A rational look at the history of climate and green hysteria

CHARLES RIGGS Published:

George Will can hardly be called a radical or extremist, and in this column he spells out exactly how delusional and hysterical the environmental and global warming lemmings have been in the last forty years. Reasonable, RATIONAL people must continue to stand fast against their stupidity and anti-business agenda.

http://www.jewishworldreview.com/cols/will081812.php3

Apocalypse not: Why doom has not materialized

By George Will

Sometimes the news is that something was not newsworthy. The United Nations’ Rio+20 conference — 50,000 participants from 188 nations — occurred in June without consequences. A generation has passed since the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, which begat other conferences and protocols (e.g., Kyoto). And, by now, apocalypse fatigue — boredom from being repeatedly told the end is nigh.

This began two generations ago, in 1972, when we were warned (by computer models developed at MIT) that we were doomed. We were supposed to be pretty much extinct by now, or at least miserable. We are neither. So, what went wrong?

That year begat “The Limits to Growth,” a book from the Club of Rome, which called itself “a project on the predicament of mankind.” It sold 12 million copies, staggered the New York Times (“one of the most important documents of our age”) and argued that economic growth was doomed by intractable scarcities. Bjorn Lomborg, the Danish academic and “skeptical environmentalist,” writing in Foreign Affairs, says it “helped send the world down a path of worrying obsessively about misguided remedies for minor problems while ignoring much greater concerns,” such as poverty, which only economic growth can ameliorate.

MIT’s models foresaw the collapse of civilization because of “nonrenewable resource depletion” and population growth. “In an age more innocent of and reverential toward computers,” Lomborg writes, “the reams of cool printouts gave the book’s argument an air of scientific authority and inevitability” that “seemed to banish any possibility of disagreement.” Then — as now, regarding climate change — respect for science was said to require reverential suspension of skepticism about scientific hypotheses. Time magazine’s story about “The Limits to Growth” exemplified the media’s frisson of hysteria:

“The furnaces of Pittsburgh are cold; the assembly lines of Detroit are still. In Los Angeles, a few gaunt survivors of a plague desperately till freeway center strips . . . Fantastic? No, only grim inevitability if society continues its present dedication to growth and ‘progress.’”

The modelers examined 19 commodities and said that 12 would be gone long before now — aluminum, copper, gold, lead, mercury, molybdenum, natural gas, oil, silver, tin, tungsten and zinc. Lomborg says:

Technological innovations have replaced mercury in batteries, dental fillings and thermometers; mercury consumption is down 98 percent, and its price was down 90 percent by 2000. Since 1970, when gold reserves were estimated at 10,980 tons, 81,410 tons have been mined, and estimated reserves are 51,000 tons. Since 1970, when known reserves of copper were 280 million tons, about 400 million tons have been produced globally, and reserves are estimated at almost 700 million tons. Aluminum consumption has increased 16-fold since 1950, the world has consumed four times the 1950 known reserves, and known reserves could sustain current consumption for 177 years. Potential U.S. gas resources have doubled in the past six years. And so on.

The modelers missed something — human ingenuity in discovering, extracting and innovating. Which did not just appear after 1972.

Aluminum, Lomborg writes, is one of earth’s most common metals. But until the 1886 invention of the Hall-Heroult process, it was so difficult and expensive to extract that “Napoleon III had bars of aluminum exhibited alongside the French crown jewels, and he gave his honored guests aluminum forks and spoons while lesser visitors had to make do with gold utensils.”

Forty years after “The Limits to Growth” imparted momentum to environmentalism, that impulse now is often reduced to children indoctrinated to “reduce, reuse, and recycle.” Lomborg calls recycling “a feel-good gesture that provides little environmental benefit at a significant cost.” He says that “we pay tribute to the pagan god of token environmentalism by spending countless hours sorting, storing and collecting used paper, which, when combined with government subsidies, yields slightly lower-quality paper in order to secure a resource” — forests — “that was never threatened in the first place.”

In 1980, economist Julian Simon made a wager in the form of a complex futures contract. He bet Paul Ehrlich (whose 1968 book “The Population Bomb” predicted that “hundreds of millions of people” would starve to death in the 1970s as population growth swamped agricultural production) that by 1990 the price of any five commodities Ehrlich and his advisers picked would be lower than in 1980.

Ehrlich’s group picked five metals. All were cheaper in 1990.

The bet cost Ehrlich $576.07. But that year he was awarded a $345,000 MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant and half of the $240,000 Crafoord Prize for ecological virtue. One of Ehrlich’s advisers, John Holdren, is Barack Obama’s science adviser.

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  • 1713 It doesn't matter whether I agree with the sources or not. Just that whom ever wrote it gets the credit for their work. That be the point. Aaaand I believe I have quoted NBC in a thread or two. Your obsession with Fox news is just amazing.

  • I tried crediting sources, it didn't matter (like deficits). You still didn't believe my sources based on nothing more than your opinion of the supposed political leanings of the source. Yet your Fox sources are always valid and genuine data. Cheney was right!

