Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

The global cooling fallacy

with 7 comments

The oft-cited ice age scare of the 1970s can’t be compared to the great volume of research that supports today’s understanding of climate change
Andrew Weaver, Ottawa Citizen
Published: Monday, February 18, 2008

Like many of you, I have heard it said that in the 1970s, scientists were saying the world was heading into a new ice age. This has always bothered me because in my 20 years as an active climate researcher, I have never come across a peer-reviewed scientific study that has actually made this claim. Fortunately, today we have the searchable database ISI Web of Science, containing information from more than 6,000 scientific journals, so getting to the bottom of this is an easy task.

It turns out that there is not a single peer-reviewed original scientific study that argued this to be the case.

This caught my eye today, because of something I read yesterday and decided to ignore. It was a vicious personal attack on David Suzuki published on the opinion page of the Vancouver Sun. It followed the unpleasant norm of “if you can’t win the argument, attack the man” pattern. And it repeated the canard that Andrew Weaver demolishes today in the Ottawa paper from the same stable.

While there was only one peer reviewed paper that raised the possibility of a new Ice Age (which was quickly debunked) it did catch on with the popular press. And was repeated, but without the balance of the caveat “it’s utter nonsense”.

In 1975 Wally Broecker, an eminent scholar from the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, wrote an important article in the journal Science, noting that: “… the natural climatic cooling which, since 1940, has more than compensated for the carbon dioxide effect, will soon bottom out. Once this happens, the exponential rise in the atmospheric carbon dioxide content will tend to become a significant factor and by early in the next century will have driven the mean planetary temperature beyond the limits experienced during the last 1,000 years.”

Broecker was right.

Andrew Weaver is a Canada research chair in climate modelling and analysis at the University of Victoria. He was a lead author on the IPCC 2nd, 3rd and 4th scientific assessments. He is chief editor of the Journal of Climate and his book Keeping our Cool: Canada in a Warming World, will be published by Penguin Canada later this year.

Now can someone explain to me why this article is not in the Sun?

Written by Stephen Rees

February 20, 2008 at 12:37 pm

7 Responses

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  1. It’s hard to explain, Stephen, as they are both CanWest papers. Perhaps the Sun is sitting on a blizzard of responses ….


    February 20, 2008 at 3:36 pm

  2. I’ve read a news article in one of the major national papers (either Globe & Mail or National Post) where a scientist accused the IPCC of doing what you don’t like about some transportation analysts/consultants – establishing the conclusion and working backwards to justify the finding.

    Ron C

    February 21, 2008 at 3:10 am

  3. The fact remains that there is not one peer reviewed article that challenges the science that links the increase in anthropogenic CO2 to climate change.

    Stephen Rees

    February 21, 2008 at 7:59 am

  4. I wasn’t commenting on that aspect as I haven’t researched it.

    This may be the article regarding the IPCC:

    Ron C

    February 21, 2008 at 12:51 pm

  5. I was so dismayed by the personal vitriol in Corbella’s opinion piece, and the fact that she is an editor of an established mainstream newspaper (albeit in oil country) that I wrote a letter to the Sun protesting her unprofessionalism and the obfuscation of international scientific consensus and proven science fact. I also fear people of influence like her will be more selective with the truth regarding climate change than most right wingers. My guess is that the Sun is more sympathetic to the integrity of David Suzuki — at least his higher level of local support — and will print several letters responding to Corbella’s rant in a few days.


    February 21, 2008 at 1:26 pm

  6. Andreas Nothiger in a letter to the Sun wrote

    In 2004, Science magazine conducted a review of 928 papers published between 1993 and 2003 in refereed scientific journals. Its researches found that none of the 928 papers disagreed with the current scientific consensus that human activity is significantly affecting global climate change.

    Stephen Rees

    February 25, 2008 at 9:31 am

  7. The two published letters were an excellent rebuttal to Corbella’s drivel. One in particular rightly questioned her integrity as chief editor of the Calggary Herald to give balanced opinions in future. I hope the response to her piece in that paper was equally damning.

    I especially like Andrew Weaver’s words in his Ottawa Citizen piece:

    “…. since 1965 there have been 30,913 studies on the topics of ‘global warming’ or ‘climate change’. That’s a lot of science and you can bet that if there were an Achilles heel to the theory of global warming it would have been discovered long ago.”


    February 25, 2008 at 11:00 am

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