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December 04th 2015 print

Tony Thomas

When Scientists Still Did Science

Gough Whitlam was PM when the notion of climate change began bubbling -- not warming in those days but cooling. The report he commissioned makes sad reading today, not for its conclusions but as a marker of how far and deep the rot has spread

big noseA 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 [1955]…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:

  1. reports from overseas to the effect that marked changes in global climate are currently occurring;
  2. the extent to which man’s activities may be causing or contributing to climatic changes;
  3. whether the climate of Australia is currently undergoing change, and the predictability of future changes;
  4. the consequences of postulated climatic changes for agricultural production and rangeland management in Australia
  5. …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 B-S Here (I Hope)

[i] Report of a Committee on Climatic Change. No 21, AAS

[ii] There is a copy in the National Library and I found one in the Victorian State Library – in very poor condition with pages falling out.

[iii] The late Dr Stephen Schneider first ramped the “cooling scare” and then the “warming scare” – Rasool S., & Schneider S.”Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide and Aerosols – Effects of Large Increases on Global Climate”, Science, vol.173, 9 July 1971, p.138-141 – Excerpt: ‘The rate of temperature decrease is augmented with increasing aerosol content. An increase by only a factor of 4 in global aerosol background concentration may be sufficient to reduce the surface temperature by as much as 3.5 deg. K. If sustained over a period of several years, such a temperature decrease over the whole globe is believed to be sufficient to trigger an ice age.” Schneider was still promoting the coming “ice age” in 1978. (See: Unearthed 1970’s video: Global warming activist Stephen Schneider caught on 1978 TV show ‘In Search Of…The Coming Ice Age’ – September 20, 2009)



Comments [13]

  1. Bill Martin says:

    And reasonable people advise us not to believe in miracles. What is, if not a bloomin miracle, the preponderance of climate alarmism in spite of the overwhelming evidence to the contrary? Granted, it is a most regrettable miracle.

  2. [email protected] says:

    A great piece of investigative work Tony, well done. Several thoughts come to mind. Are we again re-inventing the wheel? Have we learnt nothing? Why do politicians look to doom and gloom? I remember the cooling scare but it dissipated quite quickly as I recall. But the warming nonsense is actually being taught in school! Perhaps even as part of a science curriculum! That is what makes this stuff now so dangerous. It could take a cold-induced food shortage over a whole generation to sort this out. The saddest part of all is that once-respected institutions like CSIRO and the Academy of Science have signed off on this. Prof Kurt Lambeck must take much of the blame; he was president of the Academy 2006 to 2010. I heard him denigrate eminent scientists (like Ian Plimer for example) in public fora in language that should never be used to criticise the scientific work of other scientists. It was sickening. Lambeck wrote the Foreword to a glitsy piece of supposed science propaganda put out by the Academy in 2010. After relegating geology to a ‘sub discipline’ in climate studies he goes on to say ‘…. What makes climate change different is that the consequence …. occur over long time scales (decades to centuries)…. Decades to centuries?? This man understands nothing about geological history. The more insidious aspect of this is that Lambeck is trying to write evidence out of the equation and substitute computer modelling thus putting paid to the axiom that in Science evidence trumps everything! Keep up the good work!

  3. Richard H says:

    Science is one of the crowning achievements of human civilisation – or at least it was 40 years ago as the article suggests. The grand project is now tarnished by the actions of a small number of deeply corrupt individuals who put their political passion – or naked ambition, or simple greed – ahead of their duty to seek the truth.

    Sadly, the corruption spread much further through intimidation of the honest and bribery of the weak, and now the whole of science is deeply compromised.

    It was the responsibility of those at the head of the academies to show true leadership, resist the lies of the corrupt and denounce the debasement of science. Across the world, most failed that responsibility dismally, and history will show them no mercy.

    Thank you for the article, Tony

  4. Jack Richards says:

    When I started University in 1974 to study Chemistry, Geology and mathematics one of the first things I went to was a seminar on the coming ice age. Various experts had slides, over heads, movies and graphs of all sorts showing that by 2000 most of the arable land in the northern hemisphere would be covered in snow and the worlds population would be huddling along the equator. It was very convincing. That year we had a very cold winter and it snowed in late September all along the Great Dividing range. What more proof did we need?

  5. Ian MacDougall says:

    “The report [written 40 years ago] 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.”

    According to climate ‘sceptics’, the world’s climatology institutes have been infiltrated and taken over by a determined bunch of cynical conspirators, mostly motivated by lust for money and easy living in the shape of endless research grants, although some among them may hold sincerely to an innocent belief that greenhouse gases produced by industrial activity are causing the atmosphere to trap solar heat. (That possibility was first mooted by the Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius at the turn of the 20th Century.)

