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October 24, 2006

Newsweek Notes It Was Wrong To Predict Global Cooling and New Ice Age, But Darn It, It's Right About This New Climate Change Theory

Heh.

Oct. 23, 2006 - In April, 1975, in an issue mostly taken up with stories about the collapse of the American-backed government of South Vietnam, NEWSWEEK published a small back-page article about a very different kind of disaster. Citing "ominous signs that the earth's weather patterns have begun to change dramatically," the magazine warned of an impending "drastic decline in food production." Political disruptions stemming from food shortages could affect "just about every nation on earth." Scientists urged governments to consider emergency action to head off the terrible threat of . . . well, if you had been following the climate-change debates at the time, you'd have known that the threat was: global cooling.

More than 30 years later, that little story is still being quoted regularly—as recently as last month on the floor of the Senate by Republican Sen. James Inhofe, chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee and the self-proclaimed scourge of climate alarmists. The article's appeal to Inhofe, of course, is not its prescience, but the fact that it was so spectacularly wrong about the near-term future. Even by the time it appeared, a decades-long trend toward slightly cooler temperatures in the Northern hemisphere had already begun to reverse itself—although that wouldn't be apparent in the data for a few years yet—leading to today's widespread consensus among scientists that the real threat is actually human-caused global warming. In fact, as Inhofe pointed out, for more than 100 years journalists have quoted scientists predicting the destruction of civilization by, in alternation, either runaway heat or a new Ice Age. The implication he draws is that if you're not worried about being trampled by a stampede of woolly mammoths through downtown Chicago, you don't have to believe what the media is saying about global warming, either.

But is that the right lesson to draw? How did NEWSWEEK—or for that matter, Time magazine, which also ran a story on the subject in the mid-1970s—get things so wrong? In fact, the story wasn't "wrong" in the journalistic sense of "inaccurate."

That's an interesting distinction, eh?

What they mean is you're not wrong for accurately reporting what someone claims, even if that person is, himself, wrong. But the media do not think of themselves as mere stenographers; they are not indifferent to whether what they are reporting as having been said is actually true or not.

And they do take sides on such questions, all the time.

They reported all of this nonsense uncritically (as late as 1992, Newsweek itself notes, when they reported "Global Warming" could cause a new Ice Age) and not only report it, but actively endorse it now. Newweek's entire piece is written to convince you that what they're now reporting is in fact quite accurate:

The point to remember, says Connolley, is that predictions of global cooling never approached the kind of widespread scientific consensus that supports the greenhouse effect today. And for good reason: the tools scientists have at their disposal now—vastly more data, incomparably faster computers and infinitely more sophisticated mathematical models—render any forecasts from 1975 as inoperative as the predictions being made around the same time about the inevitable triumph of communism.

How they give themselves away, eh?


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posted by Ace at 06:44 PM

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