BTW, You Really Don’t Need To Worry About Prophesies Of Doom And Gloom
Writing over at Wired, Matt Ridley exposes the constantly litany of enviroweenie/Warmist prognostications of doooooooom, along with other end of the world as we know it crazies (via Climate Depot)
When the sun rises on December 22, as it surely will, do not expect apologies or even a rethink. No matter how often apocalyptic predictions fail to come true, another one soon arrives. And the prophets of apocalypse always draw a following–from the 100,000 Millerites who took to the hills in 1843, awaiting the end of the world, to the thousands who believed in Harold Camping, the Christian radio broadcaster who forecast the final rapture in both 1994 and 2011.
Religious zealots hardly have a monopoly on apocalyptic thinking. Consider some of the environmental cataclysms that so many experts promised were inevitable. Best-selling economist Robert Heilbroner in 1974: “The outlook for man, I believe, is painful, difficult, perhaps desperate, and the hope that can be held out for his future prospects seem to be very slim indeed.” Or best-selling ecologist Paul Ehrlich in 1968: “The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s [“and 1980s” was added in a later edition] the world will undergo famines–hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked on now … nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate.” Or Jimmy Carter in a televised speech in 1977: “We could use up all of the proven reserves of oil in the entire world by the end of the next decade.”
Predictions of global famine and the end of oil in the 1970s proved just as wrong as end-of-the-world forecasts from millennialist priests. Yet there is no sign that experts are becoming more cautious about apocalyptic promises. If anything, the rhetoric has ramped up in recent years. Echoing the Mayan calendar folk, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved its Doomsday Clock one minute closer to midnight at the start of 2012, commenting: “The global community may be near a point of no return in efforts to prevent catastrophe from changes in Earth’s atmosphere.”
Over the five decades since the success of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring in 1962 and the four decades since the success of the Club of Rome’s The Limits to Growth in 1972, prophecies of doom on a colossal scale have become routine. Indeed, we seem to crave ever-more-frightening predictions–we are now, in writer Gary Alexander’s word, apocaholic. The past half century has brought us warnings of population explosions, global famines, plagues, water wars, oil exhaustion, mineral shortages, falling sperm counts, thinning ozone, acidifying rain, nuclear winters, Y2K bugs, mad cow epidemics, killer bees, sex-change fish, cell-phone-induced brain-cancer epidemics, and climate catastrophes.
Yet, all these things have not come to pass: they world hasn’t descended into a Mel Gibson apocalyptic Mad Max society. As Matt rightly points out, yes, there are problems, some solvable, some not, but they aren’t going to doom the planet. In fact, these absurd, over the top, hysterical, we’re all dooooooomed!!!!! type prognostications usually end up with policy prescriptions that are worse than the original issue, which wasn’t all that bad to start with. Matt mentions, in the final paragraph, how the push for biofuels leads to environmental degradation and clear-cutting of forests of all stripes, increasing the release of CO2 and causing hunger and poverty. Consider Palm Oil.
Palm oil is used for more than just biofuels: it’s often used for cooking. Girls who participate in the Girl Scouts have been trying for years to get the national organization to stop using the oil in their cookies. Why? Because forests are decimated to create land to farm the palm oil, which kills off the life. In many cases, hunters are paid to intentionally kill off all the wildlife, especially orangutans. But, it’s really the use of palm oil as a biofuel that is driving this environmental destruction. Thanks, Warmists! Every orangutan killed is on your conscience.
Australian Climate Madness has a great take on what happens with all these scary predictions
What’s the betting that climate alarmism will eventually be relegated to the dustbin of failed environmental scares? They all have several things in common:
- an element of reality, which can be large or small;
- which in each case is elevated to a full-blown scare;
- by activists, who are usually driven by emotional, political, financial or other non-scientific motives;
- the scare will command wall-to-wall media coverage, often for many years;
- eventually, however, possibly decades later, it will be shown to have been exaggerated;
- followed by a collective wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth from those in power;
- and the public becomes ever more cynical and untrusting of such prophesies in the future.
Unfortunately, these over the top harbingers can cause damage for decades. It’s been 50 years since the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, and the deaths of tens of millions of humans lie at her feet thanks to the banning (sometimes outright bans, sometimes it’s “if you use it, you won’t get any of our sweet, sweet foreign aid money”) of the use of DDT. (See The Green Death and The Lies Of Rachel Carson)
Of course, the most interesting part about the extreme environmental and Warmist movements is that they never seem to worry about these things enough to change their own behavior. They don’t give up fossil fuels, they aren’t unplugging every appliance when not in use, they still use air conditioners, and, oh, “there’s a slight chance of contracting West Nile virus in my area? Let’s spray to stop it! Who cares if that messes up the food chain!”