Decades of id­i­otic en­vi­ron­men­tal pre­dic­tions

Edmonton Sun - - COMMENT - Walter e. WIL­LIAMS Walter E. Wil­liams is a pro­fes­sor of eco­nomics at Ge­orge Ma­son Univer­sity.

The Com­pet­i­tive En­ter­prise In­sti­tute has pub­lished a new pa­per, “Wrong Again: 50 Years of Failed Eco-poca­lyp­tic Pre­dic­tions.” Keep in mind that many of the grossly wrong en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist pre­dic­tions were made by re­spected sci­en­tists and gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials. My ques­tion for you is: If you were around at the time, how many gov­ern­ment re­stric­tions and taxes would you have urged to avoid the pre­dicted calamity?

As re­ported in The New York Times (Aug. 1969) Stan­ford Univer­sity bi­ol­o­gist Dr. Paul Erhlich warned: “The trou­ble with al­most all en­vi­ron­men­tal prob­lems is that by the time we have enough ev­i­dence to con­vince peo­ple, you’re dead. We must re­al­ize that un­less we’re ex­tremely lucky, every­body will dis­ap­pear in a cloud of blue steam in 20 years.”

In 2000, Dr. David Viner, a se­nior re­search sci­en­tist at Univer­sity of East Anglia’s cli­mate re­search unit, pre­dicted that in a few years win­ter snow­fall would be­come “a very rare and ex­cit­ing event. Chil­dren just aren’t go­ing to know what snow is.” In 2004, the U.S. Pen­tagon warned Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush that ma­jor Euro­pean cities would be be­neath ris­ing seas. Bri­tain will be plunged into a Siberian cli­mate by 2020. In 2008, Al Gore pre­dicted that the po­lar ice cap would be gone in a mere 10 years. A U.S. De­part­ment of En­ergy study led by the U.S. Navy pre­dicted the Arc­tic Ocean would ex­pe­ri­ence an ice-free sum­mer by 2016.

In May 2014, French For­eign Min­is­ter Lau­rent Fabius de­clared dur­ing a joint ap­pear­ance with Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry that “we have 500 days to avoid cli­mate chaos.”

Peter Gunter, pro­fes­sor at North Texas State Univer­sity, pre­dicted in the spring 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.”

Ecol­o­gist Ken­neth Watt’s 1970 pre­dic­tion was, “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.” He added, “This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age.”

Mark J. Perry, scholar at the Amer­i­can En­ter­prise In­sti­tute and pro­fes­sor of eco­nomics and fi­nance at the Univer­sity of Michi­gan’s Flint cam­pus, cites 18 spec­tac­u­larly wrong pre­dic­tions made around the time of first Earth Day in 1970. This time it’s not about weather. Harrison Brown, a sci­en­tist at the Na­tional Acad­emy of Sci­ences, pub­lished a chart in Sci­en­tific Amer­i­can that looked at metal re­serves and es­ti­mated that hu­man­ity would run out of cop­per shortly af­ter 2000. Lead, zinc, tin, gold and sil­ver would be gone be­fore 1990. Ken­neth Watt said, “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.”

There were grossly wild pre­dic­tions well be­fore the first Earth Day, too. In 1939, the U.S. De­part­ment of the In­te­rior pre­dicted that Amer­i­can oil sup­plies would last for only an­other 13 years. In 1949, the sec­re­tary of the in­te­rior said the end of U.S. oil sup­plies was in sight. Hav­ing learned noth­ing from its ear­lier er­ro­neous en­ergy claims, in 1974, the U.S. Ge­o­log­i­cal Sur­vey said that the U.S. had only a 10-year sup­ply of nat­u­ral gas. How­ever, the U.S. En­ergy In­for­ma­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion es­ti­mated that as of Jan. 1, 2017, there were about 2,459 tril­lion cu­bic feet of dry nat­u­ral gas in the United States. That’s enough to last us for nearly a cen­tury. The United States is the largest pro­ducer of nat­u­ral gas world­wide.

To­day’s wild pre­dic­tions about cli­mate doom are likely to be just as true as yes­ter­year’s. The ma­jor dif­fer­ence is to­day’s Amer­i­cans are far more gullible and more likely to spend tril­lions fight­ing global warm­ing. And the only re­sult is that we’ll be much poorer and less free.

Reuters/ser­gio MO­RAES

A child and cli­mate change ac­tivists at­tend the Ex­tinc­tion Re­bel­lion protests on Copaca­bana beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Mon­day.

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