ORIGINALLY POSTED March 19, 2008
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–TIME magazine warned that scientists had observed “bizarre and unpredictable weather patterns” which led them to believe the world was headed for “a global climatic upheaval.” Fluctuations in temperature, rainfall and sea ice were all described as signs of impending doom.
But the scientists interviewed by TIME weren’t talking about global warming, and the magazine wasn’t issued in the 21st century. The June 1974 report in TIME warned of a new ice age, touching off other articles in respected publications about expanding glaciers, crop failures and killer tornados.
Newsweek, for example, published its own story within a year, claiming that the evidence in support of the dire predictions “has now begun to accumulate so massively that meteorologists are hard pressed to keep up with it.” The New York Times followed in 1975, noting that “a major cooling is widely considered to be inevitable.”
For more than a century, American scientists and newspapers have been predicting catastrophic climate changes. So far, none of the climate predictions has proven true.
On Feb. 24, 1895, The New York Times warned of the next Ice Age, and in 1923, the Chicago Tribune warned that ice would soon make Canada uninhabitable. But by 1933, the same papers were warning of the greatest rise in temperatures since 1776. Reports two decades later also spoke of a spike in global temperatures. Even TIME magazine reported on global warming in 1951, just two decades before the article on a new Ice Age.
Scientists then were more likely to attribute changes in the global climate to natural forces, but today scientists refer to the warming experienced at the end of the 20th century as “anthropogenic global warming,” or that caused by man. The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has issued successive reports that predict a rise in sea levels of 8 to 17 inches over the next century as a result of the human impact on the environment.
The cause of warming, the reports contend, is an increase in greenhouse gases -– chiefly carbon dioxide –- caused by the burning of fossil fuels, humanity’s primary fuel for transportation, manufacturing, cooking and heating. A warming atmosphere leads to melting sea ice and glaciers, according to the U.N.’s IPCC report.
The IPCC’s viewpoints were popularized by former Vice President Al Gore in his documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth.” Gore, however, claimed sea levels would rise by 18 to 20 feet if governments around the world failed to address CO2 emissions. His documentary, although it won an Academy Award, is now challenged by multiple sources, even by various IPCC findings.
The contradictions between reports of yesteryear and those of today were illustrated March 18 in a New York Times story on melting glaciers. According to a report from the World Glacier Monitoring Service at the University of Zurich, the melting of glaciers has accelerated since 2006. The paper noted, however, that temperatures worldwide had actually decreased in recent months.
“The global average temperature dropped from its seasonal norm in recent months, and the Northern Hemisphere has had unusually extensive snow,” The Times report claimed. “But many experts have said those developments are almost assuredly a short-term wiggle on the way to more warming and melting from the influence of long-lived greenhouse gases produced mainly by burning fossil fuels and forests.”
The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued a report March 13 that confirmed global temperatures were at their coolest levels since 2001. Pacific storms dumped record snowfalls in the American West, in the Northeast and in Canada. China experienced its harshest winter in a century. Snow cover in Siberia and Mongolia is greater than at any time since the mid-1960s, and even Iraq saw snow this year for the first time in recent memory.
One of the most telling signs invalidating the predictions of catastrophic global warming is the expansion of Arctic sea ice. After a supposed record thaw, the ice has returned. A report from the Canadian Ice Service, which has kept records on sea ice since 1972, noted above-average coverage of the Arctic. Gilles Langis, a forecaster with the Ice Service, said the ice also is 10 to 20 cm thicker in most places. The report from the Ice Service was corroborated by the Denmark Meteorological Institute, which said the sea ice between Greenland and Canada was at its most expansive in 15 years.
“The nice thing about sea ice is that there is no analysis needed,” Stan Goldenberg, a meteorologist with NOAA’s hurricane research division, told Baptist Press in an interview. “This is raw data. You can look at the levels and see that it is colder.
“It is a lot more difficult to dispute that than it is a variable like global temperatures.”
In his service with NOAA, Goldenberg has flown through the eye walls of hurricanes more than 100 times, including the eye wall of Hurricane Katrina. And he also has been the victim of nature’s devastation. Hurricane Andrew destroyed his Florida home with him and his family inside. Fluctuations in climate, he said, are natural phenomena.
