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The Iceman Cometh and Goeth At Will
© 2007 Ross Williams
I was looking up a reference last week when I happened upon a quote relating to the belief common among, um, "climatologists" of the sixties and seventies. This common belief held that the planet was quickly descending into a period of global cooling so drastic that within the lifetimes of many people then alive we would be experiencing a new ice age and decreased agricultural production, famines, mass starvation and human die-offs in the hundreds of millions.
It was all part of the chic cataclysmicism in vogue at the time. The human race was a suicide waiting to happen: doomsday clocks ticked in thunderous, nuclear-tipped tocks; we'd breed ourselves into a neomalthusian nothingness; if we didn't do ourselves in, then the late, great planet earth would save us the trouble; and ecologically ... well, let's just say that we created a witches brew of DDT, Agent Orange and overhead power line radiation, and we were going to stew in the cauldron.
As opposed to the prevailing wisdom of today which never, ever goes on the hysterical benders that the intellectual pioneers of the previous generation took us on. Alar was a bad dream, after all, or possibly a one-woman, two-act morality play performed on the Congressional Stage. Religious and secular armageddons never fight for control of the front page and we particularly haven't adopted an equal-n-opposite quasi-scientific response to the New Ice Age.
...which is tangentially how I happened upon the quote I found. I was looking up a reference in Wikipedia – the user-written online encyclopedia – and there it was. Wikipedia is generally reputed to be an accurate and up-to-date source of reference material for the tech-savvy. And it normally is. But it falls prey to the same sort of ego-tripping bigots and charlatans as everything else. …just far more rapidly.
The reference I found was a statement made by the National Science Board back in the dark ages of the 1970s, when dinosaurs roamed the halls of higher learning. The National Science Board was one of the premier touters of "global cooling" and the New Ice Age, and they wrote whole treatises upon it, explaining in patronizing detail how the short-sighted social, political, economic and industrial expedience of the day was turning the planet into an ice cube.
But Wikipedia is user-written, and most of today's users – like most of any days people, actually – are in lock-goose-step with the popular cultural orthodoxy and therefore accept "global warming" on its face. It is monumentally mortifying to today’s global warmers that just a scant generation ago the planet was doomed – doomed I tells ya – to an inevitable future as an earth-cicle when everyone just knows that its true calling is to be, instead, a briquette in some cosmic barbecue.
So one of Wikipedia's user/editors managed to find the one mediating qualification in the National Science Board's report from 1974, and declared, with the stroke of his 'enter' key, that a generation chock full of pseudo-scientific chicken littling about an ice age didn't academically count for some reason; it was really all the prelude to the real science of global warming ... where the planet is a few short decades from self-incineration.
Out of the ice-box and into the gas grill, as it were.
Imagine: the National Science Board prattles on and on and on for pages about how industrial pollution, particulates and aerosols, were increasing the planet's albedo and reflecting solar radiation back into space, how this industrial pollution was driven by materialism and commercialism, how it was effectively open-ended with no known [and presumably, therefore, none at all] feed-back mechanisms, and at the penultimate paragraph where the National Science Board sums up its fear-mongered prophecies, it tacks on a single sentence which says, in effect, "...unless something else happens instead."
Umpteen paragraphs of gory, self-righteous detail about how we're doomed to live in suburban igloos, and one sentence saying "But maybe not", and it’s even-steven? It's really a declaration of "global warming"? It was “taken out of context”? Thousand of pages of harangue over the span of a few decades is “taken out of context” by leaving off the one sentence that admits “well, we could be wrong”.
No, Mr Wikipedia "contributing editor", it’s not “taken out of context”; but your pretentious rationalization is disingenuous, self-deluded ass-covering, so at least there’s that going for it.
Another Wiki-editor, or possibly the same one, trivialized the eminent scientist, Stephen Schneider, and his early-seventies orthodoxical ice age pan-handling by declaring that Schneider’s prediction of global cooling to the tune of 3.5 degrees celsius did not in fact constitute an actual prediction of global cooling. Schneider declared that unless particulates and aerosols were reduced by proliferating nuclear power plants, the planet would cool by 3.5C. There hasn’t been a nuclear power plant built in the US in over 30 years, so Schneider’s prediction would seem to be wrong.
But in a presto-chango bit of political face-saving, his prediction was declared not a prediction.
When is a prediction not a prediction? When the soothsayer is still alive and saying the opposite sooth, of course. Schneider had his fingers crossed as he wrote his quatrains, apparently, as he is now one of the primary mouthpieces of “global warming”.
How Schneider managed to ingratiate himself onto several national scientific boards by playing both sides of the academic fence is beyond me. But that’s what he did. In the seventies, when it was cool to be an ice-agist, he cherry-picked the data available to him which predicted impending cold weather to scare the gullibles into buying long johns. Today, when you’re a hot A-lister if you fret about “global warming” and can correctly use the term anthropogenic twice in an evening, he’s using the convenient data to scare the same gullibles into bathing in SPF-80.
He explains himself, in oft-quoted demagoguery, thus: “…we are not just scientists but human beings as well. And like most people we'd like to see the world a better place, which in this context translates into our working to reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climatic change. To do that we need to get some broadbased support, to capture the public's imagination. That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have.”
Groovy, huh? With as often as Schneider’s quoted as saying that his scientific purpose is to bamboozle us for his peace of mind, he hasn’t seemed to suffer any professional indignities because of it. He escaped in the Paul Ehrlich lifeboat for sinking careers.
Schneider’s self-described fear-mongering has done for science what many Democrats claim George Bush has done for American foreign policy. And, never fearing to tread where millions of feet have trod before, a few prominent Democrats are themselves doing to climate science what they claim Bush has done to foreign policy.
If extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice, but extremism in response to terrorism is terrorism, then what is extremism in the acquisition of research grants?
There would seem to be quite the quandary, here.
But never fear the scary scenarios offered up in simplified, dramatic statements. Those pushing “global warming” have given themselves the standard, one-sentence out just in case the planet limps into the 22nd century without seeing billions drowned in new oceans of melted glaciers, and huge sections of the world’s most productive farmland failing to succumb to desertification.
The Al Gores and the Stephen Schneiders can flip right past the millions of pages of “documented evidence” they’ve been citing which claims that global warming is real and inevitable when it becomes false and hyperbolized, and say thermohaline circulation. They could thus claim they were really predicting a normal climate all along and that they were once again taken out of context.
Much the same as the New Ice Agers did when “global warming” came up.
For some reason, people think science is hard to understand. Just cover your ass and dance.
Also: Discover, pp. 45–48, Oct. 1989; also American Physical Society, APS News August/September 1996