And That’s the Way It Was: In 1972, Cronkite Warned of ‘New Ice Age’

The “brutal” winter is on the attack again, bringing sleet and heavy snow to the mid-Atlantic region. Previous storms targeted the deep south including Dallas, Texas, and several hammered New England. By March 4, Boston was just 2 inches away from hitting an all-time record for snow, reported.

It’s a reality more in keeping with media warnings from the 1970s than today’s arguments about global warming. Then, CBS anchor Walter Cronkite, the dean of American journalism, was warning about an "ice age." Cronkite cited scientific claims that the Earth was cooling and "the full extent of the new ice age won't be reached for 10,000 years." That's completely different from the media's line today that global warming is settled science.

NBC Nightly News reported February 23 that Dallas was paralyzed “after an entire season’s worth of sleet and freezing rain, up to two inches, fell in a single day,” causing massive traffic problems. Similar scenes happened in other southern states as the cold swept across the nation. Single-digit temperatures hit New York City and Newark saw temperatures as low as 8 degrees on February 23, NOAA said.

Massive pileups mangled cars, Louisianans built snowmen and thousands flocked to Letchworth State Park, near Rochester, N.Y. to see a 53-foot tall ice fountain that keeps growing as record lows abound in the Northeast, CBS reported on February 25. CBS also noted Rochester experienced its coldest month since 1871.

Some winters are “bone-chilling,” like this one has been, others are mild, and some like the 1972-1973 winter started early and harsh, but grew surprisingly mild. That was the same year Walter Cronkite was “the most trusted man in America” in 1972, according to polls. A 2009 CBS obituary for the journalist said, “Cronkite was the biggest name in television news, the king of the anchormen; in fact, he was the reporter for whom the term ‘anchorman’ was coined."

On September 11, 1972, Cronkite cited scientists’ predictions that there was a “new ice age” coming. He called that prediction from British scientist Hubert Lamb “a bit of bad news.”

“But then there is some good news,” Cronkite continued. “That while the weather may be just a little colder in the immediate years to come, the full extent of the new ice age won’t be reached for 10,000 years. And if you can stand any more good news, even then it won’t be as bad as the last ice age 60,000 years ago. Then New York, Cincinnati, St. Louis, were under 5,000 feet of ice. Presumably no traffic moved and school was let out for the day. And that’s the way it is, Monday, September 11, 1972.”

Lamb, the scientist Cronkite cited, was no fringe scientist. He founded the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in Great Britain. When he died, the CRU director called him “the greatest climatologist of his time,” according to the Global Warming Policy Foundation. He was also credited with establishing “climate change as a serious research subject.”  

Unlike scientists often quoted by the media today, GWPF said that Lamb viewed the Earth’s climate as changing constantly and naturally. Unlike its founder, CRU now has a major role in spreading global warming alarmism. CBS said in 2009, CRU “wields outsize influence” in warming circles. The Climategate scandal centered around leaked documents and emails from that organization.

The late Cronkite is considered a “legendary journalist” and a pioneer in the field, which is why Marc Morano, publisher of Climate Depot, said this footage was so important. Morano is a former staff member of U.S. Senate Environment & Public Works Committee and producer of the upcoming global warming documentary Climate Hustle, set for release later in 2015.

"Global warming activists have claimed for years that the 1970s global cooling scare never existed. They have tried to erase the inconvenient history which ironically blamed extreme weather like tornadoes, droughts, record cold and blizzards on global cooling,” said Morano.

Morano told MRC Business, “But now -- unearthed from bowels of media archives -- comes none other than Walter Cronkite reporting on fears of a coming ice age in 1972. Having Cronkite's image and face discussing global cooling fears reveals the fickleness of the climate change claims.”

“Climate fear promoters switched effortlessly from global cooling fears in the 1970s to global warming fears in the 1980s. In the present day, the phrase 'global warming' has lost favor in favor of 'climate change' or 'global climate disruption' or even 'global weirding,’ Morano added. “'Settled science' has never seemed so unsettled.”

Julia A. Seymour
Julia A. Seymour
Julia A. Seymour is the Assistant Managing Editor for the MRC's Business and Media Institute.