1956 New York Times Article Warned of Warmer Climate

Seems that the idea that human activity is causing climate isn't new at all. The headline in the October 28, 1956 edition of the New York Times warns:


You can download the entire article at the end of this post.

Here are some quotes I've pulled:

Of the three gases that check radiation, carbon dioxide is especially important even though the atmosphere contains only 0.03 per cent of it by volume.”

Despite nature's way of maintaining the balance of gases the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is being artificially increased as we burn coal, oil and wood for industrial purposes.”

In a few centuries the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere will be so large that it will have a profound effect on our climate.”

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PDF icon warm1956gilbertplassNYT.pdf104.85 KB


Before the paranoids at the CEI got a hold of the global warming issue, there was a lot of interesting stuff going on, scientifically. The theory wasn’t politicized until the vested interests of oil multi-nationals got involved. As the 20th century wore on, they got more agitated, and by the 1990’s, they were getting pretty worried.

It was all pretty straightforward science until American Enterprise got involved.

An for the record, I am NOT now, nor have I ever been, a communist.

Fern Mackenzie

The theory wasn’t politicized until the vested interests of oil multi-nationals got involved. - Fern

Theory is right. However, the “vested” interests are that of the average citizen who is hesitant to see their world turned upside down by warmers with an agenda.

Blaming oil multi-nationals is a tired old strawman when the real opposition to radical measures is your average Canadian.

Let’s do an experiment. Fern and Paul S would agree this is the best way to settle their argument, right? Fossil fuel multinationals et al can stop investing in politicization of the science and then we can see if public attitudes change. Hey, it seems like the outcome of advocating such an experiment brings us back to the start – the desmogging of the media.

Oh please. You’re not going to bring up the trail of pennies leading back to Exxon, are you Steve?

Citizens have the most powerful tool available to bring about change: the vote. And on the issue of climate change, are choosing not to really use it, opinion polls notwithstanding.

Read the above comments again (I’m asking everyone) and then decide who was repeating the same position yet again. I wasn’t bringing up any trail – that’s your favorite passtime. I brought up something novel. Granted, the never-before-tried experiment gets us back to advocating the same thing that desmog generally advocates. That has something to do with the media … you know, that thing you don’t believe influences votes.
Say, what do you know? The original post is about the media. Interesting.

What would be novel would be Canadian citizens choosing to live in smaller homes. What would be novel would be Canadians choosing to take fewer airplane trips. What would be novel would be Canadian’s actions being consistent with their professed environmental convictions.

The media, governments and oil companies are all smokescreens we use to excuse our own inaction. More educations won’t do it, more bashing oil companies won’t do it; only large numbers of individual Canadians taking personal responsibility for the issue will do it. [End rant]

“Let’s do an experiment. Fern and Paul S would agree this is the best way to settle their argument, right? Fossil fuel multinationals et al can stop investing in politicization of the science and then we can see if public attitudes change.”

Hmm, you seem to have a fascinating hypothesis behind your experiment, Professor L.

You clearly seem to think a causal link exists between “public attitudes” and the average temperature of the Earth.

Brilliant. Yet predictable.

More fabulous predictions!

“A rocket will never be able to leave the Earth’s atmosphere.”
New York Times, 1936.

“Professor Goddard does not know the relation between action and reaction and the need to have something better than a vacuum against which to react. He seems to lack the basic knowledge ladled out daily in high schools.”
- 1921 New York Times editorial about Robert Goddard’s revolutionary rocket work.

“There will be one million cases of AIDS in Britain by 1991.”
- World Health Organisation in a 1989 report. It over-estimated by 992,301 cases.

“Radio has no future.”
“X-rays are clearly a hoax.”
“The aeroplane is scientifically impossible.”
- Royal Society president William Thomson, Lord Kelvin, 1897-9.

“The atom bomb will never go off - and I speak as an expert in explosives.”
- U.S. Admiral William Leahy in 1945.

“Television won’t matter in your lifetime or mine.”
- Radio Times editor Rex Lambert, 1936.

“Everything that can be invented has been invented.”
- Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, US Office of Patents, 1899

“Stocks have reached a permanently high plateau.”
- Irving Fisher, Professor of Economics, Yale University, 1929

“There is not the slightest indication that nuclear energy will ever be obtainable. It would mean that the atom would have to be shattered at will.”
- Albert Einstein, 1932

“With over 50 foreign cars already on sale here, the Japanese auto industry isn’t likely to carve out a big slice of the US market.”
- Business Week, August 2, 1968

“I think there’s a world market for about five computers.”
- Thomas J. Watson, chairman of the board of IBM.

“This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication.”
- Western Union memo, 1876

“Louis Pasteur’s theory of germs is ridiculous fiction.”
- Pierre Pachet, Professor of Physiology at Toulouse, 1872.

“The abdomen, the chest, and the brain will forever be shut from the intrusion of the wise and humane surgeon.”
- Sir John Eric Ericksen, British surgeon, appointed Surgeon-Extraordinary to Queen Victoria, 1873.

“Men might as well project a voyage to the Moon as attempt to employ steam navigation against the stormy North Atlantic Ocean.”
- Dr. Dionysus Lardner, Professor of Natural Philosophy and Astronomy, University College, London, 1838

It’s fun reading the old newspapers, isn’t it? One thing I must point out, though, about your list of “fabulous predictions” is that all of them are absolute and finite in their pronouncements. None of them allows for any advancement in science, but rather are based on the rather pompous assumption that all that can be known is/was known at the time the pronouncement was made.

On the other hand, Dr Plass was revisiting a theory that had been more or less dismissed when it was raised by Tyndall in 1861. He carried out further study – work not possible during Tyndall’s time due to all kinds of technical limitations – and published his findings in a scientific journal. The NYT article is a report about that research paper, not a breathless sound bite.

Dr Gilbert Plass re-examines [the theory]in a paper which he publishes in The American Scientist and in which he summarizes conclusions that he reached after a study that he made with the support of the Office of Naval Research. To him, the carbon dioxide theory stands up, though it may take another century of observation and measurement of temperature to confirm it.

In other words, Plass was suggesting that the theory has merit, and ought to be studied over time. His suggestion has stood the test of time, as the predictions on your very amusing list have not, for here we are, with years and years and years of study and evidence heaped up around us to show that Tyndall was right. Only when the implications for profits began to pop up did the issue become political, ie It must be communist if it suggests that the source of our capital might be bad for the planet.

Fern Mackenzie

As I understand the implied argument of ROB (easily plagiarized from easy-to-find internet sources): if any prediction was ever made that was later proved wrong, then all predictions are wrong.

Or, if some previous hypotheses (or in this case general statement at a meeting or in the popular press) were rejected, than all hypotheses must also be false.

So, by this logic, if science correctly rejects some ideas based on evidence, then all the ones that were not rejected must also be wrong, because they came from science. This is how deniers, of not only climate science but many other unpalatable findings (such as pesticide problems, evolution, ozone, wildlife conservation, etc.), create an all-new ‘science’ that is not based on evidence, and give themselves the badge of the New Authority.