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Thursday, July 28th 2011


The Coming Ice Age: A Reminiscence

  • IN THE BACKDROP: The Mentalist


Man, it continues to be hot. It's an incredible heat wave.----How hot is it?-----Well, I put an egg on the side walk to see if it would fry, and when I got back, there was a bucket of fried chicken.

But really, it is unbelievably hot. We've had temperatures over the 90's F for 12 or so days in a row now. It's just plain hot. ----How hot is it?-----Well, it's so hot that people are cooling off by spraying each other with cans of mace.

But really, it's incredibly hot.-----How hot is it?-----Well, it's so hot that some people think that maybe we're not headed for another ice age after all.

Oh yeah, I forgot. We're past that. The current hot weather in the midwest certainly seems to fit in with the model of global warming. Then, again, so did the cold winter. At least some people are advocating that idea, while other people are amazed at the paradox. Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe pointed out in 2007, in reaction to a Newsweek story trashing people not on board with the androgenic global warming doctrine (viz. there is global warming, and it's caused by human beings) that in 1975 Newsweek ran a rather dogmatic story about the certainty of global cooling. Peter Gwynne, based on the reports from his bureaus, asserted:

The evidence in support of these predictions has now begun to accumulate so massively that meteorologists are hard-pressed to keep up with it. In England, farmers have seen their growing season decline by about two weeks since 1950, with a resultant overall loss in grain production estimated at up to 100,000 tons annually.

And it appears that there was not much doubt among the scientific community at the time.

To scientists, [a number of] seemingly disparate incidents represent the advance signs of fundamental changes in the world’s weather. The central fact is that after three quarters of a century of extraordinarily mild conditions, the earth’s climate seems to be cooling down. Meteorologists disagree about the cause and extent of the cooling trend, as well as over its specific impact on local weather conditions. But they are almost unanimous in the view that the trend will reduce agricultural productivity for the rest of the century. If the climatic change is as profound as some of the pessimists fear, the resulting famines could be catastrophic.

Needless to say, the bottom line was the irresponsibility of governments, who would not face the facts and deal with the upcoming crisis right then before it would be too late. Peter Gwynn concluded with this opinion:

Climatologists are pessimistic that political leaders will take any positive action to compensate for the climatic change, or even to allay its effects. They concede that some of the more spectacular solutions proposed, such as melting the Arctic ice cap by covering it with black soot or diverting arctic rivers, might create problems far greater than those they solve. But the scientists see few signs that government leaders anywhere are even prepared to take the simple measures of stockpiling food or of introducing the variables of climatic uncertainty into economic projections of future food supplies. The longer the planners delay, the more difficult will they find it to cope with climatic change once the results become grim reality.

Time Magazine April, 1977a

Yes, you read correctly. It said, "melting the Arctic ice cap by covering it with black soot or diverting arctic rivers." Aren't you glad that at that time governments had not yet turned scientific hypotheses into doctrines? Time Magazine was on board as well, as displayed by its cover in April of 1977. What makes this whole phenomenon so interesting is the degree of certitude with which the "scientific community" tends to express itself, at least as represented in popular magazines. 

By the way if you have sufficient computer resolution or occular power, note the center panel of the top banner. It reads: "Beyond Detente: Why We Can't Beat the Soviets." Detente literally means the relaxation of tension, and it was achieved during the Nixon presidency. The sentiment of the headline reflects the defeatist spirit of the Jimmy Carter era, which was just beginning. President Carter himself described the country- wide attitude towards the close of his term as a "national malaise." Ronald Reagan became president in 1981, ending detente, and, thereby, contributing to the end of communism in Europe. And, in case you're wondering, Mikhail Gorbachev was not a part of the detente era either. He also came on the scene later, first making global headlines with his leadership style when he sent tanks into the Baltic republics in order to suppress dissent there. Enjoying little trust among his fellow Soviet leaders, his policy of "openness" (glasnost) became a pragmatic necessity to remain in power. But I'm digressing, and it's too hot to digress for too long.

In case you're wondering about my personal views of "global warming" or the earlier supposed phenomenon, "global cooling," I think it's silly to deny global climate changes. The climate has always changed and will continue to change, perhaps with the temperature going up for a while longer, perhaps heading towards another sudden cooling period. As I'm sure I've mentioned on this blog before, when the Vikings established their colony on Greenland, they gave it that name because the portion of the island on which they settled was green, mild, and fertile. Furthermore, when they made their expedition to America, they called the land  around Newfoundland and Labrador "Vinland"  because grapes were growing there. The days were warm and balmy, but eventually the earth turned down its thermostat. There is no "normal" average temperature for the earth, and, by the way, as Jeff Jacoby mentioned in his follow-up article, scientists have revised their error and are no longer affirming that 1988 was the warmest year on record ever. Unsurprisingly, it was 1934, right in the middle of the "Dust Bowl" era. I think the report by the National Academy of Sciences, mentioned in the 1975 Newsweek story had it right.

“Our knowledge of the mechanisms of climatic change is at least as fragmentary as our data. Not only are the basic scientific questions largely unanswered, but in many cases we do not yet know enough to pose the key questions.”

As far as I can tell, things are not much different today, except certain scientific hypotheses have become embodied in ideological dogma. To be sure, contemporary predictions use computer-generated models, which make predictions more precise, but not necessarily more certain. As everyone knows, to this day computers are still no better than the algorithms with which they are programmed and the data they are fed. I might just add that the plausibility of the claims made by ideological ecologists (or is that ecological ideologists?) are reduced in direct proportion to the volume of their voices and the hostility of their tone (a principle not limited to this issue).

In the meantime, it sure is hot. Yep, it's definitely hot.-----How hot is it?----Well, it's so hot that all of the kid's lemonade has evaporated, and he's selling empty cups at his stand.

In fact, it's so hot that I wound up putting together a blog entry that I had no intention of writing.

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