Breaking News! It's Global Warming! No Wait it's Cooling! No Wait…(Part 1)
The world is warming at an unprecedented rate. The dire and irrefutable results of this global temperature heat wave will be starvation, inundation of coastal cities, war and the death of billions and the mass extinction of species. But the latest twist is that now climate change is anthropogenic, man-made, and so we must change the way we live, the way we produce energy or we will kill everyone and the planet. These warnings come to us from reliable news media. We have been alerted to this climate catastrophe for two decades now. Surely all these respected and long-lived newspapers, magazines and television networks can be trusted to tell us what the current state of the climate is and what it will do. At least one would think so.
Interestingly, the history of climate reporting in the press reveals many dirty little inconvenient truths not unlike so many other alarmisms, from the “population bomb” which would have caused the death of two billion people by the 1980s, to aids, which would have infected the majority of Americans by 2000 and, to the Y2K disaster that never came to be. Of course, barely dig into the story and social engineering emerges from politicians, Hollywood stars and assorted activists. In turn, with the support of the ubiquitous “scientists,” they take umbrage for their social aims.
When one looks carefully back at the history of climate stories in the media a remarkably consistent theme re-occurs. It borders to a comedy routine had it not had such massive public impact during the last few years.
All of the recent reporting of unrelenting global warming and its dire consequences is in fact old news and today’s news is bordering on mere regurgitation of decades old stories. As the global temperature has cycled from cold to warm to cold to warm again, the media has followed at almost lock step with it. But media cycles of climate doom, which mirror the climate cycles themselves, have roughly a ten to fifteen year time lag. It seems whenever the world warms up the number of global warming stories increases to match the trend; conversely when the climate cools down the media pull up on their long johns and warn of the next ice age. It is forthcoming for certain.
In the news media whatever is popular will be immediately copied and embellished to fit each outlets particular brand. It is simple really: whatever sells it sells and if it “bleeds it leads.” Reporting on climate is no different and history proves it.
The first climate story was before the end of the nineteenth century. On February 24, 1895 the New York Times reported “Geologists think the world may be frozen up again.” The story wondered “Whether recent and long continued observations do not point to the advent of a second glacial period.”
Sensational events are taken advantage and their interpretation can always be blamed on climate. In 1912, shortly after the sinking of the Titanic by an iceberg the New York Times reported on a professor from Cornell University: “Professor Nathaniel Schmidt warns us of an encroaching ice age.” On the very same day the Los Angeles Times wrote “Fifth ice age is on the way.” The story went on “Human race will have to fight for its existence against the cold.” Climate was selling then as it does now.
At this point one might look at the basis of what was reported then. A look at the temperature records from the Climate research Unit of the University of East Anglia in England (of the recent “Climate-gate” notoriety) is helpful. According to the temperature history, the earth was cooling from about 1875 to 1910, about 35 years of downward temperature trends. During that time there would have been more ice in the arctic and glaciers would have advanced. The subsequent media stories were based upon what scientists of the day were observing: it was getting colder. From there the media outlets drew their own conclusions as to what this would bring to the future of climate and humanity. Invariably it would bring catastrophe.
The oceans of the world store more than one thousand times more heat than the atmosphere. The vast majority of that heat is in the tropical waters. When the oceans warm so does the atmosphere; when they cool, global temperatures follow. The Pacific Ocean covers a third of the earth’s surface and exhibits a dominant impact on the global temperature. Around 1910 the tropical Pacific Ocean began to warm. The impacts of such a warming are not always readily apparent. It takes years for glaciers and sea ice to react to the gradual ocean warming. Such was the case in the 1910s and into the 1920s.
The huge social inertia generated by the ice age scare prior to 1910 continued to drive media fear stories of upcoming cold into the 1920s. Life was not as fast in those days and social change took place more slowly. On July 3, 1923 the Christian Science Monitor reported “Captain MacMillan left Wiscasset Maine announcing that one of the purposes of his cruise was to determine whether there was the beginning of another ice age as the advance of glaciers in the last 70 years would seem to indicate.” A year later on September 18, 1924 the New York Times declared the threat was real, saying “MacMillan reports signs of new ice age.” Earlier that year on April 6 the LA Times reported that Swedish scientist Rutger Sernander claimed there was “Scientific grounds for believing” that “When all winds will bring snow, the sun cannot prevail against the clouds and three winters will come in one, with no summer between.” Seems it was global cooling that was driving the headlines at that time.
Unknown to anyone during that time was the fact that the Pacific was beginning to warm and would continue to do so until the mid 1940s. Reacting to this ocean warmth the temperature of the earth began to rise as well. Concurrently the ice age stories began to fade from the headlines. Then on March 11, 1929, just five years later from the permanent winter story, the LA Times stunned its readers: “Most geologists think the world is growing warmer and that it will continue to get warmer.” On March 27, 1933 the New York Times headline read “The next ice age, if it is coming…is still a long way off.” In the same year meteorologist J. B. Kincer of the United States Weather Bureau published in the September Monthly Weather Review: “Wide-spread and persistent tendency towards warmer weather.” He noted out of 21 winters from 1912 to 1933 in Washington D. C. 18 were warmer than normal and all of the past 13 were mild.”
During the early 1920s the Atlantic Ocean began its cyclic 25 to 30 year warming trend. This warmer water combined with the warmer Pacific pumped up world temperature to the point where everyone began to take notice. By November 6, 1939 the Chicago Tribune published a story “Experts puzzle over 20 year mercury rise.” The story noted that “Chicago is in the front rank of thousands of cities throughout the world which have been affected by a mysterious trend towards warmer climate in the last two decades.” They knew it was warming but not why.
On August 2, 1952 the New York Times reported that Eskimos were eating cod, a fish not previously in their diet. The following year the Times reported that studies confirmed that summers and winters were getting warmer and it was because the oceans were changing again.
Horn is a meteorologist and Economides is the Editor-in-Chief of the Energy Tribune.