Global Warming/Climate Change advocates claim that the debate is over. The science is settled. Debating the “science” behind the certainty of man-made Climate Change is like debating whether the earth is flat or round. So say supposedly 97 percent of all scientists. Rubbish.
A similar no-debate claim was made in the 1970s about peak oil — that there was a limited supply and we had nearly reached the limit. Keep this prediction in mind every time you hear some scientist tell us what the future will hold regarding this claim or that claim.
Like today’s Climate Change prognosticators, former President Jimmy Carter, using the science of his day in 1977, claimed that in 35 years the world would run out of oil.
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In 2008, Salon magazine wrote that Carter’s “speech holds up pretty darn well today.” Here’s a very short video of Jimmy Carter making a similar predictive claim:
Now we’re swimming in the stuff. There’s so much oil being pumped out of the ground that the price of gasoline is less than a dollar in some places. If state, local, and federal taxes are taken out, and accounting for inflation, it borders on being cheaper than it’s ever been.
It’s not just about oil. Almost everything these prognosticators have claimed have turned out to be wrong — very wrong.
Paul Ehrlich made more apocalyptic predictions that scientists took seriously. Ehrlich makes today’s Global Warming Chicken Littles seem like Pollyanna. “The battle to feed all of humanity is over,” Ehrlich wrote. “In the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now.”1
In the first edition of his book The Population Bomb, Ehrlich stated:
“There is not enough food today. How much there will be tomorrow is open to debate. If the optimists are correct, today’s level of misery will be perpetuated for perhaps two decades into the future. If the pessimists are correct, massive famines will occur soon, possibly in the early 1970’s, certainly by the early 1980’s. So far most of the evidence seems to be on the side of the pessimists, and we should plan on the assumption that they are correct. After all, some two billion people aren’t being properly fed in 1968!”2
In 1969, Ehrlich continued with his predictions, stating, “By 1985 enough millions will have died to reduce the earth’s population to some acceptable level, like 1.5 billion people.” The same year, he predicted in an article entitled “Eco-Catastrophe!” that by 1980 the United States would see life expectancy drop to 42 years because of pesticides, and by 1999 its population would plummet to 22.6 million.
The facts tell a different story.
“All you can see is growing wealth around the world, increased caloric intake, increased life expectancy, increased per-capita wealth,” says Jerry Taylor, director of natural resource studies for the Cato Institute, a Washington research center that opposes most government intervention.
“We are increasingly conquering death around the world,” Taylor adds. “A century ago, human life expectancy was about 30 years. Now it’s 60 or 70 years. People are not starving to death. They are getting better food and they are living longer.”3
In the mid-seventies, with the release of his book The End of Affluence,4 Ehrlich outlined a Hollywood-style disaster scenario where he foresaw the President dissolving Congress “during the food riots of the 1980s,” followed by the United States suffering a nuclear attack for its mass use of insecticides. Like Malthus before him, in 1969 Ehrlich did not see much of a future for England. “I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000.”5
In 1976, he went beyond predicting food scarcity and took it upon himself to make unfounded pronouncements about natural resources. “Before 1985, mankind will enter a genuine age of scarcity . . . in which the accessible supplies of many key minerals will be facing depletion.”6
Economist Julian Simon won a bet with Paul Ehrlich on whether the price of five strategic metals which Ehrlich chose (copper, chrome, nickel, tin, tungsten) would rise or fall in a ten-year period from 1980 to 1990. All five metals went down in price. Ehrlich lost the bet.7
First it was the inevitability of Global Cooling, then it was the inevitability of Peak Oil, and now it’s the inevitability of climate disaster if the government doesn’t step in and save Planet Earth. Of course, it’s going to cost a boatload of money, but it will be worth it!
- Quoted in Thomas Sowell, The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulations as a Basis for Social Policy (New York: Basic Books, 1995), 67. [↩]
- Paul R. Ehrlich, The Population Bomb (Binghamton, NY: Sierra Club, 1969), 36B37). [↩]
- Jeff Nesmith, “6 Billion and Growing Fast,” The Atlanta Journal/Constitution (October 10, 1999), D3. [↩]
- Paul R. Ehrlich, The End of Affluence: A Blueprint for Your Future (New York: Ballantine Books, 1974). [↩]
- Quoted in Michael Fumento, “Doomsayer Paul Ehrlich Strikes Out Again,” Investor’s Business Daily (December 16, 1997). [↩]
- Quoted in Fumento, “Doomsayer Paul Ehrlich Strikes Out Again.” [↩]
- For an account of the wager, see John Tierney, “Betting the Planet,” New York Times Magazine (December 2, 1990), 52. Copper is being replaced in the communication’s industry by “fiber optics.” Two hair-thin fiber optic strands can carry 24,000 telephone calls. It would take 48,000 copper wires to carry the same number of calls. [↩]