Was There a Global Cooling Consensus?

Most climate scientists believe that human activity is contributing to a gradual warming of the atmosphere. But these same scientists used to believe that human activity was producing a "global cooling," right? Not quite. In the 1970s, several popular publications ran high profile stories about the threat of "global cooling," but such concerns were not particularly prominent in the scientific literature. According to a new report, relatively few peer-reviewed publications supported cooling fears.

The '70s was an unusually cold decade. Newsweek, Time, The New York Times and National Geographic published articles at the time speculating on the causes of the unusual cold and about the possibility of a new ice age.

But Thomas Peterson of the National Climatic Data Center surveyed dozens of peer-reviewed scientific articles from 1965 to 1979 and found that only seven supported global cooling, while 44 predicted warming. Peterson says 20 others were neutral in their assessments of climate trends.

The study reports, "There was no scientific consensus in the 1970s that the Earth was headed into an imminent ice age."