    These ‘sceptics’ also betray a pitiful understanding of the way science actually proceeds. Thanks to the intense competition for academic jobs, and yes, research grants, it is a world of merciless and often cut-throat competition. Scientists take great, at times almost obscene, delight in attacking rivals’ work, and will generally not hesitate to destroy another’s career and reputation if doing so will advance their own. The mantra has always been ‘publish or perish’, and the way to advance is to make oneself stand out; in the manner of a brand new car parked outside a wrecking yard.

    According to the ‘sceptics’ there is a global scientific conspiracy to scare the bejesus out of taxpayers around the world with a view to persuading them to keep parting with increasing amounts of cash to keep the cynical scientific establishment in the manner to which they have become so cynically accustomed.

    On the face of it moreover, the conspirators have succeeded in the impossible: of holding the whole thing together and watertight WORLDWIDE in the face of the certain knowledge that any one of them could retire sumptuously and dine out on it for the rest of his or her days, with no end of honours and awards, by just blowing the whistle on the whole lying, deceitful, dishonest, conspiratorial global fraud; which threatens to destroy the reputations not only of institutions like Cumberland University (CU), the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Australia’s CSIRO and the US NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre (NASA GSFC) and camp-followers like the recent succession of Australian chief scientists, but as the title of this piece suggests, is compromising the very integrity of science itself.

    Have these conspirators not earned for themselves the right to be hauled up before some court of inquisition, to be found guilty of fraud and deliberate deception; nay embezzlement no less, and given a stretch out at Long Bay, Pentridge, or some other appropriate institution; breaking rocks out in the boiling hot sun to the end of their fraudulent , lying, deceitful, dishonest and conspiratorial days?

    To the contrary: 1. I think that the whole conspiracy theory is miles wide of the mark, and that 2. this article by Tony Thomas is woefully short on understanding of the way science actually works in the real world.

    It needs urgent and drastic revision.

    • en passant says:

      Dear Denier,
      I am a sceptic and true believer in science. So your comment:
      “These ‘sceptics’ also betray a pitiful understanding of the way science actually proceeds. Thanks to the intense competition for academic jobs, and yes, research grants, it is a world of merciless and often cut-throat competition.”
      So what you are saying is that to win a grant in the ‘merciless’ and ‘intense competition’ grant-seekers need to use the correct PC wording, lie if necessary and do not stray from the politically righteous path that will turn on the gravy. In truth, lying for the cause’ has nothing to do with science, but everything to do with currying favours for money.
      Which of the following could have successfully applied for a grant if you can only fund three people?
      1. Einstein, 2. Galileo, 3. Copernicus(Sun-centric universe), 4. Karoly; 5. Hypatia (Sun-centric universe), 6. Harrison (Longitude); 7. Pachauri; 8. 9. Turing 10. Napier (Logarithms) 11. Steffen; 12. Flannery
      I look forward to seeing your selection – and why + why (in general terms) the others would be rejected. Look up Karl Popper before you answer

    • Tony Thomas says:

      Thanks Ian. On your argument, Michael Mann’s massively flawed “hockey stick” would have been promptly shot down by a myriad of mainstream climate scientists. Instead it was feted in the 2001 IPCC Report and was still lingering around in the Australian Academy of Science’s 2010 Questions & Answers on Climate Change. By now a huge number of honest climate scientists have debunked the hockey stick (see Mark Steyn’s compendium) but I have yet to see the mainstream climate community join in the debunking.

  6. Ian MacDougall says:

    En passant:
    “So what you are saying is that to win a grant …grant-seekers need to use the correct PC wording, lie if necessary and do not stray from the politically righteous path that will turn on the gravy.”
    Your words, interpretation, projection and assumption, not mine.
    “…Which of the following could have successfully applied for a grant if you can only fund three people? 1. Einstein, 2. Galileo, 3. Copernicus….”
    Wot? No mention of Pythagoras, the founder of both experimental and theoretical physics? Or of Archimedes? Or of Newton?

    May I remind you here of Bernard of Chartres, who is famously quoted as having said “we are like dwarves standing on the shoulders of giants: we see more and farther than our predecessors not because we have sharper vision or greater height, but because we are raised up and borne aloft on their gigantic stature.” (Newton in turn picked that up and ran with it.) If it had not been for the innumerable horde of thinkers and actors who had gone before him, it would have taken Einstein all of his life to invent the wheel, or even a passable stone axe.
    I think that what you are trying to say is that modern climate scientists like Karoly and Steffen are not in the same league as Copernicus, Galileo and Einstein. Which is a bit like deducing, after extensive research, that an apple is not an orange.

