Climatic Irony Found in An Old National Geographic Magazine

By Doug Ferguson – Re-Blogged From

Having moved from Minnesota to Alaska this past summer, we have been making the rounds of thrift shops, stores and other venues to restock our home with things we left behind to reduce our moving costs.

Before heading out to one of our recent forays, I caught up on the news on the well known climate blog, “Watts Up With That” and read the 10/30/17 article, How Google and MSM Use “Fact Checkers” to Flood Us with Fake Claims by Leo Goldstein. You should read it. The link is here

The main example was Time magazine, but it made me think of another publication that has more subtly switched gears over the past 40 years or so to maintain the sense of impending climate doom. This is the venerable National Geographic, which currently is in full global warming alarm mode.

Therefore it was with great interest and a sense of irony as we browsed this particular thrift shop to find a big collection of this publication’s older magazines. Most of them were from this century, but mixed in were a few from the 1970’s. In particular one from November 1976 had a 45 page feature article titled, “What’s Happening to Our Climate?” by assistant editor Samuel W. Matthews. I bought this one for 25 cents to take home and read.

The ’70’s were at the very beginning of the media’s interest in our planet’s climate and the start of the pattern of alarmism on the subject that their path on the subject would take. On the first page of the article Matthews states:

“That earth’s climate changes, and even now maybe changing quite rapidly, is widely recognized. The questions facing worried experts are: Is the world as a whole cooling off, and perhaps heading into another onset of huge ice sheets? Or are we instead warming the atmosphere of our planet irreversibly with our industry, automobiles , and land clearing practices? What sort of weather will our children and our grandchildren know? On the answers may rest the fate of nations and millions of people.”

This sort of drama and alarmism is exactly what Michael Crichton highlighted in his 2004 novel, “State of Fear” regarding the collusion between the media, government and industry to constantly hype fear in the public on global warming to promote their various interests. While a book of fiction and criticized as being non-scientific by the pro “human caused” scientific community, it struck a [chord] with many in the public and sold over 1.5 million copies on the number one best seller list.

However, back in 1976 and in this particular National Geographic article, most of the emphasis for concern was the apparent global cooling occurring in most parts of the world. A quote in the article from Dr. J. Murray Mitchell, Jr. of NOAA and member of the U.S National Science Board in 1974 gives the reason:

“During the past 20 or 30 years, world temperature has fallen, irregularly at first but sharply over the last decade.”

Then there is a string of quotes from a variety of other “experts” around the globe listing a range of “strange” climate trends being measured or experienced. Some of these showed warming, but most of the troublesome reports had to do with either cooling or more ice or advancing glaciers such as the Meares Glacier in Alaska that “nudges toward Prince William Sound at 100 feet a year.”

Graph presented in the November 1976 National Geographic article by Matthews. Photo by William Connolley.

To be fair, the article does give a pretty good review of what was known at the time about the ancient history of the ups and downs of the climate of our earth and how the current era is warmer than most of its history. Matthews interviews a dozen or more scientists working on some aspect of the climate and goes into detail on many of the techniques being tried to establish past climate history and to project the future.

Closeup of graph in the November 1976 article by Matthews

When it comes to theories about the controlling factors governing our climate he gets a wide variety of opinions. One thing they all agree on is that we should be spending more resources (tax money?) to understand once and for all if we are either heading into another ice age or into a waterless desert and this could be an issue for our grandchildren!

The article concludes with proposed plans starting in 1978 that involve “–surface station measurements, ships, planes buoys, balloons, rocket and satellites to attempt to track air and temperature variations over every region of the earth’s surface.”

The proposed project was to be part of the UN’s Global Atmospheric Research Programme (GARP). Doing a brief search of this organization’s history, it seemed to me that the biggest thing it accomplished was to provide a very limited amount of data coupled with a lot of proposed theories of global warming that was used to lobby universities and, in turn politicians and bureaucrats, to fund the whole generation of global warming climate scientists that we see today.

In case you weren’t aware of it (I wasn’t until just recently as it never received a great deal of publicity and still doesn’t), the Global Change Research Act of 1990 promoted and passed during the H. W. Bush administration, is a law requiring research into “global warming” and related issues and a report to congress every four years on the “environmental, economic, health and safety consequences of climate change” (from Wikipedia). According to the government website on this program (now known as the Climate Change Science Program – CCSS), the direct funding burn-rate of the agencies governed by the law is slightly under 3 billion dollars a year! This doesn’t include many of the other indirect expenditures and grants the government makes to universities, companies and local governments to “study” or “remedy” the effects of “global warming”.

The reality is that by some estimates today, there has been spent anywhere from 90 to well over 100 billion dollars in the last 20 to 30 years by just our own government alone funding “climate studies” in one form or another. In spite of this huge amount of resource expended, we are just beginning to learn how to do world wide climate measuring with automated buoys (the ARGO network), satellites, and an error prone (due to urban heat bias) surface measuring system originally designed only for local weather forecasting.

Also a great deal of the effort (and accompanying hype) to understand the climate has been through generating complex computer models. The output of these models have been used to set energy, pollution and other policies by our government and others around the world. As limited as the data is from all the new measuring systems, over the long term it hasn’t seemed to correlate with the output of these highly touted computer programs. . We are faced with more questions than answers with this new information and are no further toward conclusively predicting what the future holds.

Still, it is interesting and ironic to read this report of 41 years ago when a group of scientists and at least one journalist had the optimistic view that if we just spend enough money on the problem we would surely solve it!


The entire “What’s Happening to Our Climate?” 1976 National Geographic article is available on line (h/t to WUWT reader Mike)



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