Right-Wing Media Reliably Promote GOP Global Cooling Video

Today, the Daily Caller, Fox Nation, Hot Air, and climate change skeptic website Climate Depot promoted a video created by Senator Jim Inhofe's (R-OK) press office which consists of clips from yesterday's Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing. In the video, Senators Inhofe (R-OK) and Barrasso (R-WY) suggest that we shouldn't trust the scientific consensus on global warming because in the 1970's, scientists predicted global cooling.

In fact, there was nowhere near a scientific consensus about a global cooling in the 1970s. A 2008 literature review published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society concluded that "[t]here was no scientific consensus in the 1970s that the Earth was headed into an imminent ice age" and that “emphasis on greenhouse warming dominated the scientific literature even then.” The study further noted that "[w]hen the myth of the 1970s global cooling scare arises in contemporary discussion over climate change, it is most often in the form of citations not to the scientific literature, but to news media coverage." And sure enough, in the video, Barrasso cited headlines from media coverage at the time rather than climate research.

By contrast, climate scientists today overwhelmingly agree that man-made climate change is occurring. A 2009 study of 77 active climate scientists found that 97% agreed that “human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures.” Likewise, a 2010 study found that “97-98% of the climate researchers most actively publishing in the field support the tenets of AAC [anthropogenic climate change] outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.”

Nevermind all that, though, because, according to Sen. Inhofe, “even the president's people are agreed with me.” In a move celebrated by the right-wing blogs, Inhofe quoted from a 1971 article written by President Obama's science advisor, John Holdren discussing the potential impact of an “ice age.”

But even the 1971 article published by Holdren and his colleague Paul Ehrlich concludes that “making the planet too cold” was a “comparatively short-term threat.” Holdren and Ehrlich continued by stating that the “major means of interference with the global heat balance is the release of energy from fossil and nuclear fuels. As pointed out previously, all this energy is ultimately degraded to heat. What are today scattered local effects of its disposition will in time, with the continued growth of population and energy consumption, give way to global warming” (emphasis added).

At any rate, what Holdren or anyone else wrote in the 1970s tells us nothing about what the field of climate science tells us today. Conservative media clearly prefer distractions like this to facing the fact that for decades, climate scientists have been amassing more and more evidence that the planet is warming and human activity is contributing to that trend.