MSM Inertia: What We Can Learn from 120 Years of Climate Catastrophe Reporting

The annual Climate Catastrophe Party is marching along in Cancun, Mexico, making for a lovely all-expenses-paid vacation.

At this latest doom fest, some 20,000 delegates from around the world are doing their best to keep the scary story of man-made global warming/climate change alive. I’ve been around long enough to remember a time when global warming was a non-issue -- in fact, it was the very real threat of another ice age making headlines in the 1970s. With that in mind, I did an investigation into the comings and goings of predicted environmental cataclysm in modern history. What I found is that this has all happened before -- the reporting of climate catastrophe has been going on for over 120 years.

What’s fascinating about the reporting is that it has encompassed the full range of temperature: searing heat and bitter cold, both reported as real and potentially deadly.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says the world is warming at an unprecedented rate. The irrefutable results of this global temperature heat wave will be starvation, drowning of coastal cities, mass extinctions, war, and the death of billions. These warnings come to us from many reliable sources, including all forms of news media. We have been alerted to this climate catastrophe for two decades now.

But when one looks back at the history of climate reporting, you find a remarkably consistent and recurring theme. The global temperature has cycled from cold to warm to cold to warm again over the last 120 years. The media cycles of impending climatic doom mirror the climate cycles themselves, but with a roughly ten- to fifteen-year lag. It seems whenever the world warms, the volume of global warming stories increases to match the trend. Conversely, when the climate cools the major media outlets pull on their long johns and warn us of the next ice age. However, it takes many years for the media to catch up to what the climate is actually doing.

On February 24, 1895, the New York Times reported: “Geologists think the world may be frozen up again.” The story wondered “whether recent and long continued observations do not point to the advent of a second glacial period.”

In 1912, shortly after the sinking of the Titanic by an iceberg, the New York Times reported on a professor from a Cornell University: “Professor Schmidt warns us of an encroaching ice age.” On the very same day, the Los Angles Times reported: “Fifth ice age is on the way. ... Human race will have to fight for its existence against the cold.”

Was what they were reporting true? The temperature records from the Climate Research Unit of the University of East Anglia say yes. The Earth was cooling from about 1875 to 1910, about 35 years of downward temperature. During this time there would have been more ice in the Arctic, and glaciers would have advanced. The stories were based upon what scientists of the day were observing. From there, the media drew their own conclusions as to what this meant for the future climate and its effects on humanity. Many times, they chose disaster.

The oceans contain more than one thousand times more heat than the atmosphere, and the vast majority of that heat is in tropical waters. When the oceans warm, so does the atmosphere. When they cool, global temperature follows. The Pacific Ocean covers a third of the Earth’s surface and exhibits a dominant impact on the global temperature. Around 1920, the tropical Pacific Ocean began to warm. The impacts of such a warming are not always readily apparent -- it takes years for glaciers and sea ice to react to the gradual ocean warming.

The huge social inertia generated by the ice age scare prior to 1910 continued to drive media fear stories of coming cold into the 1920s. On July 3, 1923, the Christian Science Monitor reported: “Captain MacMillan left Wiscasset, Maine, announcing that one of the purposes of his cruise was to determine whether there was the beginning of another ice age as the advance of glaciers in the last 70 years would seem to indicate.” On September 18, 1924, the New York Times declared the threat was real, saying: “MacMillan reports signs of new ice age.” Earlier that year, on April 6, the LA Times reported that Swedish scientist Rutger Sernander claimed there were “scientific grounds for believing" that "when all winds will bring snow, the Sun cannot prevail against the clouds and three winters will come in one, with no summer between.”

Unknown to anyone during this time was the fact that the Pacific was beginning to warm, and would continue to do so until the mid-1940s.