1) Global Cooling
A list like this has to start with the “climate change” catastrophe the environmentalists were all warning about in the 1970s: global cooling and a descent into a new ice age. “The world has been chilling sharply for about twenty years. If present trends continue, the world will be about four degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990, but eleven degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age.”
As late as 1980, Carl Sagan was still presenting global cooling as one of two possible doomsday scenarios we could choose from.
When environmentalists said that we were destroying the Earth, they meant it directly and literally. The biggest problem was the very existence of humans, the fact that there were just too darned many of us. We were going to keep growing unchecked, and we were going to swarm the surface of the Earth like locusts, destroying everything in our path until we eventually used it all up.
There were going to be an inconceivable seven billion people on Earth by the year 2000, and there was just no way we could support them all.
3) Mass Starvation
Predictions of global famine were part of the population growth hysteria, but they were such a big part that they deserve their own separate treatment.
My favorite failed prediction is this one, from Peter Gunter, a professor at North Texas State University, in a 1970 issue of The Living Wilderness.
Demographers agree almost unanimously on the following grim timetable: by 1975 widespread famines will begin in India; these will spread by 1990 to include all of India, Pakistan, China and the Near East, Africa. By the year 2000, or conceivably sooner, South and Central America will exist under famine conditions…. By the year 2000, thirty years from now, the entire world, with the exception of Western Europe, North America, and Australia, will be in famine.
4) Resource Depletion
In addition to running out of food, we were also supposed to run out of natural resources, such as nickel and copper, and above all we were running out of oil.
Here’s our friend Kenneth Watt again, with his present trends continuing: “By the year 2000, if present trends continue, we will be using up crude oil at such a rate…that there won’t be any more crude oil. You’ll drive up to the pump and say, ‘Fill ‘er up, buddy,’ and he’ll say, ‘I am very sorry, there isn’t any.'”
5) Mass Extinction
At the first Earth Day, its political sponsor, Senator Gaylord Nelson, warned: “Dr. S. Dillon Ripley, secretary of the Smithsonian Institute, believes that in 25 years, somewhere between 75 and 80 percent of all the species of living animals will be extinct.”
6) Renewable Energy
This isn’t a prediction about a disaster that didn’t happen. It’s a prediction about a solution that never materialized. Don’t worry about the fact that we want to shut down fossil fuels and dirty coal, we were told, because there’s a bright new future from “Renewable Energy.”
But all of the alternatives we were promised fall into two categories. There are those that are still too unreliable and expensive; Germany is about to be crushed by the massive cost of its renewable energy boondoggle. And then there are those which have gone from being the alternative championed by environmentalists to being the targets of the environmentalist anger. This is by far the most common trajectory. [Shale oil, hydroelectric, wind farms] Now, even large-scale solar energy is under attack. And I’m still waiting for environmentalists to figure out exactly what goes in to those solar panels.
7) Global Warming
Which brings us back to global warming. I noted last week that after a multi-decade plateau in global temperatures, they are now at or below the low end of the range for all of the computer models that predicted global warming.
If we go full circle, back to the failed prediction of global cooling, we can see the wider trend. After two or three decades of cooling temperatures, from the 1940s to 1970, environmentalists project a cooling trend—only to have the climate change on them. After a few decades of warmer temperatures, from the 1970s to the late 1990s, they all jumped onto the bandwagon of projecting a continued warming trend—and the darned climate changed again, staying roughly flat since about 1998.
But by now you can get an idea for the major outlines of an environmental hysteria. The steps are: a) start with assumption that man is “ravaging the Earth,” b) latch onto an unproven scientific hypothesis that fits this preconception, c) extrapolate wildly from half-formed theories and short-term trends to predict a future apocalypse, d) pressure a bunch of people with “Ph.D.” after their names to endorse it so you can say it’s a consensus of experts, e) get the press to broadcast it with even less nuance and get a bunch of Hollywood celebrities who failed Freshman biology to adopt it as their pet cause, then finally f) quietly drop the whole thing when it doesn’t pan out—and move on with undiminished enthusiasm to the next environmental doomsday scenario.
When men fail as entirely as they have—well, I’m not going to ask them to fall on their swords. But we might ask them to understand why, when they assure us their newest doomsday predictions are really, really true this time, we’re not inclined to believe a single word they say.
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Saturday, April 25, 2015
Over at The Federalist we are reminded that the environmental doomsayers have been spectacularly wrong too many times to be readily believed. Here are a few excerpts, read the whole thing.