We're number 1!

All the George Will nonsense has had one good result - "The Myth of the 1970s Global Cooling Scientific Consensus Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society Vol. 89 Iss. 9 " is up at number one in the AMS charts. But there is more of interest in the list if you look further..

1. The Myth of the 1970s Global Cooling Scientific Consensus
Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society Vol. 89 Iss. 9

- That's us. Hurrah!

2. Deterministic Nonperiodic Flow
Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences Vol. 20 Iss. 2

- Lorenz. Butterfly effect - from 1963.

3. Some Coolness Concerning Global Warming
Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society Vol. 71 Iss. 3

- Bad Boy Lindzen from 1990

4. Regimes or Cycles in Tropical Cyclone Activity in the North Atlantic
Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society Vol. 90 Iss. 1

- Tropical cyclone trends or not - an ever popular argument

5. Long-Duration Drought Variability and Impacts on Ecosystem Services: A Case Study from Glacier National Park, Montana
Earth Interactions Vol. 10 Iss. 4

- Drought. Some people like that stuff

6. My View of the Early History of TRMM and Dr. Joanne Simpson's Key Role in Winning Mission Approval
Meteorological Monographs Vol. 29 Iss. 51

- A puzzling one if you're not up on recent controversies, but its Theon.

Conclusion: the current AMS download list reflects what the general public is interested in more than what professional met. folk are reading. Which I suppose might be good - if the public are actually reading any of the content they download.

More like this

Chris Mooney has some comments on the Peiser/Oreskes dispute about the scientific literature on climate change. I asked Benny Peiser for his list of 34 abstracts that "reject or doubt the view that human activities are the main drivers of the 'the observed warming over the last 50 years'." (…
The man who discovered the "butterfly effect" died this morning at the age of 90. Ed Lorenz was a meteorologist; I will spare you most of the details of his career, as they can be found in the MIT obituary. But back in the early 60s, when he was trying to figure out why weather prediction was so…
The following is also found HERE on the White House web site. I provide it here without comment because it speaks for itself. But if you want more, check out "Global warming action: good or bad for the poor?" by John Abraham, and "Keeping The Carbon In The Ground Elsewhere: Developing Nations"…

Its a good paper.

And, as someone old enough to have been reading about environmental issues at the time, it was nice to see that my non-memories of a global cooling scare confirmed.

Yes an interesting paper, so factually true and yet so fatally flawed by the "consensus" straw man. The argument that was normally banded around was "They said we were headed for an ice age" not "there was a peer-reviewed consensus view that we were headed..."

This, reinforced by the lack of eyeball impact-weighting - not a lot of people read journals in a pre-internet esoteric university library age, versus the public perception via the various mainstream newsstand magazine covers and TV documentary is also the paper's weakness.

The paper represents a milestone in the history of the whole AGW delusion - no-one ever wrote a paper like this before to "deny" (ahem) that there had ever been a contrary position, nor needed to in order to support their position.

By Luke Warmer (not verified) on 05 Mar 2009 #permalink

Luke -

As you read the paper, you no doubt noted that we address your point. If you look at the news coverage of the day, it also reflects a wide variety of viewpoints, rather than a single emphasis on cooling. Just as with the scientific literature, those who argue (as you do) that there was some sort of news media-generated global cooling hype are also guilty of selectively quoting the literature.

But you read our paper, right? So you already know this, and have chosen to selectively quote it, offering a remarkable parallel to the discussion at hand.

John F.

I had read and have now re-read the paper. As I said it is an interesting read, but:

1. The straw man is fairly trivial to identify, to quote from your quotes in the "perpetuating the myth" box:

"According to many outspoken climate scientists"

"the fashionable panic was about global cooling"

"abrupt a shift in the balance of scientists who predictably..."

None of these refer to consensus. "Orthodox scientific opinion" might but again is not specifically claiming consensus. Of the two quotes that do claim consensus, one comes from a fictional character. So I believe it is fair to say that you created a straw man. Consensus is one of the compelling fixations of the AGW crowd. It would be interesting to see how many times Newton, Faraday, Maxwell, Einstein, Feynman, Wegener, Agassiz or Darwin used the word consensus in relation to science.

2. In relation to the media coverage, you do not even mention the comparative impact other than to mention "the tyranny of the news peg". How many people read the Newsweek story and how many read any or all of the 44 journal articles on warming, that's the key point. No one doubts the media is a scaremonger - Vicky Pope's recent proclamation and the examples in "Flat Earth News" confirm this. But in terms of impact on public sentiment (and also BTW every other non-climate scientist), the media had a big impact and that impact was biased (rightly or wrongly) towards cooling.

[You're entitled to be interested in the media if you like. I know John is. But I'm not, really. I'm interested in the science, and what it was then -W]

3. Looking at the abstract/summary in the box at the start of the article versus the title, I notice you perform a subtle sleight of hand by adding "imminent" before ice age". I could justifiably write a paper now saying there was no scientific consensus on "runaway climate change" using the same process as you, (as the Stoat was covering recently) and yet Monbiot used it casually and purposefully on Radio 4 today. You also don't define imminent - femtoseconds or decades - but remember thousands of years is imminent in geological terms.

[There is no sci cons on RCC on any time scale, so you've chosen a rather poor example. You couldn't write a paper on it, since there is no novelty it would simply be rejected. Hopefully neither you nor anyone else get their science from Monbiot. We do define imminent, as being the approx century scale on which GW is usually considered -W]

4. A point I hinted at previously and it's the crux of the matter - what was the motive for the paper - have you become history of science buffs or are you motivated by a need to 'debunk' a current debate? I only ask because you do not simply report climate science history but you also impose some conclusions that are from an authorial viewpoint. e.g. p 1327, you mention triggering fears that a planetary cooling trend might threaten food supplies, but you then add (as I paraphrase it) an 'only cooling in the NH argument', as if we shouldn't have been worried despite so much of the developed world (esp. at that time) being in the NH. That is your take now, not necessarily what was being said then.

