The long slow retreat from AGW

I have previously maintained that the anthropogenic global warming  (AGW) scare resembles the cholesterol scare that probably reached its peak in the 1970s and 80s. No government agency will announce that cholesterol is neither good nor bad; there will be for a long time a slow leakage into public consciousness that new studies show the whole thing to be based on false evidence.

Today, for instance, the Telegraph announced a Canadian study that shows that margarine is possibly bad for you, but animal fats not so.

Traditionally people have been advised to reduce animal fats, but the biggest ever study has shown they do not increase the risk of stroke, heart disease or diabetes. However, trans fats, found in processed foods such as margarine, raise the risk of death by 34 per cent in less than a decade….

“Trans fats have no health benefits and pose a significant risk for heart disease, but the case for saturated fat is less clear.

“That said, we aren’t advocating an increase of the allowance for saturated fats in dietary guidelines, as we don’t see evidence that higher limits would be specifically beneficial to health.”

The story continues:

The “vilification” of saturated fats dates back to the 1950s when research suggested a link between high dietary saturated fat intake and deaths from heart disease. But the study author looked at data from only six countries, and chose to ignore data from a further 16 that did not fit with his hypothesis.

The new research found no clear association between higher intake of saturated fats and conditions such as coronary heart disease, cardiovascular disease, or type 2 diabetes.

 As usual, policy-based evidence making was at work. I need not dilate about the amount of political vilification of medical opponents’ research that went on, which contradicted the saturated fats hypothesis; the cover-page treatment in the then important Time magazine of the doctor who developed this thesis; the nauseating advertisements using a fake Indian princess who touted corn oil, “which we call maize” she said; and the endless nagging from worried wives of harried husbands for eating bacon and eggs. In short,  the corn oil industry got behind the fad and pushed it as far as it could go, and the chief institutional backer of the American Heart Institute to this day remains the vegetable oil industry.

And it was all based on scientifically authorized rubbish.

My point concerns the length of time you have to live before certain patterns start to be clear. From the time I reached political consciousness about the age of ten (1960), when I remember the inception of the Great Cholesterol Scare, until now is 55 years.

More than half a century. My children have grown up in an atmosphere of concern for poisoning oneself with food. This error has reigned longer than they have been alive. Thus the article can write about how “traditionally” we have been warned against animal fats – meaning that the author of the article too has never known a world in which we were not warned against animal fats in the diet.

Yet it was all rubbish.

So what about the time frame for the anthropogenic global warming scare? When can we say it started, and how long can we estimate its duration?

An excellent article argues that it received official support from Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government in the 1970s. By 1992 concern for emissions was firmly established in the Rio Summit, Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and by 1997 these concerns were instantiated in the Kyoto Protocols, which called for significant reductions of fossil fuel use in advanced economies, and which ignored comparable use in China and India.

Thus, if we take 1970 as the year in which the anthropogenic global warming scare really started – in that it received the support of a serious government – and if we assume that the scare will run 55 years, more or less, then it should start to be treated as a form of scientific rubbish in the mainstream media by about 2025. Only another ten years to go.

This leads me to a further reflection on the passage of time, because climate variability can only be measured over significant periods of time. One science writer, Colin Tudge, argued that the shortest period in which one should think about climate is 1000 years.

Tudge wrote in 1997, before the hounds of AGW correctness were in full cry. It is instructive to read books written before the scare reached its apogee. It was through Tudge’s book I first became aware that for the last 30 million years atmospheric CO2 has been diminishing, and the inferred cause is the rise of the Himalayas as the Indian and Asian tectonic plates collided.The interaction of monsoon rains, which contain dissolved atmospheric CO2, and the reaction of CO2 with exposed limestone, cause CO2 to be progressively leached out of the atmosphere. I have read this hypothesis about global CO2 reduction in other places as well.

The time frame over which CO2 has been leeched from the atmosphere is 30 million years, during which the earth has entered increasingly severe and long lasting ice ages. We are in the middle of one such ice age now, only we are in the last stages of an interglacial warming period, which so far has lasted about 10,000 years

So what is your time frame to be?

Since 30 million years, since the Himalayas first were pushed up?

Since 10,000 years, since the end of the last ice age?

Since 1850, when the latest mini-ice age ended?

Since 1970, when you or  your parents went to university?

One’s idea of “climate change” is profoundly biased to the extremely short time frames of human lifespan. It is hardly surprizing that our perceptions are distorted.


An excellent video on the origin of the AGW scare can be found here.




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Don Morris

I wish I had your optimism. As we have seen the last two generations inculcated in schools and universities with AGW/CC as FACT, I don’t expect this hysteria to subside until the consequences of adopting Kyoto and other of the IPCC agenda starts to cause discomfort in our major cities.

When the average person has to make a choice between food and heat,only then will the theory start to be questioned. Look at the political realm, every political Party spouts the “climate change” line,and the media is fairly frothing at anyone who dares question the Suzuki/Gore/IPCC official propaganda.

I believe we have a long way to go before AGW is dead and buried, and I don’t expect I’ll be around to see it. Hope I’m wrong.


Thank you both, for your comments.
I am not a hopeless dreamer. I see too many parallels between AGW and cholesterol to ignore them. I also see information factually presented these days flatly asserting that the original research that started the cholesterol craze as erroneous and distorted. This would have been unthinkable thirty years ago. Accordingly I expect the same treatment of AGW, Michael Mann, Trenberth, and that legion of zealots will occur in a not distant future. Let me go out on a limb and say ten years.

Don Morris

I hope and pray you are right! As for Michael Mann, a toast to Mark Steyn and the Court case that should be the end of Mann’s career.

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