My thanks to Tony Thomas for this illuminating piece of science-history, first published at Quadrant online.
A great embarrassment to the warming-catastrophic community is that 40 years ago the climatology scare was about cooling and onset of an ice age. Warmists today go, “Pooh! That cooling stuff then was just a few hyped-up articles in magazines. Cooling never got any traction in the real science community!”
Really? Then explain this away…
Letter from the Australian Federal Minister for Science, W.L. (Bill) Morrison, to the President of the Academy of Science, Professor Badger, January 9, 1975:
Dear Professor Badger,
I am writing on this occasion to enquire if the Academy could assist the Government by examining, and reporting on, claims recently made in the media, and apparently also by competent scientists that the earth’s climate is changing and that a new ice-age could be on the way.
The Prime Minister [Gough Whitlam] is very interested in this subject and is anxious to obtain the best possible advice about it. As an interim measure towards that end, I sought, and obtained, a short report from Dr Gibbs, Director of Meteorology, and Dr Priestley, Chairman of the CSIRO Environmental Physics Research Laboratories…I am now anxious to have the subject examined in more detail and at greater length…Since the enquiry stems primarily from concern about man and the possible effects of climatic changes on him [I think Bill means ‘him or her’] , it seems to me that it should reflect not only the input of those expert in the physical sciences but also that of those expert in the biological sciences…I would be most grateful to have your views at your earliest convenience.
Hard to get more top-level concern about the possible ‘ice age cometh’ than this letter… Prime Minister Whitlam badgering the Academy President Badger for an answer. Cyclone Tracy had devastated Darwin three weeks earlier; Rex Connor was telexing a Pakistani con man who lived on peanuts and potato crisps, asking him to raise $US4 billion; Jim Cairns was nipping at Gough’s heels as PM-in-waiting. But Gough wanted to know about the global cooling scare.
The Academy swung into action, mustering eleven of its finest minds and a three-man secretariat for the job. The eventual report[i], delivered a year later, ran to 80 pages.[ii]
Good Lord, the stuff you can find in the body text! For example:
In the 1960s some scientists extrapolated from the warming trend evident between 1895 and 1940 and predicted the melting of the ice caps and the consequent flooding of the world’s seaports. There was then thought to be some rational justification for their warnings, namely the warming effect associated with the global increase of CO2 caused by the burning of fossil fuels (Matthews et al, 1971). However, since 1940 the temperature curve has reversed its direction [despite significant increase in CO2 emissions – TT]. It is just as precipitate now for scientists to postulate that the present downturn presages an imminent glaciation as it was for their collegues (sic) to forecast the melting of the ice caps 20 years ago …Nevertheless the historical record…does not preclude a change lasting for some decades or even centuries to a regime colder than what is called by some northern hemisphere climatologists the ‘climatic optimum’ of the 1940s-50s. (page 14)
The terms of reference for the global freezing examination were:
To consider and report to Council on:
- reports from overseas to the effect that marked changes in global climate are currently occurring;
- the extent to which man’s activities may be causing or contributing to climatic changes;
- whether the climate of Australia is currently undergoing change, and the predictability of future changes;
- the consequences of postulated climatic changes for agricultural production and rangeland management in Australia
- …social and economic implications.
The Academy team consulted far and wide (including Norwich and Grenoble), grilling experts on everything from paleoclimate to “man made influences” and tree rings – this pre-dating the “tree-ring circus” of Michael Mann in the now-notorious 2001 IPCC report.
The Academy report began,
During the past few years, there have been reports of a persistent cooling trend in the higher latitudes of the northern hemisphere, crop failures in the USSR, severe droughts in the Sahel region of Africa, and failures in the Indian monsoon rains. Some scientists have interpreted these events as showing that the global climate is changing [i.e. cooling, TT] in such a way as to make conditions of man more difficult and these views have received widespread publicity through the mass media.
Following the concern expressed at the World Food Conference in November 1974 about the possible effects of this predicted climatic change on agricultural production and the world’s food supply, the Australian Government requested the Academy to report to it on these assertions. The Government was especially interested in their possible significance for Australia…
The report comes to a ringing conclusion:
We conclude that there is no evidence that the world is now on the brink of a major climatic change. There is ample evidence that the world’s climate has changed widely during the geological past, and while there is every expectation that it will continue to change in the future, the time scale of these changes is in the range of thousands to hundreds of thousands of years rather than decades or centuries.
