First we had global cooling, then warnings of a coming ice age, then global warming, and now we just call it climate change. Here’s what a scientist said in 1971: “US Scientist Sees a New Ice Age Coming.”
This is the same scientist who called Bush administration global-warming skeptics “court jesters” in 2007.
Inside the Beltway
NASA scientist James E. Hansen, who has publicly criticized the Bush administration for dragging its feet on climate change and labeled skeptics of man-made global warming as distracting “court jesters,” appears in a 1971 Washington Post article that warns of an impending ice age within 50 years.
“U.S. Scientist Sees New Ice Age Coming,” blares the headline of the July 9, 1971, article, which cautions readers that the world “could be as little as 50 or 60 years away from a disastrous new ice age, a leading atmospheric scientist predicts.”
The scientist was S.I.Rasool, a colleague of Mr. Hansen’s at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The article goes on to say that Mr. Rasool came to his chilling conclusions by resorting in part to a new computer program developed by Mr. Hansen that studied clouds above Venus.
The 1971 article, discovered this week by Washington resident John Lockwood while he was conducting related research at the Library of Congress, says that “in the next 50 years” — or by 2021 — fossil-fuel dust injected by man into the atmosphere “could screen out so much sunlight that the average temperature could drop by six degrees,” resulting in a buildup of “new glaciers that could eventually cover huge areas.”
If sustained over “several years, five to 10,” or so Mr. Rasool estimated, “such a temperature decrease could be sufficient to trigger an ice age.”
Post staff writer Victor Cohn penned the story about the article, which appeared that same day in the journal Science. For his part, Mr. Cohn contacted Gordon F. MacDonald, a top scientist in the Nixon administration, who considered Mr. Rasool a “first-rate atmospheric physicist” whose findings are “consistent with estimates I and others have made.”
Who to believe?
“If greenhouse gases continue to increase, climate models predict that the average temperature of the Earth’s surface could increase from 2.5 to 10.4 degrees Fahrenheit above 1990 levels by the end of this century.”