Photo via Yglesias
The Smithsonian boasts one of the nation's most respected, most visited, and most famous group of museums. So what's it doing still displaying an exhibit based on 1970s-era science--that the earth is undergoing 'global cooling'--in its Natural History Museum in 2009? You're probably most likely to hear about global cooling these days from climate change deniers who sometimes say something along the lines of: "Well, scientists said that there was global cooling in the '70s. Now it's global warming?"
And no matter what you've heard, the '70s notion of global cooling has been disproved, and scientists are now at a consensus that the earth is warming. Matthew Yglesias, who spotted the exhibit on a recent visit to the Smithsonian, explains:
In the 70s the study of earth's climate was in its infancy. There was some data, that now turns out to be a very short-term trend, that pointed toward cooling. Other data pointing toward a warming trend. More research was done, and we now understand that there's been a long-term warming trend throughout the industrial era, caused largely by growing concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere.Now maybe we know where some of those climate change skeptics are getting their misinformation--which brings us back to the question of why there's a display pushing the idea of global cooling in one of the nation's most prestigious natural history museums.
Evidently, it's out of sheer laziness: there's been a note up next to the placard for the last two years saying that the exhibit is going to be updated, but no changes have been made. Elsewhere in the museum, there are displays showing recent, up-to-date climate science, and explanations of the current understanding of climate change. Looks like it's about time to update the exhibit--come on fellas, you're the Smithsonian.