Paint It Black

Best of the Web linked to this 2009 London Times article titled “Paint the world white to fight global warming.” The Times reported that Secretary of Energy Steven Chu wants to paint as many of the earth’s surfaces white as reasonably possible, as a means of combating global warming:

Steven Chu, the Nobel prize-winning physicist appointed by President Obama as Energy Secretary, wants to paint the world white. A global initiative to change the colour of roofs, roads and pavements so that they reflect more sunlight and heat could play a big part in containing global warming, he said yesterday. …
Professor Chu said that this approach could have a vast impact. By lightening paved surfaces and roofs to the colour of cement, it would be possible to cut carbon emissions by as much as taking all the world’s cars off the roads for 11 years, he said.
Building regulations should insist that all flat roofs were painted white, and visible tilted roofs could be painted with “cool-coloured” paints that looked normal, but which absorbed much less heat than conventional dark surfaces. Roads could be lightened to a concrete colour so they would not dazzle drivers in bright sunlight. “I think with flat-type roofs you can’t even see, yes, I think you should regulate,” Professor Chu said.

What’s funny about this is that during the 1970s global cooling scare, environmental activists–in some cases, the same people who are now global warming alarmists–insisted that governments (ours, in particular) should paint the ice caps black in order to absorb more of the sun’s radiation and thereby warm the Earth. At that time, activists thought it outrageous that politicians were too timid to take such an obvious step to save the planet. In both cases, what mostly seems to be involved is the will to power: “I think you should regulate,” Chu says, which is really the whole point.
Back in 1992, Scott and I wrote a magazine article called “The Global Warming Hoax,” which unfortunately is not available anywhere on the web. In that piece we quoted, among other things, a Time magazine story; Doug Powers at dug up this cover:
UPDATE: While the above cover accurately reflects the content of what was being written in the popular press (Time, Newsweek, etc.) about global cooling at the time, several readers have said that the cover itself is a photoshop. Could be. I haven’t had time to look into it yet, but will follow up later in the day.
FURTHER UPDATE: Aha! It is indeed a photoshop, of a 2007 Time cover that talked about global warming. 1977, the purported date of the photoshopped cover, was in fact after the peak of global cooling fears. In our 1992 article, we quoted from a June 24, 1974 Time story titled Another Ice Age?

However widely the weather varies from place to place and time to time, when meteorologists take an average of temperatures around the globe they find that the atmosphere has been growing gradually cooler for the past three decades. The trend shows no indication of reversing. Climatological Cassandras are becoming increasingly apprehensive, for the weather aberrations they are studying may be the harbinger of another ice age.
Telltale signs are everywhere –from the unexpected persistence and thickness of pack ice in the waters around Iceland to the southward migration of a warmth-loving creature like the armadillo from the Midwest.Since the 1940s the mean global temperature has dropped about 2.7° F. Although that figure is at best an estimate, it is supported by other convincing data. When Climatologist George J. Kukla of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory and his wife Helena analyzed satellite weather data for the Northern Hemisphere, they found that the area of the ice and snow cover had suddenly increased by 12% in 1971 and the increase has persisted ever since. Areas of Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic, for example, were once totally free of any snow in summer; now they are covered year round.

Scientists have found other indications of global cooling. For one thing there has been a noticeable expansion of the great belt of dry, high-altitude polar winds –the so-called circumpolar vortex–that sweep from west to east around the top and bottom of the world. Indeed it is the widening of this cap of cold air that is the immediate cause of Africa’s drought.

Man, too, may be somewhat responsible for the cooling trend. The University of Wisconsin’s Reid A. Bryson and other climatologists suggest that dust and other particles released into the atmosphere as a result of farming and fuel burning may be blocking more and more sunlight from reaching and heating the surface of the earth.

Whatever the cause of the cooling trend, its effects could be extremely serious, if not catastrophic. Scientists figure that only a 1% decrease in the amount of sunlight hitting the earth’s surface could tip the climatic balance, and cool the planet enough to send it sliding down the road to another ice age within only a few hundred years. … But there is a peril more immediate than the prospect of another ice age. Even if temperature and rainfall patterns change only slightly in the near future in one or more of the three major grain-exporting countries–the U.S., Canada and Australia –global food stores would be sharply reduced. University of Toronto Climatologist Kenneth Hare, a former president of the Royal Meteorological Society, believes that the continuing drought and the recent failure of the Russian harvest gave the world a grim premonition of what might happen. Warns Hare: “I don’t believe that the world’s present population is sustainable if there are more than three years like 1972 in a row.”

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