CBC Digital Archives

Ice age vs. greenhouse

Hollywood stars speak out about it, politicians argue about it and books on the subject are bestsellers: global warming is a hot topic today. But just a few decades ago, some scientists were predicting another ice age. CBC Digital Archives looks at four decades of CBC's climate change coverage, beginning with murmurs of a northern warming trend in the 1960s and ending with the Kyoto Conference of the late 90s.

A "little ice age" could begin in about 135 years, says Hurd C. Willett of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In this 1976 interview, he explains how his research on sunspot cycles brought him to this conclusion. He knows all about the theory of the "greenhouse effect," but he dismisses it. Why? He believes that long before atmospheric pollution could do anything serious to our planet's climate, "we will have polluted the atmosphere so far that we won't find it liveable." 
• As early as the late 1960s a few scientists were predicting an ice age was on its way, but the theory really peaked in the mid-1970s. In 1974, Time magazine ran a big story called "Another Ice Age?" And a 1975 Newsweek article warned that global cooling could have dire effects on the world's food supply.
• After a warming trend in the first part of the 20th century, overall world temperatures fell slightly between 1945 and the early 70s, making this ice age theory feasible.

• The ice age predictions of the 1970s are sometimes cited as a reason to mistrust global warming scientists. But according to a 2006 Newsweek article, "The point to remember... is that predictions of global cooling never approached the kind of widespread scientific consensus that supports the greenhouse effect today." The article also points to modern access to "vastly more data, incomparably faster computers and infinitely more sophisticated mathematical models."
Medium: Radio
Program: As It Happens
Broadcast Date: Jan. 29, 1976
Guest(s): Hurd C. Willett
Host: Russ Germain
Interviewer: Barbara Frum
Duration: 5:13

Last updated: January 24, 2012

Page consulted on December 5, 2013

All Clips from this Topic

Related Content

Turning Up the Heat: Four Decades of Climate ...

Hollywood stars speak out about it, politicians argue about it and books on the subject are be...

Bob Hunter hasn't given up hope for the plane...

Bob Hunter is interviewed about receiving a citation for his work for the environment.

Climate change threatens polar bears

Disappearing ice in Hudson Bay in 1999 means polar bears can't build up their fat reserves and...

Kyoto: 'A very real deal'

At the 1997 Kyoto Conference, Canada commits to specific greenhouse gas reductions - but not e...

Canada signs Convention on Climate Change

Prime Minister Brian Mulroney signs a general agreement to reduce greenhouse gases at 1992's E...

Greenhouse effect? Not so sure

A U.S. report says forecasts of global warming are so inaccurate they are useless to policy-ma...