[I have a collection of this stuff, back from the days of usenet: see http://www.wmconnolley.org/sci/iceage/ I never got round to writing it up. Tom P and John joined up to actually get it done -W]

So, I hope this response is a balanced and fair one and answers your comments. I did jump in a bit before because I was slightly miffed by the way Monbiot had used it in the grauniad.

By Luke Warmer (not verified) on 05 Mar 2009 #permalink

Luke - Who's making the straw man argument here?

You write:

"The paper represents a milestone in the history of the whole AGW delusion - no-one ever wrote a paper like this before to "deny" (ahem) that there had ever been a contrary position, nor needed to in order to support their position."

Does this paper deny that there had ever been a contrary position? Clearly not (see table I). It is summarizing the prevailing views of climate science during the period in question and draws its conclusions from there.

In addition to mischaracterizing the paper, you also seem to be implying that the critics who promulgate the global cooling myth have done so either understanding these prevailing views of science or solely in reference to mainstream news and "popular" literature?

So to support your own accusation of a straw man argument, you've slipped in two of your own.

Well isn't that ironic?

By Soil Creep (not verified) on 05 Mar 2009 #permalink

Luke -

Thanks for the thoughtful comments. "Consensus" is a funny word, that often conceals more than it reveals in discussions like this.

We specifically cite those who have made the argument, in one form or another, that the majority of scientists in the 1970s believed in global cooling: Singer and Avery, Will, Balling, Horner, Michaels, Giddens, Schlesinger, Inhofe. We quote them in the paper, and cite the places where the claim was made. We then go back to the original sources to see if they support the claim being made. They do not. One can quibble about the specific word used ("consensus"), but such linguistic parsing sidesteps the point that these guys were making an argument that is not supported by the evidence. We wouldn't have bothered to write the paper if they didn't repeatedly make the argument.

It's worth noting that if Singer, Balling, Horner, et al. believed seriously that some sort of 1970s mistake involving a belief in global cooling was important to our understanding of the science-politics-policy interface today, it seems incumbent on them to go back and look with some care at what was being said at the time, and why. Had they done that, they would have found what we did - that the claims they were making were untrue. The fact that they did not is good evidence to me that they were looking for a cheap debating point, rather than trying to seriously understand how scientists and the media could have made such a howler of a mistake back in the 1970s.

Soil creep - the "ahem" should indicate a little tongue in cheek of my use of the word denial - of course they report on both sides. As for the second point that's your inference not my straw man.

John F, I agree that the paper makes some interesting points, the history of this is fascinating and I would be curious to find out if there was a split between the geologists predicting cooling and the atmospherists predicting warming.

From my first interactions with geologists on the issue of climate change in the early 90s I was keen to find out if it was essentially inevitable that we were going into an ice age at some point in the future (hence my concern about your vague 'imminent') and if therefore (and I was an active AGWer at this time) the skeptic's arguments that global warming was actually the saviour of humanity could be correct. This one is still a moot point for discussion.

[I agree - geologists use "imminent" in a way that can be misleading for folk used to shorter timescales. Geologists have very little useful to say about change on century timescales, which can be a problem for them, in that they get left out of the party, which leads some of them to pretend that the party doesn't exist -W]

The finding the the media made "a howler" is not surprising really. It's clear that there are so many howlers in the current media reporting and the impact of these on the general state of science remains to be seen. I am especially concerned about press release science which seems to be becoming more prevalent.

W- I nearly missed your embedded comments - to say that you're only interested in the science, well I claim exactly the same thing. However, it is naive to think of science as detached from politics, organisations and the media. Science is not some isolated activity, scientists are people too - I'll send you a copy of "The Golem" by Collins and Pinch (give me a number/postcode). The summary of their respective field work on gravity waves and solar neutrinos is worth it alone.

Magnus W. - WTF - Sun M AGW?

By Luke Warmer (not verified) on 05 Mar 2009 #permalink

Missed one:

[There is no sci cons on RCC on any time scale, so you've chosen a rather poor example. You couldn't write a paper on it, since there is no novelty it would simply be rejected. Hopefully neither you nor anyone else get their science from Monbiot. We do define imminent, as being the approx century scale on which GW is usually considered -W]

W- that's exactly why RCC is not a bad example. "They" are talking about it in the media now. Yet, as you confirm, there is no scientific consensus on it. Plus ca change...

Sadly, most people do get their science from the Monbiot's of the world, that's why the media shouldn't be ignored. (You hope they don't, I know they do).

By Luke Warmer (not verified) on 05 Mar 2009 #permalink

IANA climate scientist, but nevertheless the Lindzen article on that list disturbs me for things which appear to me to be inaccurate, in light of what I do know. For example, his assertion that there has been no discernable temperature trend since 1880, based on what look to me like either carefully cherry-picked or slightly fudged graphs, and the assertion (backed up by a cite to a J.C. Rogers paper of 1989!) that the Arctic is in fact cooling -- as well as a repeat of the assertion that the cooling of the 40s-60s brought predictions of ice age which were equal to the predictions of global warming, today.

How is this in any way respectable?

By Luna_the_cat (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

Oh, whoops -- sorry for the double-post, but so much for careful reading. I see now that the Lindzen paper was from 1990, so many of the statements become more understandable. I hope he isn't still using these arguments?

By Luna_the_cat (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink