‘70s-Era Time Capsule Reveals Media Warnings of Global Cooling

Media theories certainly do change. In light of ABC’s aggressive promotion of the danger of global warming and the liberal solutions the network has embraced, I thought it might be a good idea to consider the ‘70s-era threat of global cooling.

My parents recently unearthed a time capsule that they created in 1977 for the birth of my sister Kimberly. Included in the assorted memorabilia of the time was a March '77 edition of Readers Digest. An article by Samuel W. Matthews, entitled "What’s Happening To Our Climate," wondered whether "we are entering another ice age?" Additionally, a graph showing the Earth’s cooling and warming throughout history is accompanied by this ominous caption [All emphasis added]:

"This chart illustrates the dominant fact about Earth's past climate: It was colder....Over the last century, air temperatures have ranged from somewhat above today’s mean, resulting in an abnormally warm and beneficent climate. Is this unusual cycle coming to an end? Does an icy future loom ahead? Nobody knows for sure."

Abnormally warm and beneficent climate? Could global warming save us from an ice age?

Early in the article, which is actually condensed from a November 1976 National Geographic, Matthews noted an overall global climate drop that began in 1940:

"What is going on with the climate? Since 1940, there has been a distinct drop, about half a degree Fahrenheit, in average global temperature. That seems small, but it has caused significant changes. England’s annual growing season, for example, shrank by nine or ten days between 1950 and 1966. In the northern tier of the U.S. Midwest, summer frosts again occasionally damage crops. Sea ice has returned to Iceland’s coasts after more than 40 years of virtual absence. Glaciers in Alaska and Scandinavia begun advancing again. Yet, oddly, in the eastern United States, western Soviet Union, and much of Europe, the winters of 1973 through 1975 were the warmest in decades."

Much of the piece seems to view any (possibly) man-made warming, such as temperature increases mentioned in the last sentence of the above excerpt, as a good sign, something that might prevent the coming ice age. Later on, Matthews discussed how the (then) coming cooling would affect the beneficial warming that had been occurring:

"The climatic trend changed once again around the mid-19th century. The northern temperate zone grew markedly warmer; indeed, the century from 1875 to 1975 is now regarded by some as one of the warmest in 4000 years. In this time the industrial age boomed, and world population more than doubled. Farming and fishing expanded to keep up with food needs; Canada’s wheat line inched a hundred miles north. But this period of climate, which our grandfathers and fathers came to regard as normal, is now recognized by scientists to have been abnormally warm and beneficent. What will happen to our food output if there is a return to the more truly normal, cooler climate? Are we now at the end of a cycle?"

So, perhaps those readers who have young children, or are about to be parents, should place the current issue of Newsweek in a time capsule for their children. Then, when these youngsters come of age (and might perhaps be dealing again with global cooling), they can learn how the media spun global warming.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org