Washington, D.C.--As Al Gore prepares his speech on global warming for MoveOn.org on Thursday, it is worth recounting some of the recent history of climate change. Just 30 years ago, a major preoccupation of the scientific community was a cooling Earth. “However widely the weather varies from place to place and time to time,” Time Magazine reported on June 24, 1974, “when meteorologists take an average of temperatures around the globe they find that the atmosphere has been growing gradually cooler for the past three decades."

Nearly 30 years later, things are quite different. “The world's leading scientists,” according to the Sierra Club, “project that during our children's lifetimes, global warming will raise the average temperature of the planet by 2.7 to 11 degrees Fahrenheit.”

“So, what’s changed?” asks Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Committee on Environment and Public Works. “To be sure, there are many ways to answer that question. But most interesting is that the exceedingly dire predictions, from scientists, environmentalists, and government officials, about the consequences facing the planet from both phenomena, are in many ways remarkably similar.”

“What this shows,” Inhofe continued, “is that, at times, emotion, politics, shortsightedness, and alarmism can overwhelm objectivity. Legislators must filter out these influences and follow the best science when crafting public policy.”

Here’s a closer look:

CRITICAL IMPORTANCE TO MANKIND GLOBAL COOLING: "It is a cold fact: The global cooling presents humankind with the most important social, political, and adaptive challenge we have had to deal with for ten thousand years.” [“The Cooling,” published in 1975 by science writer Lowell Ponte]

GLOBAL WARMING: "In my view, climate change is the most severe problem that we are facing today, more serious even than the threat of terrorism." [Sir David King, Britain’s chief science adviser, January 9, 2004]


GLOBAL COOLING: “There are ominous signs that the Earth's weather patterns have begun to change dramatically and that these changes may portend a drastic decline in food production -- with serious political implications for just about every nation on Earth. The drop in food output could begin quite soon, perhaps only 10 years from now.” [Newsweek, April 28, 1975]

GLOBAL WARMING: “Global warming would reduce food production, increase prices and introduce new uncertainties for food supplies. At greatest risk would be one billion people living in semi-arid regions, including much of Africa. In these regions, any reduction in rainfall would cause drought, erosion and desertification.” [Greenpeace website]


GLOBAL COOLING: “Meteorologists...begin by noting the slight drop in overall temperature that produces large numbers of pressure centers in the upper atmosphere. These break up the smooth flow of westerly winds over temperate areas. The stagnant air produced in this way causes an increase in extremes of local weather such as droughts, floods, extended dry spells, long freezes, delayed monsoons and even local temperature increases.” [Newsweek, April 28, 1975]

GLOBAL WARMING: “Global warming gases have already been linked to unstable weather patterns, floods, droughts, and outbreaks of tropical diseases such as West Nile Virus. If left unchecked, global warming will cause rising sea levels, the melting of the polar icecaps, and a host of other environmental problems that are beginning to seriously affect the lives of virtually every American.” [Environmental Defense website]


GLOBAL COOLING: "The NAS report was shocking, for it represented a warning from some of the world's most conservative scientists…We simply cannot afford to be unprepared for either a natural or man-made climatic catastrophe." [“The Cooling,” published in 1975 by science writer Lowell Ponte]

GLOBAL WARMING: “The recent findings come on top of a decade of record-setting global temperatures, NRDC said, pointing to a study by the National Academy of Sciences last year that warned that global warming will cause ‘large, abrupt and unwelcome’ climate changes.” [Reuters, February 25, 2002]


GLOBAL COOLING: “Climatologists are pessimistic that political leaders will take any positive action to compensate for the climatic change, or even to allay its effects...The longer the planners delay, the more difficult will they find it to cope with climatic change once the results become grim reality." [Newsweek, April 28, 1975]

GLOBAL WARMING: “Even after highly publicized warnings from virtually the entire global scientific community that the current pattern of our civilization is creating dramatic changes in global climate patterns, we are doing nothing to address the principal causes of this catastrophe in the making. We know from the history of climate changes that they can cause unprecedented social and political upheavals, especially in fragile, densely populated societies.” [Al Gore, “Earth in the Balance,” pg. 77]