Was there an ice age scare in the 1970s?

Those of us old enough to remember the 1970s may recall that at that time there was considerable concern that the Earth was cooling and could be about to plunge into a new ice age.  Is this really right, or are we all suffering from some collective memory failure?  Could it really be the case that climate scientists, who are now trying to scare us with fears of warming, were worried about cooling, less than 40 years ago?

The answer is yes, and remarkably in some cases it is even the very same scientists who were behind the ice-age scare who have also promoted global warming hysteria. For example Stephen Schneider, who in 2009 wrote a letter to members of the US Government claiming that "every year we delay action on climate change brings greater risk of disruptive events and increases the challenge before us", wrote a paper in 1971 declaring that increasing aerosol concentration could "reduce the surface temperature by as much as 3.5K" and that if sustained this is "sufficient to trigger an ice age".  However, Reid Bryson, who was also involved in the ice age scare, subsequently became a sceptic of global warming.

Remarkable evidence of the extent of the panic has been uncovered by Maurizio Morabito: A CIA document entitled "A study of climatological research as it pertains to intelligence problems" published in 1974.

A useful timeline summarising the media reporting of the 1970s ice age scare is provided by the PopTech blog

See also this selection of articles found by Steven Goddard. 


The history rewriters

Despite this wealth of evidence for the 1970s ice age scare, some climate activists, aware of the potential embarrassment this causes, try to claim that it never happened; or if it did, it was all invented by the media and the scientists at the time were not responsible for it (will they be saying the same thing about global warming in twenty years time?)

Leading this Airbrushing technique is William Connolley, ex-climate scientist and ex-member of the Realclimate blog team. He has set up a web page claiming that an ice age wasn't predicted in the 70s, containing a number of papers that seem to indicate that it was.