Both sides of the public (not professional) climate change debate have consisted of chaff.  That’s unfortunate for a topic of such importance.  Which side has done better, sticking with verified evidence?  It’s beyond my resources to determine this.  The FM website has many article about the nonsense — over mob-like, or herd-like, behavior — of the anthropogenic global warming (AGW) believers.  Today we look at an example on the other side of the debate.

The pro-AGW folks say that there has never been a consensus among scientists that global cooling was a likely danger.  While correct, it’s a strawman.  The skeptics say that there have been many eminent scientists forecasting global cooling.  The record shows this beyond question (see here and esp here).

But the skeptics often go to far, showing lists of general media headlines warning about global cooling (examples here and here).  But…

  • they almost always lack authoritative sources,
  • without links or text, and
  • don’t prove that many scientists shared these concerns (as articles in journals would).

Here we examine one such story (for which Google shows two thousand hits).   

“Scientist says Arctic ice will wipe out Canada.”, Chicago Tribune, 9 August 1923 — Statements by Professor H. E. Gregory of Yale University, American representative to the Pan-Pacific Science Congress.  He predicted that predicted that large parts of Europe and Asia would be “wiped out” and Switzerland would be “entirely obliterated.”  {primary source, supplemented by others}

Background information: the Second Pan-Pacific Science Congress was held 13 — 22 August 1923 in Melbourne, Australia and 23 August — 3 September 1923 in Sydney. See their website here.

We know more about this story than most in these lists of “global cooling” headlines.  What was actually said at the second Pan-Pacific Science Congress about Prof Gregory’s forecast?  For the answer we turn to the conference summary in Nature, 8 September 1923 (subscription only; abstract here).  Professor Gregory is mentioned as an organizer of the Conference.  About climate change, Nature reports the following news from the Conference:

”   “

Perhaps they discussed Prof Gregory’s fears over drinks at the bar.  But nobody, including Prof Gregory,wrote them up.  Google shows references to several articles by Prof Gregory, but nothing about the return of the glaciers.

FM Recommendations

When reading about any politicized issue:  skepticism, skepticism, skepticism.

As for the public policy aspects of climate change, here are recommendations — things that must be done, whatever the cost — although it would be trivial compared, for instance, to global military spending.

  1. Raise the standards when applying science research to public policy questions.
  2. Provide greater transparency of data and methods used in climate science research.
  3. Provide third party review of the data, analysis, and modeling is necessary.
  4. Improve the various global climate data collection and analysis systems – satellite, radiosonde, and surface.
  5. Rationally apply the precautionary principle.

For more about these things see My “wish list” for the climate sciences in 2009.

For more information from the FM site

To read other articles about these things, see the FM reference page on the right side menu bar. Of esp relevance to this topic:

  • About Science & Nature – my articles
  • About Science & nature – studies & reports (esp section 4 about the solar cycle)
  • About Science & Nature – general media articles
  • About Science & Nature – the history of climate fears
  • Reference pages about other topics appear on the right side menu bar, including About the FM website page.

    Posts about fears of global cooling:

    1. More forecasts of a global cooling cycle, 15 July 2008
    2. Good news about global warming!, 21 October 2008
    3. An important new article about climate change, 29 December 2008
    4. An important letter sent to the President about the danger of climate change, 21 October 2009


    Please share your comments by posting below.  Per the FM site’s Comment Policy, please make them brief (250 word max), civil and relevant to this post.  Or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).

    19 thoughts on “About those headlines from the past century about global cooling…”

    1. “Which side has done better, sticking with verified evidence? It’s beyond my resources to determine this.”

      I’d start with asking which side embraces censorship. You will find that pro AGW sites remove comments that don’t support their view. The skeptic sites take all comment so long as they aren’t obscene. One side wants open debate, the other seeks to suppress debate. Looks like the AGW people have a lot to fear.
      Fabius Maximus replies: That’s a powerful observation. Compare RealClimate with ClimateAudit. One edits comments, gutting criticism — deleting esp trenchent and well-suportered rebuttals. ClimateAudit moderates only for civility (and sometimes to maintain focus).

    2. AGWers often run it to the problem of record history. If the RealClimate people are right, then there were no vikings or incas, the driving forces of American and French revolutions no longer exist.

      Most fields of science and history, while unrelated to the climate issue, use data as their basis that contradicts the AGW models.

      I feel sorry for scientists because it has become “You’re free to study the incas so long as you don’t relate their success to the medieval warm period because we AGWers pretend the medieval warm period never happened.”

    3. So the media exaggerated the global cooling story in the past and gave us apocalyptic headlines to sell newspapers? Much like today with the present warming period? Are the scientists feeding the media, or is it the other way around?

    4. Apocalyptic headlines go back to the early 1800s. About every 30 years there was a switch from the planet becoming an ice ball to the planet burning up.

      Today the goal is statism. The government paid “scientists” create climate models of events that don’t exist in nature. The politicians take the data they bought from the “scientists” and feed it to the media. The media loves a good end of world story. The “scientists” get money and the politicians get control of the economy.

    5. Re #1

      I would also add that one side wants open data and methodology, while the other side wishes to suppress access.

    6. financial crisis

      …but it’s not just “a good end of world story”, it’s a common project that the masses can get involved in. Hence The Green Religion…

    7. As America declines we will see many more conspiracy theories. Indeed it is in danger of becoming the dominant paradigm through which Americans see all things, replacing the American Dream.

