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Global Cooling

Commentary by Greg Lewis /
January 13, 2004

A 1975 Newsweek Magazine article contained the following summary of dire predictions about the climatic future of our planet:

There are ominous signs that the Earth's weather patterns have begun to change dramatically. . . . A survey completed last year by Dr. Murray Mitchell of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reveals a drop of half a degree in average ground temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere between 1945 and 1968. According to George Kukla of Columbia University, satellite photos indicated a sudden, large increase in Northern Hemisphere snow cover in the winter of 1971-72. And a study released last month by two NOAA scientists notes that the amount of sunshine reaching the ground in the continental U.S. diminished by 1.3% between 1964 and 1972.

The article was entitled "The Cooling World," and it painted a doomsday picture of crop failures and widespread starvation due to the dramatic cooling that had been taking place in the previous quarter century and was continuing at a rapid pace. The question is, What happened between 1975 and the early 1990s, when predictions suddenly reversed and scientists began to caterwaul about global warming and the disastrous effects of the increase in the earth's temperature many of them had begun to "observe?"

It's gradually becoming evident that much so-called "scientific" activity has — especially within the past 20 years or so, but historically as well — become a corrupt, agenda-driven enterprise, with the results of a given study very often depending more on who funded it or on the politics and preconceptions of those conducting it than on pure scientific enterprise or the disinterested integrity of the researchers.

It's no surprise, for instance, that during the Clinton administration it was very difficult to get a climatological study funded by a Federal Agency if you weren't damn sure your results were going to show that in less than a century we're going to experience the catastrophic effects of a rapidly warming climate on a global scale. Forget it if your study didn't paint a grim picture of polar ice caps melting, sea levels rising, and a veritable jungle of plant life gradually taking over to choke out many other forms of life, forms of life which, damn it, deserve to survive. And it wouldn't hurt a bit if your study which confirmed the "fact" and dangers of the impending warm-up found a way to blame humankind, especially industrialized humankind, and even more especially American industrialized humankind, for the disaster that was about to befall humanity.

(What is actually more surprising among those who are most vociferous in their arguments that global warming is "real" and that it spells potential doom for humanity, is that they're actually worried about humans at all. If you examine their positions on other related issues — the fact that they're willing to trade thousands of additional lives lost in traffic accidents for greater fuel efficiency in automobiles comes immediately to mind — you'd really expect them to be saying something like, "Well, global warming may mean the end of humanity, but think of all the snail darters and snowy owls that will have a chance to really flourish once we're gone.")

A significant part of the problem is that scientific research has become a variant of the television show "Family Feud." That show, you'll remember, rewarded people for coming up with the same answers as those revealed by a survey of audience members. Now, however, instead of "Name three things you find in the bathroom," you're more likely to hear "Name three global conditions that could disastrously affect mankind's future on earth." Survey says: Global warming. Nuclear war. Unregulated telemarketers.

Except, of course, the survey answers change every decade or so. If Richard Dawson had asked the question in 1975, that first answer would have been "global cooling." While it's difficult to pinpoint causes for the shift of the "scientific" community's position from global cooling to global warming as the major long-term threat to our existence, we can isolate two things as important.

First, there is the rise of the computer model as the digital "bible" of so-called scientists. A computer model is a program into which its users enter suspect and incomplete and almost invariably inaccurate data and arrive at conclusions about the future that have absolutely no way of being verified and will inevitably prove those who reach them to be absolute idiots, except for the fact that those who have reached them will be long gone by the time we can verify or discredit the conclusions. Paul Ehrlich (who is still alive to see what an idiot he was) predicted in the early 1970s that before the turn of the 20th century, the "population bomb" would explode and that hundreds of millions of people, especially in third world countries, would die in the massive famines that resulted because of overpopulation. Not even close.

Second, and equally important, there is the politicization of science. If it hadn't been for the fact that George W. Bush has been occupied with cleaning up the mess left by Bill Clinton's ignoring the real threats to our nation's safety, such as Islamist terrorism, while concentrating on ginning up fears about global warming, I would argue that the Bush Presidency would be busy turning the tables and selling us on global cooling. The point is that neither position is at all tenable.

Despite the fact that we have no credible evidence either way that the planet is cooling down or heating up, researchers today are frequently willing to sell their souls to convince us that there is. Stephen Schneider, a scientist who criticized Bjørn Lomborg, author of The Skeptical Environmentalist, for amassing evidence against global warming, offers this assessment of what scientists need to do to convince people that global warming is real: "[W]e have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, make little mention of any doubts we might have[,] . . . decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest."

In one of the few instances where justice has been done during the lifetime of a scientist who was wrongly accused of bucking orthodox views, Lomborg was recently acquitted of charges of "scientific dishonesty" which had been leveled at him by the Danish government in league with such lying fools as Stephen Schneider. It's a situation woefully in need of redress that there is a need for such injustices to be undone, and that in the current politically charged arena of public debate we can't divorce discussion of the science which forms the foundation of political policy from the policy itself.

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