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Author of report fueling climate skeptics says global warming is real

The journalist who wrote what became a world-famous report on global warming – or global cooling – as he called it, has said he is not a climate change sceptic and that his article was misinterpreted and misused.

Peter Gwynne, now 72, was the science editor of Newsweek in 1975 when he wrote a nine paragraph story about how global temperatures were falling.

The story, The Cooling World, said that Earth's climate was cooling down and that we were potentially heading for a "little ice age" that bought cold winters to Europe and North America between 1600 and 1900.

Since its publication, the story has been used by climate deniers as evidence that global warming is not happening or is not man made. Senator James Inhofe even used the story on the Senate floor, The Daily Climate reports.

Rush Limbaugh once said: "I call [global warming] a hoax... A 1975 Newsweek cover was gonna talk about the ice age coming. So they're really confused how to play it."

Similarly Sean Hannity, on Fox News, said: "If you go back to Time Magazine (sic), they actually were proclaiming the next ice age is coming, now it's become global warming... How do you believe the same people that were predicting just a couple decades ago that the new ice age is coming?"

In an interview with media organisation, Gwynne said he still stands by the report as that was what the evidence suggested at the time.

Gwynne's report from 1975 has been used for almost 40 years as evidence against global warming. Newsweek/The Daily Climate

He said that while he accepts people's continued use of the report for their political purposes, he does not believe climate change is not real: "It's part of the game, once you get from science to politics, that's the way it's played. I just hope people don't think I think that way.

"When I wrote this story I did not see it as a blockbuster. It was just an intriguing piece about what a certain group in a certain niche of climatology was thinking."

It is now thought the drop in global temperate discussed in the report was the result of soot and aerosols.

Gwynne also notes that Newsweek sexed up the story as per the style of the time: "Newsweek being Newsweek, we might have pushed the envelope a little bit more than I would have wanted."

He said the misuse of the article has not put him off science journalism at all: "It's been American science and scientists – particularly Nasa – that showed the climate is changing.

"I've been able to write for a lot of different audiences, physicists, engineers and the general public. I've been willing to accept that some of that is misused and misinterpreted.

"You have to give all sides a fair hearing. [But] if they don't have the data ... that leaves readers out on a limb. Your job as a journalist is to give each side its best shot."