“With hurricanes, for example, there are high activity periods and low activity periods because of what is called ‘Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation’ or ‘AMO,’ a sort of see-saw, up and down of surface temperatures in the Atlantic. Wind, solar activity and a number of other factors cause the seas to sometimes warm for decades at a time. They sometimes cool for decades at a time and there is a lower level of activity. We are now in a high activity period.”
The fluctuation of the earth’s temperatures and storm patterns over decades is a relatively new scientific concept. Only recently, with the advent of satellite imagery and other technological advances, have scientists been able to make a wide range of calculations of worldwide trends. That is why scientists shouldn’t claim that the previous 10 or 20 years are the hottest years on record or that they have produced more hurricanes than ever before, Goldenberg said.
“We simply don’t know because no one was able to measure the information before. There’s no possible way someone in the 1930s could know about the formation of a hurricane in the mid-Atlantic that never made landfall -– not before satellites.”
Cal Beisner, national spokesman for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, a group of evangelical scholars and scientists challenging the idea of human-induced global warming, also told Baptist Press in an e-mail that climate changes for five to 10 years do not constitute a trend or an imminent threat to human existence.
“Nothing is ever conclusive in science, but I think the evidence on climate change points increasingly toward natural cycles of warming and cooling,” Beisner wrote, noting that the changes are driven primarily by changes in solar energy and solar magnetic wind output, secondarily by a variety of ocean and atmospheric cycles, such as El Nino and La Nina, and thirdly by the natural, random fluctuations of the environment.
For Roy Spencer, principal research scientist at the Earth System Science Center at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, periods of warming and cooling are not matters for mere speculation. They are matters of history which lend further credence to the idea of a constantly changing climate.
While he notes that the world’s average surface temperature is warmer in the past 100 years, he asks the question, “Why is it warmer?”
“It was at least as warm during the Medieval Warm Period, when the Vikings farmed Greenland,” Spencer told Baptist Press in an e-mail. “Also, about one-half of the recent warming occurred before 1940, which is before mankind emitted much in the way of greenhouse gases. The rest of the warming occurred since the 1970s, and that warming is now widely blamed on human greenhouse gas emissions. But the recent warming also just happens to coincide with a shift in the natural climate cycle called the Pacific Decadal Oscillation in 1977.”
Spencer also wrote that if the change in 1977 caused a 1 percent change in global cloud cover, that in and of itself would explain all of the recent warming.
“But our cloud observations are not nearly good enough to document such a change,” he noted.
CONSENSUS OR CENSORSHIP?
The Chicago-based Heartland Institute, a free-market think tank, hosted a conference on global climate change in New York March 2-4. While the hundreds of scientists, economists, business leaders and public policy analysts in attendance did not dispute the claims of a warming earth in the final decades of the 20th century, they did question its cause.
The group issued “The Manhattan Declaration,” which claimed that human-caused climate change is “not a global crisis.” The statement also said world leaders should “reject the views expressed by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, as well as popular, but misguided works such as ‘An Inconvenient Truth.'”
This latest salvo in the growing debate about the certainty of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming largely was dismissed in newspapers such as The Washington Post and the International Herald Tribune. The Post claimed the meeting in New York was “a sort of global warming doppelganger conference, where everything was reversed.” The Tribune claimed that conference participants displayed a “dizzying range of ideas on what was, or was not, influencing climate,” and the paper hinted that only a handful of real scientists participated in the gathering.
Beisner rejects those assertions. He told Baptist Press that the statement issued from the conference was written by a team of scientists led by S. Fred Singer, “one of the most accomplished American scientists of the past half century and an expert on atmospheric physics.”
Goldenberg also said he was not surprised the media thought of the meeting as “a gathering of the Flat Earth Society.”
“As a scientist who has dealt with the media extensively, who has been interviewed dozens of times locally, nationally and by international media, I believe that one of the things affecting public perception of this subject is that the media has total censorship of quality scientific data from the other side,” he said, adding that the media have created the notion of a scientific consensus on global warming.
“That couldn’t be further from the truth,” Goldenberg said. “There is no consensus.”
Joseph L. Bast, president of the Heartland Institute, said in his opening remarks at the conference that no scientific theory is true because a majority of scientists say it to be true.
“Scientific theories are only provisionally true until they are falsified by data that can be better explained by different theory. And it is by falsifying current theories that scientific knowledge advances, not by consensus,” Bast said. “The claim that global warming is a ‘crisis’ is itself a theory.”
Gregory Tomlin is a national correspondent for Baptist Press.