Dr. Nebert is a physician-scientist with 50 years of work in basic and clinical research. He has over 500 publications. His public-oriented articles, like this one, are about busting myths. He uses scientific facts to counter publicly accepted hype and hysteria. The Cincinnati Enquirer published this article in May 2015. – Ed
by Dr. Daniel W Nebert, Professor Emeritus, University of Cincinnati Medical Center
The media constantly strives to increase newspaper and magazine circulation; also the number of radio listeners and television, online and podcast viewers. One effective way to achieve this goal is to exploit the theme: “Should I worry?”
For example, after World War II was the “flying saucer scare”. Worry about an invasion from outer space certainly sold more newspapers and magazines and increased television news-watching. This concern also led to the government-funded program, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI).
In the 1940s-50s some were convinced that fluoridation of drinking water was a “communist conspiracy”. Fear-mongering has remained sufficiently strong even today in some communities so that fluoride is still not added to city water supplies––despite medically-proven benefits that children drinking fluoridated water have fewer dental cavities due to strengthened enamel.
In the late 1940s began the fright of “nuclear winter”, promoted by Carl Sagan and others. Explosions of multiple nuclear bombs, causing numerous city-firestorms and excessive atmospheric soot, might block sunlight and lead to climate cooling.
In the 1960s was “zero population growth”, endorsed by Paul Ehrlich and others. By 2000, if Earth’s population continued to increase, the planetary food supply was predicted to become depleted; some followers of this political movement actually decided on having fewer children because of this fear.
Between 1950 and 1970, cooler weather prevailed in the U.S. and Europe, compared with the 1930s-40s. “Global cooling” became a concern. Major articles in Time (1974) and Newsweek (1975) magazines proposed that Earth might be entering a new “Ice Age”. Yet, by 1978, the cooling trend of 1945-75 had disappeared.
In 1975 Wallace Broecker, geochemist at Columbia University in a Science journal article, was credited with first using the term “global warming”. In 1988 the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) held its first meeting, which marked the beginning of global warming hysteria.
Satellite measurements of extremely accurate worldwide surface temperatures began in late 1978, which did show warming of several tenths of a degree, until 1997; this coincided with the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize awarded jointly to Al Gore and the IPCC for “creating awareness of global warming”.
For the past 18 years, however, no further statistically significant increases in global surface temperatures have occurred––while fear-mongering of “rising carbon dioxide levels” and “climate change” has continued to this day as political agenda in the media.
Wind and solar power, heavily subsidized by governmental funds because they are not otherwise cost-effective, have been championed by environmentalists.
Then came the “Y2K Bug”, fear that all computers worldwide would simultaneously crash, when changing from December 31, 1999, to January 1, 2000. The “computer glitch that scared the world”––never materialized.
There are other topics of concern. Childhood vaccinations causing autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) or attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Consumption of commercially-prepared food, or food containing preservatives, rather than “organic” foods, resulting in cancer. Exposure to genetically modified foodstuff causing cancer. All of the above, and many other things, are proposed to be responsible for dramatic increases in childhood ASD, ADHD, asthma, and obesity seen today in Western societies.
On a daily basis in the media, each of us is free to choose: “Should I worry?” or “Should I ignore all the hype?”
Perhaps being aware of these issues is acceptable. Being consumed with panic over these issues is not healthy.