Thursday 27th October 2016                 Change text size:

The 12 days of climate change myths: #12, What were climate scientists predicting in the 1970s?

The 12 days of climate change myths: #12, What were climate scientists predicting in the 1970s?

Thanks to Skeptical Science, Blue & Green Tomorrow will be fighting to debunk climate change myths over the Christmas holidays.

We kick things off by looking at the idea that in the 1970s, they weren’t predicting global warming, but an ice age.

The sceptic argument…

“The media had been spreading warnings of a cooling period since the 1950s, but those alarms grew louder in the 1970s. In 1975, cooling went from ‘one of the most important problems’ to a first-place tie for ‘death and misery’. The claims of global catastrophe were remarkably similar to what the media deliver now about global warming.”

(Fire and Ice).

What the science says…

The vast majority of climate papers in the 1970s predicted warming.

In the thirty years leading up to the 1970s, available temperature recordings suggested that there was a cooling trend. As a result some scientists suggested that the current inter-glacial period could rapidly draw to a close, which might result in the Earth plunging into a new ice age over the next few centuries. This idea could have been reinforced by the knowledge that the smog that climatologists call ‘aerosols’ – emitted by human activities into the atmosphere – also caused cooling. In fact, as temperature recording has improved in coverage, it’s become apparent that the cooling trend was most pronounced in northern land areas and that global temperature trends were in fact relatively steady during the period prior to 1970.

At the same time as some scientists were suggesting we might be facing another ice age, a greater number published contradicting studies. Their papers showed that the growing amount of greenhouse gasses that humans were putting into the atmosphere would cause much greater warming – warming that would have a much greater influence on global temperature than any possible natural or human-caused cooling effects.

By 1980 the predictions about ice ages had ceased, due to the overwhelming evidence contained in an increasing number of reports that warned of global warming. Unfortunately, the small number of predictions of an ice age appeared to be much more interesting than those of global warming, so it was those sensational ‘Ice Age’ stories in the press that so many people tend to remember.

The fact is that around 1970 there were 6 times as many scientists predicting a warming rather than a cooling planet. Today, with 30+years more data to analyse, we’ve reached a clear scientific consensus. 97% of working climate scientists agree with the view that human beings are causing global warming.

Many thanks to Skeptical Science for allowing us to republish their work. To view the original article, click here.

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