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Scientists Considered Pouring Soot Over the Arctic in the 1970s to Help Melt the Ice - In Order to Prevent An Ice Age

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Preface: I have been an environmentalist my whole life. I have an extensive resume working in the environmental field: I campaigned for preservation of wilderness, for a reduction in urban pollution, for taking pesticide residues out of foods, etc. Indeed, I have previously campaigned against global warming.

I studied environmental science at a top university in the early 1980's. I was taught - as Al Gore was taught in college - that temperatures are directly correlated with CO2 levels. For 2 decades (until very recently), I believed that anyone questioning any aspect of global warming was paid by big oil or big coal, or influenced by someone who was.

One of the main reasons for writing this essay is to point out that we must make sure that our "solutions" are not more dangerous than the problems themselves. For example, the Washington Post noted that the government forced a switch from one type of chemical to another because it was believed the first was enlarging the ozone hole. However, according to the Post, the chemical which the government demanded be used instead is 4,470 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

Currently, "government scientists are studying the feasibility of sending nearly microscopic particles of specially made glass into the Earth's upper atmosphere to try to dampen the effects of 'global warming.'" Others are currently suggesting cutting down trees and burying them. Other ways to geoengineer the planet are being proposed.

And
Noam Chomsky has said that he would submit to fascism if it would help combat global warming:
Suppose it was discovered tomorrow that the greenhouse effects has been way understimated, and that the catastrophic effects are actually going to set in 10 years from now, and not 100 years from now or something.

Well, given the state of the popular movements we have today, we'd probably have a fascist takeover-with everybody agreeing to it, because that would be the only method for survival that anyone could think of. I'd even agree to it, because there's just no other alternatives right now." (page 388).
Are those ideas any better than pouring soot on the North Pole?

Our primary responsibility must be to ensure that we are not doing more harm than good.

On April 28, 1975, Newsweek wrote an article stating:
Climatologists are pessimistic that political leaders will take any positive action to compensate for the climatic change, or even to allay its effects. They concede that some of the more spectacular solutions proposed, such as melting the Arctic ice cap by covering it with black soot or diverting arctic rivers, might create problems far greater than those they solve. But the scientists see few signs that government leaders anywhere are even prepared to take the simple measures of stockpiling food or of introducing the variables of climatic uncertainty into economic projections of future food supplies. The longer the planners delay, the more difficult will they find it to cope with climatic change once the results become grim reality.
Here is a reprint of the article in the Washington Times, and here is a copy of the 1975 Newsweek article.


Why were scientists considering melting the arctic ice cap?

Because they were worried about a new ice age.

Newsweek discussed the 1975 article in 2006:

In April, 1975 ... NEWSWEEK published a small back-page article about a very different kind of disaster. Citing "ominous signs that the earth's weather patterns have begun to change dramatically," the magazine warned of an impending "drastic decline in food production." Political disruptions stemming from food shortages could affect "just about every nation on earth." Scientists urged governments to consider emergency action to head off the terrible threat of . . . well, if you had been following the climate-change debates at the time, you'd have known that the threat was: global cooling...

Citizens can judge for themselves what constitutes a prudent response-which, indeed, is what occurred 30 years ago. All in all, it's probably just as well that society elected not to follow one of the possible solutions mentioned in the NEWSWEEK article: to pour soot over the Arctic ice cap, to help it melt.
Newsweek was not alone. Some scientists and the press have been warning about an ice age off and on for over 100 years.

For example, on February 24, 1895, the New York Times published an article entitled "PROSPECTS OF ANOTHER GLACIAL PERIOD; Geologists Think the World May Be Frozen Up Again", which starts with the following paragraph:

The question is again being discussed whether recent and long-continued observations do not point to the advent of a second glacial period, when the countries now basking in the fostering warmth of a tropical sun will ultimately give way to the perennial frost and snow of the polar regions.

In September 1958, Harper's wrote an article called "The Coming Ice Age".

On January 11, 1970, the Washington Post wrote an article entitled "Colder Winters Held Dawn of New Ice Age - Scientists See Ice Age In the Future" which stated:

Get a good grip on your long johns, cold weather haters--the worst may be yet to come. That's the long-long-range weather forecast being given out by "climatologists." the people who study very long-term world weather trends.

In 1972, two scientists - George J. Kukla (of the Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory) and R. K. Matthews (Chairman, Dept of Geological Sciences, Brown University) - wrote the following letter to President Nixon warning of the possibility of a new ice age:

Dear Mr. President:

Aware of your deep concern with the future of the world, we feel obliged to inform you on the results of the scientific conference held here recently. The conference dealt with the past and future changes of climate and was attended by 42 top American and European investigators. We enclose the summary report published in Science and further publications are forthcoming in Quaternary Research.

The main conclusion of the meeting was that a global deterioration of climate, by order of magnitude larger than any hitherto experience by civilized mankind, is a very real possibility and indeed may be due very soon.

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George Washington


As a political activist for decades, I have rejoiced in victories for the people and mourned in defeats. I chose the pen name "George Washington" because - as Washington's biographies show - he wasn't a (more...)
 

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for a thoughtful and independent commentary. ... by zonie on Thursday, Dec 17, 2009 at 11:08:06 PM
The prior history regarding the threat of global c... by Siegfried Othmer on Friday, Dec 18, 2009 at 1:55:08 AM
My question is: if it's impossible to know whether... by Carol Cleveland on Friday, Dec 18, 2009 at 10:58:40 AM
In my opinion, yours is the epitome of a very good... by reasonableperson on Friday, Dec 18, 2009 at 3:31:15 PM
OK, back in the '70's many highly respected univer... by Art Feierman on Friday, Dec 18, 2009 at 7:12:02 PM
OK, back in the '70's many highly respected univer... by Art Feierman on Friday, Dec 18, 2009 at 7:51:23 PM