By Aaron Bishop
Mythconception #9: A Newsweek article in 1974 stated we would be “a frozen ice cube” by now.
I believe the goal of this mythconception from an online commenter in the online Fillmore County Journal is an attempt to convey an air of wild guessing or pure speculation when it comes to the science of climate change. Never mind the fact that it’s been 45 years since 1974, and science and technology has progressed by leaps and bounds.
The author of the Newsweek article from 1975, Peter Gwynne, had focused on regional temperatures in the northern hemisphere. What we know is that aerosols cool the planet. Aerosol use by humans starting in the 1930s is now known to have masked partial warming trends by the mid-1970s.
Yes, it was cold in the northern hemisphere in the early 1970s, but not globally. The Newsweek article really was a tremendous setback. Its own author agrees. Gwynne stated in 2014, “While the hypotheses described in that original story seemed right at the time, climate scientists now know that they were seriously incomplete. Our climate is warming—not cooling….”
Mythconception #10: A warm period from 3rd–5th centuries followed by a cool period in the 10th – 13th centuries are evidence against human-influenced climate change.
What Erding was saying here in his May 27 article is that because the climate has changed in the past without humans pumping CO2 into the atmosphere, that must mean earth’s climate is not subject to the changes humans induce upon it. This is a false premise. The climate has changed without humanity’s interventions, true, but that does not mean that modern events must follow the same guidelines.
What could have caused a massive cooling event naturally? According to research published back in 2012, a series of four volcanic eruptions are the likely culprits as they spewed enough aerosols into the atmosphere to temporarily cool the planet by reflecting more sunlight back into space.
Unfortunately, aerosols will not solve our problems now, but compound them. The great work by F. Sherwood Rowlind and Mario Molina resulted in the discovery of negative effects of aerosols (particularly Chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs) on our Ozone layer (our protective shield from high intensity solar bombardment). Because of their work in 1974, and the U.S. led fight against aerosols, we are seeing the Ozone begin to repair itself. I find this to be a strong affirmation that human activity plays a significant role on the surface of our planet.
Global Warming history: In 1965, 10 years before the Newsweek article was published, Charles Keeling (a researcher focusing on CO2 levels detected at Mauna Loa Observatory) had noticed a steady rise in CO2. The consequences of increased CO2 prior to the mid ‘70s was merely known as the “Greenhouse Effect,” which was taught in the early ‘70s in high school science classes. As I described in my “Devil’s Advocate… 410” article, it’s small changes in CO2 that greatly affects the increase of water vapor; the real trigger for global warming.
The person who made “Global Warming” into a common phrase in the scientific community (and then later more widely) was Wallace Broecker who passed away February 19 of this year. It was his 1975 scientific article “Climate Change: Are We on the Brink of a Pronounced Global Warming?” which got the ball rolling by the late ‘70s. There wasn’t much access to his article by academics at the time (no internet), and the word wasn’t spread as quickly as it otherwise could have been.
By 1977, ExxonMobil (back then just “Exxon”) knew and recognized the science behind the use of burning petroleum products in massive quantities. In fact, their employed scientists did some of the original research on the topic. It’s been confirmed by some of the notes by their senior scientist James Black that Exxon knew of the effects by at least 1977. I speculate that large companies, which understandably would prefer the public to believe something contradictory to a damaging truth, have the means and motive to alter the narrative.
If you’re still unsure that human activity is the source of carbon emissions driving climate change, I challenge you to answer, “What is?”
Peter Gywnne Recants 1975 Statement: https://slate.com/technology/2014/12/1975-newsweek-article-on-global-cooling-how-climate-change-deniers-use-my-old-piece.html
Mini Ice Age Cause: https://www.sciencedaily.com/leases/2012/01/120130131509.htm
Wallace Broeker: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/19/obituaries/wallace-broecker-dead.html
Rowlind and Molina CFCs: http://www.historyofinformation.com/detail.php?entryid=3133
Aerosol cooling; Yale Study: https://www.nature.com/articles/ngeo2670
Jeffrey Erding’s Article: http://fillmorecountyjournal.com/climate-science-or-climate-science-fiction/
James Black of Exxon Report: http://insideclimatenews.org/sites/default/files/documents/James%20Black%201977%20Presentation.pdf