It cannot be too strongly emphasised that year-to-year variability is an inherent feature of global and regional climates and that…large fluctuations leading to severe droughts and floods are bound to occur from time to time. (My emphasis; page 9)
The report’s summary affirmed that the cooling reports were coming from “some climatologists”[iii], as distinct from media beat-ups. It affirmed that cooling from 1940 to 1975 had dropped global temps by 0.3degdC, and together with various droughts, monsoons and other stuff, “has led some climatologists to suggest that the world’s climate is progressing rather rapidly towards another glacial phase, or at least another ‘Little Ice Age’.” Any such global rapid-cooling threat to the planet could cause damaging shifts in rainfall patterns and “the spread of glaciers and ice sheets to the countries of Europe and North America.” P7
The report debunks the claims that various weather events, such as the Sahel drought and the 1972 Ukrainian wheat failure were evidence for global cooling: “Impartial examination has failed to support these hypotheses.” Today’s warmists who want to attribute Hurricane Katrina and increased shark attacks to global warming, please note.
Today’s finest climatologists like Will Steffen and David Karoly — the latter at it again in today’s Fairfax press — are all about doom and gloom. Yesterday’s equivalents in the Academy were not so down in the mouth.
The dire consequences predicted for the supposed cooling trend in the northern hemisphere would be unlikely to occur in Australia…a slight cooling might produce a climate more, rather than less, suitable for human activities. (Page 9)
Among prescient statements in the report:
- The influence on climate of the eleven-year sunspot cycle and the 22 year solar magnetic cycle “is indeed plausible, though the physical mechanisms involved remain obscure” and their “utility is not yet established”.
(These factors, largely dismissed by the IPCC, are now getting serious attention in lieu of problematic CO2 causation).
- A “major difficulty” with numerical climate models is “inadequate representation of the many feedback processes which occur in the atmosphere”.
(In the past 25 years the IPCC has been unable to refine its huge uncertainty range about climate sensitivity to CO2 doubling).
- Models can simulate a 50% increase in CO2 but “a problem..is that a forecast must be made of the variation of ‘external’ factors, and this is not always possible.”
(IPCC modellers still have no handle on cloud cover and feedbacks, nor long-cycle ocean temperature oscillations).
- “We see no prospect of any quick break-through into reliable and accurate climate forecasting.”
(97% of IPCC models run too hot and none predicted the 19-year current halt to warming).
In a startling admission – though not seen as an ‘admission’ at the time – the report says:
Weather records have been maintained in Australia for over 100 years [i.e. back to 1875]. There does not appear to have been any general rise in temperature in this continent between 1890 and 1940…Temperatures in Australia, New Zealand and the Antarctic coast appear to have risen very slightly since 1940, in contrast to the downward trend in the northern hemisphere…
While there is some evidence for the occurrence of cycles in weather patterns over the years, their recurrence is unreliable. In the present state of knowledge, it is not possible to make useful forecasts of future climatic trends.” (page 8)
Now, of course, climatologists prove stuff by playing with models on their computers.
The Academy also saw the importance of “the bank of Australian meteorological data” and said it should be “maintained, improved by quality control, and subjected to more detailed systematic analysis…The maintenance and improvement of this data bank is of national importance.” Interesting that the Turnbull government last September killed an external audit of the Bureau of Meteorology’s highly contentious adjustments and “homogenisations” of the records, which have also been truncated at 1910. The Academy’s 1975 report includes graphs of temperature back to 1875.
The report says that despite uncertainties about the climate, judgements based on physical grounds must be relied on to steer the best course between complacency and alarm.
These grounds must be as objective as possible, and preferably quantified wherever the opportunity exists.
Unlike today, when science and activism have become indistinguishable.
The report said there was no evidence yet that man-made influences had changed the global climate, but if emissions and other human influences kept increasing, they were more likely to create warming than cooling. Fair enough.
The degradation of climate science in the 40 years since that common-sense Academy report is a wonder to behold.
Tony Thomas blogs at No BS Here (I Hope)