  7. Ian MacDougall says:

    Tony Thomas:

    The ‘hockey stick’ and Mark Steyn’s list are as they may be. Sorry, not interested.

    I could take the ‘quote authority’ path and point out the number of eminent (or is the appropriate term ‘stooge’, ‘dupe’ or something more sinister?) scientists who endorse the mainstream ‘warmist’ orthodoxy, including as I pointed out above, the last two chief scientists.

    But I won’t. Instead, I choose to quote Mark Twain, in turn famously quoting a young black slave he knew: “You tell me whar a man gits his corn pone, en I’ll tell you what his ‘pinions is.”

    There is in my experience, a strong correlation between right wing politics and climate ‘scepticism’. “You tell me whar a man gits his money, en I’ll tell you where he stands in the ‘climate wars’.”

    It does not surprise me that leading figures of the mining and fossil fuel industries are prominent in the ranks of climate ‘sceptics’. (NB: their own preferred self-descriptor.)

    In my opinion, any young scientist contemplating a career in climatology today should get a grounding first in the real world of politics. This would probably be best done not by taking a university course or two in ‘political science’ or whatever the current fashionable term for it is these days, but by say, running for one of the positions on a local council, or if possible for a seat in a state parliament. It’s realpolitik: knock-down and drag out stuff that would leave tag-team wrestling for dead.

    As the humanities departments of most western universities seem to have fallen en masse for the enormously fashionable PoMo bilge, taking the university option would likely mean having to not only spend hours, days, weeks and even years wading through the various Postmodernist swamps, and mastering the impenetrable PoMo jargon, at least to the extent as to be able to bluff one’s way around in it as well as anyone else.

    As I said above, the telling blow to those who want to concern themselves with temperatures, thermometry records and temperature proxies etc was delivered IMHO by Ian Plimer (see above). So I can’t be bothered with citing or debating or drawing conclusions from temperature records.

    As far as I can see, the Earth is its own thermometer, with the level of the ocean as the mercury. The world’s glaciers are rapidly shrinking (I have been to Alaska and have seen some in the process of it) and the level of the world’s ocean is rising.

    *CU: 3.3 ± 0.4 mm/yr
    AVISO: 3.3 ± 0.6 mm/yr
    CSIRO: 3.2 ± 0.4 mm/yr
    NASA GSFC: 3.2 ± 0.4 mm/yr
    NOAA: 3.2 ± 0.4 mm/yr (w/ GIA)


    That can only be due to glacial melt, thermal expansion of sea water, or both. Whichever way you choose, it means that the planet is warming; not cooling.

    As far as I am concerned, the debate is not over where one takes it from there, and what one does with the information.

    However, I am surprised that your article did not include the most powerful and irrefutable ‘sceptic’ case of the lot; Human-caused global warming (AGW) could not possibly be happening, because if it was, it would be bad for established business. End of story.

  8. Ian MacDougall says:

    Amendment: “…the debate is not over…” should be “…the debate is NOW over…”

  9. Bill Martin says:

    Ian MacDougall ought to establish a new branch of science, one dealing with how to tie yourself into the most incredibly convoluted and extremely tight knot. Perhaps it could be called “confusology” or something similar. After that he could explain to us ignorant skeptics how the rates of sea level rise he cites are of any practical significance and whether the “pause” in global warming – acknowledged by the IPCC at al – indicates that the skeptics do have some very valid points.

  10. Ian MacDougall says:

    Bill Martin:

    “….explain to us ignorant skeptics how the rates of sea level rise he cites are of any practical significance…”

    Well Bill, I will give it my best shot. I sincerely hope it meets your obviously high standards.

    Sea level is the best overall indicator we have of the overall heat content of the atmosphere and ocean. (In my experience, ‘sceptics’ endorse thermometry data sets when they find them agreeable, and dismiss and dispute them when they do not.)

    The Topex and Jason series of satellite altimetry data says that ocean is rising (at 3.3 +/- 0.4 mm/yr – see U of Colorado link above.)

    What ‘sceptics’ have to come to terms with is the fact that while there IS a right-wing ‘conservative’ approach to talking about climate, climate change and the causes of any observable climate change, there is NO right-wing physics or right-wing chemistry to back such wishful thinking up. Nature does not know or care about human politics.

    (Thus ‘sceptics’ are ‘conservative’ only in a strictly limited ‘business-must-go-on-as-usual’ sense.)

    As for the global warming ‘pause’, check out http://www.skepticalscience.com/ipcc-global-warming-pause.htm

  11. Bill Martin says:

    Thank you Ian. Much obliged.