      Not only does it provide a simple clear and understandable answer for decline, but people find conspiracies greatly entertaining. And entertainment is always in great demand as things get worse.

      That would all be fine if they weren’t so destructive. It is increasingly becoming America’s great competitive disadvantage. Raise an issue critical to America’s future and you will get far more about who is to blame, than the real forces at work, and even what should be done. It leads to a social and economic paralysis that accelerates the decline.

      America is being left behind not only in the green industries but in the next generation of globalization that is partially a result of facing such problems realistically.

    8. Taleb changed my climate mind. Since some things are unpredictable, we need to make systems that will still work, even if we guess wrong.


    9. Maybe some day we will get an accurate weather forecast, in advance, based on model instead of observation. But don’t hold your breath.

      If climate is inherently unpredictable, no use worrying about it so much.

    10. But Taleb resonates so well because if something isn’t a conspiracy then it must be completely unpredictable and any attempt to understand is futile. So only the conspiracy remains as a plausible way to understand things.

    11. In a way, the conspiracy theory is secretly comforting. I would like to believe that somewhere, some secret cabal, wiser than myself, is running the show. He he, we should be so lucky.

    12. There be thinkers here. Some of you might like to take a look at the surfacestations (dot)org site. The goal of the project is photograph the location where USHCN climate station are located. I won’t comment, I’ll let you think.

    13. Fabius, don’t forget that the AGW profiteers have become the Deniers, now, as they frantically try to avoid recognition of the current Global Cooling trend.

      You linked to my climate change timeline article, but I think the sudden flood of contradictory attempts to deal with “4th Year of Global Cooling, NOAA Says” (posted at But Now You Know, 11 September 2009) this global cooling observation is just as indicative of their tendency to spin “trends” for their own profit.

      Note that it was easier for me to find the Timeline articles from mainstream media, most of which referred to scientists making claims, than it would be for me to dig up the articles in journals that were probably their sources — but this doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

      Meanwhile, the timeline still shows a trend of static projection turning into hysterics, ALWAYS ending up wrong. The fact that we’re in our fourth year of global cooling, right now, backs that up.
      FM reply: Thank you for replying. Do you have sources for those timeline headlines? Or better yet, text for the underlying articles?

      “but this doesn’t mean they don’t exist.”

      It does not mean that they do exist, either. That’s why they are not meaningful evidence. All we have so far is my one test, which shows the “listing headline” method to an unreliable indicator of actual scientific work. I suggest better sourcing, as in this post: “An important letter sent to the President about the danger of climate change“.

    14. Burke G Sheppard

      If there was an open vote for scariest post, I must have missed it, but yes, Fabius, this is a scary post. had you come to my door on Halloween night in your Roman General costume, I would surely have given you candy.

      But seriously, regarding your proposed solutions, you’ve provided another argument against the Fed buying up long T bills if it wishes to increase the money supply. If the Fed must buy bonds, preference should be given to buying up shorter term notes. (And buying long bonds can imperil the Fed’s balance sheet anyway.)

      Regarding yor proposed solutions, I cannot speak to the practicality of #1. #3 seems most likely to work. #2 may have its merits, but depends on our rulers having the judgement to distinguish between projects that truly benefit the economy versus projects that benefit their own constituencies and political prospects. Good luck with that one.

    15. The question posed often by the advocates of the Global Warming theory is: “Don’t you believe….”
      This is where your antennas should go up. The science is not based on a ‘belief’, but from no on it again may be.

      Here’s more on the Global Cooling in the 70’s, by Climate Depot. Also, today, when I thought it all couldn’t get any sillier, i stumbled up on this here, through an article/paean in NYT: The Alliance for Climate Protection.

      disappointingly, the Climate that Mr. Gore is protecting in not defined here. I meant, there has to be the Perfect Climate, the Right Climate, the Climate Standard, the Exemplary Climate. We can only hope that the 3,000 trained personally by Mr. Gore volunteers know what that is: The Climate Project.
      FM reply: I do not understand your point, let alone its relevance to this post. The Climate Depot article is exactly the sort of nonsense I refer to in this post. It cites many mainstream media articles, but few scientific papers from the 1970’s.

    16. Scott Scarborough

      I take the articles about global cooling in the 70’s to indicate that it was, in fact, cooling in the 60’s and 70’s. That may be a hard thing to determine with all of the fiddling with the temperature record that goes on. As far as a consensus, of course there wasn’t. There was no organization around back then like the IPCC to promote such a consensus. That is a function of the political climate not the actual climate. Obviously many well known scientists promoted global cooling back then – Obama’s science adviser and Steven Schneider to name a couple (I have seen them on video tape doing so, so it would be a little hard for you to convince me otherwise).

      1. Scott,

        I agree, the politics of climate change of the 1970s have lessons for us.

        There were many scientists in the 1970s forecasting continued cooling. They were a minority, however. The majority was concerned about human influences on climate, but were uncertain which would prove larger: CO2 warming or cooling from aerosols.

        For more about this subject see:

        1. An important letter sent to the President about the danger of climate change, 21 October 2009
        2. About those headlines from the past century about global cooling…, 2 November 2009
        3. A look at global warming written in a cooler and more skeptical time, giving us a better understanding of climate science, 23 November 2009
        4. The facts about the 1970’s Global Cooling scare, 7 December 2009

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