The cooling of global warming



On my desk is a recent issue of TIME magazine devoted to the dangers of global warming. To drive home the gravity of the moment, the magazine is bordered in green instead of the traditional red, and the cover features the famous WW II photograph of American soldiers raising the flag on Iwo Jima. Except the photo was altered to show the men planting a tree instead of a flag into the soil. It’s the equivalent of war (many veterans are not amused).

TIME warns that global climate change will bring on massive flooding, famine, food shortages and all around ecological catastrophe. In TIME’s own words, “The trend shows no indication of reversing.”

But the issue of TIME I’m reading from isn’t the green bordered issue on my desk. It’s from June 24, 1974 and the title is “Another Ice Age?” The “climate change” crisis then was global cooling caused by the same culprit (industrialization and fuel burning) that would bring on the same disasters (flooding, famine and starvation) as global warming today. Both issues of TIME have one other thing in common: They are both out of step with science.

The latest data from the UN’s World Meteorological Association, NASA’s Aqua satellite and the highly regarded Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, UK, all are reporting that global warming has stopped. Not last week, not last month, not last year, but in 1998. Global temperatures have either leveled off or slightly cooled since then. That’s about five years before Al Gore, Ron Sims, Congressman Jay Inslee and Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels told us the earth was on fire.

More to the point, the dire computer models used by the UN’s climate panel, the IPCC, which shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore, don’t match actual temperature changes. According to the International Journal of Climatology, which has a lower circulation, but a shade more credibility on the issue of climate change than TIME, “the weight of the current evidence … supports the conclusion” that the rising temperatures of the IPCC’s computer models don’t match actual temperatures.

News like that can make an informed citizen who’s concerned about global warming very defensive. So let’s simply take a step back and see whether man’s carbon output this past century has driven temperatures upward, which is the core principle of the global warming issue.

From the second decade of the 20th Century until the early ‘40s the earth went through a warming trend. Everyone agrees on this. But from the early ‘40s into the ‘70s, when industrialization, population and car use was soaring, we entered a global cooling trend. So pronounced was this trend that it led to predictions of a coming ice age (explained in the above referenced issue of TIME and many other respected publications). Even though temperatures were warming by the late ‘70s, there were books and articles warning of cold weather well into the ‘80s.

The warming trend that began then eventually produced a highbrow panic among government, academic and media elites leading to calls for higher taxes, more regulations and more government controls (we heard similar demands when some of these same experts thought the world was running out of oil in the 70s). But now the data indicate that the warming ended last decade. That could mean another cooling trend, or a brief respite before more warming ensues. Or perhaps some fluctuations in both directions.

But what ought to be clear is this: Global temperatures and carbon output from people and machines have not tracked each other in the last century (let alone the last millennia. Greenland was farmed by Vikings a thousand years ago before it was covered with ice). It’s not the earth that needs to cool off, it’s the politicians who are ignorant of, or indifferent toward what science is actually telling us about our climate.

John Carlson hosts a daily radio program with KOMO 4’s Ken Schram each weekday from 3-6 p.m. on AM 570 KVI. He also broadcasts daily radio commentary on KOMO 1000 news. E-mail him at

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