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The Freep Opinion Columnists

April 22, 2003

Global warming claims seem to fall in line with cooling hoopla of '70s 

BY LEONARD EVANS

After a severe winter, we suffered a major snow and ice storm in mid-April. Thousands were without electricity. Even as they shivered, the claim that human activity is actually warming the Earth continued to be uncritically accepted.


One cold winter -- oops, spring -- does not disprove a warming trend. But how can such massive direct evidence from one's own senses be disregarded, while the results of opaque computer models presented by the climate propagandists are so uncritically accepted?


Such success by climate propagandists is not a recent development. In the 1970s they enjoyed comparable success, except that they were then selling global cooling. An easier sell this month.


In his 1976 book "The Cooling," Lowell Ponte writes, "The cooling has already killed hundreds of thousands of people in poor nations. . . . If it continues, and no strong measures are taken to deal with it, the cooling will cause world famine, world chaos, and probably world war, and this could all come by the year 2000."


As with today's global warming claims, much of the academic climate community embraced the cooling movement. It offered them enhanced importance and richer funding. Stephen Schneider, now Professor of Environmental Biology and Global Change at Stanford University, writes for the jacket of Ponte's book, "The dramatic importance of climate changes to the world's future has been dangerously underestimated by many. . . . But this well-written book points out in clear language that the climatic threat could be as awesome as any we might face, and that massive worldwide actions to hedge against that threat deserve immediate consideration. At a minimum, public awareness of the possibilities must commence, and Lowell Ponte's provocative work is a good place to start." Professor Schneider is today one of the most prominent spokesmen on behalf of "massive world wide actions" but this time to produce, not prevent, cooling.


Politicians were on board in 1976 as they are today. The foreword to "The Cooling" is by U.S. Senator Claiborne Pell, who writes "Changes in the environment in this case the natural cooling of our planet's climate since 1945 can constitute a source as well as a means of conflict among nations. The book is as disquieting as 'Silent Spring' in its analysis of the environmental hazards that can affect our future."


The mechanism offered to explain why the Earth was cooling was that particulates reflected sunlight back into space, thus preventing heat from reaching the Earth. It was human activity that was alleged to generate these global-cooling particulates, just as today it is human activity that is alleged to produce global-warming greenhouse gases.


For millions of years the Earth has been in cooling or warming trends. The evidence may suggest that we are now in a warming trend, but we should not forget that many were previously convinced that we were in a cooling trend. Even if we accept that the Earth is warming, it is a gigantic leap to conclude that this it is due to human activity. The scientific community, apart from the portion of it that is feeding at the global-warming trough, does not accept that human activity is warming the Earth.


Richard Lindzen, the Alfred P. Sloan professor of meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, does not accept it. Frederick Seitz, a former president of the National Academy of Sciences, does not accept it. Seitz has circulated a petition in which 17,000 scientists attest that they find no convincing evidence that the human release of carbon dioxide has increased the Earth's temperature.


Even if the Earth is warming, and even if it is due to human activity, this still does not invite costly countermeasures. There is no reason to believe that the Earth is now at some perfect temperature that must be maintained. If it gets warmer, there will be winners and losers. The economic cost of compensating losers would be minor compared to the costs of proposed countermeasures aimed at preventing effects that are in the realm of near total uncertainty. Such prohibitively expensive interventions may do more harm than good. After all, "The Cooling" may have got it right.


The motivation of so many advocates of massive disruptions to reduce carbon dioxide emissions is readily exposed if you ask them the following question: "Just say that a new definitive study convinced everyone that the 1970s claims were correct, and that the Earth is in fact cooling, would you support vigorous countermeasures, such as increasing the production of greenhouse gases, to help keep the Earth warm?"

LEONARD EVANS of Bloomfield Hills is a member of the National Academy of Engineering. Write to him in care of the Free Press Editorial Page, 600 W. Fort St., Detroit, MI 48226. 


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