“Global cooling … must be expected within the next few millennia or even centuries.”
— George Kukla and Robert Matthews
A quick look at my bookshelf will show that I have an inordinate fondness for history. And so, when Murray Snyder wrote (Letters to the Advocate, March 30) about the global cooling scare of the 1960s and 1970s, I must admit that I put the subject near the top of my list for a future column.
Yes, there was indeed such a scare. However, the thought of advancing glaciers was worrisome even as far back as the 1920s, when the National Geographic Society sent Captain Donald Baxter MacMillan to the Arctic in order to look for evidence of an immanent deep freeze. Apparently, he found a lot of ice, but not nearly enough of it to warrant a run on parkas in Hawaii.
The scientific search started in earnest, though, in the 1960s, when it was noted that the surface of the globe really had been getting colder. In fact, if you look at any graph of temperatures over the 20th century, there is an obvious lull in the overall warming, starting at about the time of the Second World War, and continuing until about the mid-1970s.
And the culprit? It was conventional air pollution. More particularly, it was the extremely tiny particles known as sulphate aerosols that a booming post-war world was lofting into the air via the burning of coal and oil.
Scientists knew this back in the 1960s. And they also knew about carbon dioxide, and the effects that it had on climate. So they were quite aware that sulphate aerosols reflected heat back into space (thereby cooling the planet) and carbon dioxide molecules reflected heat back down towards the ground (thereby warming the planet). Thus started the grand debate on which process would win out in the end. And thus we have statements such as the one above, made by Kukla and Matthews in 1972.
What followed was a minor media frenzy which tossed out titles such as Another Ice Age? (from Time Magazine in 1974) and The Cooling World (from Newsweek in 1975).
But that was it. Because at about the same time, the industrialized countries started seriously dealing with air pollution. They started telling industry to do things like cut out the worst additives in gasoline, and put scrubbers on coal-powered generating stations. And that greatly reduced the amount of aerosols that got lofted up into the air.
However — as we now know — it’s a lot more difficult to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide produced when fossil fuels are burnt. So, from about the 1980s until the start of the 21st century, aerosol cooling was reduced, while CO2 warming kept right on rising.
Then along came China and it started a frenzy of building coal-fired power plants, which were very efficient at putting sulphate aerosols into the atmosphere. So whenever you hear about the cooling which occurred over the last 17 years, at least some of it is due to China’s rapid industrialization, and a somewhat cavalier attitude toward using scrubbers.
So where does that leave us? Well, it still leaves 2014 as being the warmest year since widespread weather data started being recorded.
And it still leaves the question that Snyder originally raised. After all, if scientists weren’t sure what was happening to the climate 50 years ago, how can we trust them now? Perhaps we should be taking a closer look at what those scheming nerds are doing with their clipboards and slide-rules and horn-rimmed glasses.
Take a look at electro-magnetic theory, for example. It runs our entire society. Practically every gadget we handle on a day-to-day basis relies on those complex looking little green circuit boards. Maybe we should delve into the history behind them.
And sure enough, if you look back at Benjamin Franklin, and see how he nearly fried himself with a kite during a lightning storm, you will find that he was completely blind to the fact that electricity and magnetism were linked.
In other words, just like the climate scientists in the 1960s, Franklin was an idiot.
That is ample proof, therefore, that electromagnetism is a vast fraud visited upon us by a corporate conspiracy, trying to take dollars out of our wallets. And complete vindication for me, since my computer crashed just last week, and I stubbed my toe on the annoying lump, as I drop-kicked it into the nearest garbage can.
Who’s next? Well, there’s Ptolemy and Copernicus, and all of that nonsense about the earth orbiting around the sun. Now there’s a conspiracy if ever I saw one!
Evan Bedford is a local environmentalist. Direct comments, questions and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit the Energy and Ecology website at www.evanbedford.com.