  • Waterdog, strangely, I find myself in agreement with you. One should make every attempt to credit sources of text and quotes. Also, to be taken seriously, one should strive to use reasonably good spelling and grammar. I don't always manage to do so.

  • waterdog, these Republicans will not let you confuse them with the facts. They don't care where the "facts" came from, as they refuse to believe in science period. They really don't want to be bothered with all of that readin', thinkin' and stuff.

  • nihilist, anon_1713; Just a suggestion. Sorry, it's the scientist in me coming out. But attributing your comment to a professional source makes it stronger than "this my own opinion", and "I didn't make up these figures".

  • waterdog, i'm always in a hurry, i thought you would handle those things for me.

  • waterdog, may I make a slight suggestion to everyone on here: this forum isn't a college term paper, so 'The SBL Handbook of Style' does not apply here, which is why I can use these double negatives and still feel good about it. I can also plagiarize until my heart is content...who wants to write out all of that stuff when somebody else (usually a professional) has already taken the time to do so? Spelling...just an afterthought. Punctuation? Who cares? Don't get caught up in the minutiae and instead concentrate on the content of the post and then maybe you can interject a few of the obvious character flaws of poster if you can do it with a dash of humor. There is plenty of that to go around.

  • George Will is not a "radical" or "extremist" compared to who? YOU Chazrigz? Ha! There are NO more moderate Repubicans, and if there were, the Tea Party would take them out.

  • I'm feeling kinda shot down now...

  • nihilist: You should really give credit for the post to the author. This is not only courtesy, but helps avoid any charge of plagiarism. See my post on the main page.

  • Dang. Good rebuttal. I may not agree but it was still good.

  • When it comes to the environment, George Will is a classic conservative. As evidenced by his latest column ("Doomsday Predictions Never Come Close"), his views never change. They remain forever frozen in time, along with his facts and figures. The polar icecaps and all the glaciers could melt, the oceans could rise by 20 feet, and he would still be saying, 'We're having some hot weather. Get over it." Several weeks ago, Will created a minor stir when he breezily dismissed any possible connection between climate change and the massive drought that has been afflicting half the country. He scoffed at the idea that anything had fundamentally changed. "I grew up in central Illinois in a house without air conditioning. What is so unusual about this?" Well, like Will, I grew up in central Illinois in a house without air conditioning, but I never recall the corn fields looking like they had been microwaved. Nor do I rely upon my childhood memories when weighing matters of scientific record. When the scientists say that the country has endured the hottest decade on record or that the drought is the worst in over 50 years, I don't beg to differ. In his latest column, Will points to a 20th century decline in commodity prices as evidence that there's no such thing as "limits to growth." Citing Bjorn Lomborg, the environmental skeptic, he says that mercury prices fell by 90 percent in the last third of the 20th century. Conveniently, Will did not bother to look at what's happened to mercury prices in the 21st century: mercury prices have soared from $150 per flask in 2000 to $1,950 in 2011. But to further buttress his argument, Will also cites a 1980 wager between Paul Ehrlich (author of the 1968 book, "The Population Bomb") and economist Julian Simon. Ehrlich wagered that resource scarcity over the next decade would boost the prices of five metals (copper, chromium, nickel, tin and tungsten). Will correctly notes that Ehrlich lost the bet, but as noted by Jeremy Grantham, the founder of GMO, one of the world's most successful investment firms, Simon would have the lost the bet if it had been extended another twenty years. Commodity prices for food, oil, metals, and minerals have soared in the past decade. The prices of basic food commodities have more than doubled. Most mineral and metal prices have tripled, and the price of oil has risen at an even brisker pace. If George Will had written his column twelve years ago, it might have been deemed credible, but today it is just laughable. It's as if record high temperatures, record droughts, record flooding, and record commodity prices count for nothing. George Will, like many other climate and science-deniers, is trapped in a preconceived vision of how the world works, and nothing will change his ossified convictions. Leading scientists may be warning that human activities are breaching "planetary boundaries" and threatening posterity and the planet, but the world according to Will never changes. Unfortunately, particularly for the poorest of the world's urban poor, the world is changing. With wheat and soybean prices rising this summer to new heights, and wheat prices soaring once again, the world is dangerously close to its third food crisis in five years. Once again, the household budgets of those living on a $1 or $2 a day is being stretched to the breaking point. In his latest quarterly investment letter for GMO, Grantham warns that: "We are five years into a severe global food crisis that is very unlikely to go away. It will threaten poor countries with increased malnutrition and starvation and even collapse. Resource squabbles and waves of food-induced migration will threaten global stability and global growth. This threat is badly underestimated by almost everybody and all institutions with the possible exception of some military establishments." George Will and other conservative intellectuals ignore such "doomsday" warnings, not because they lack supporting evidence, but because they do not comport with their long-held convictions. They should recall the wisdom of a more visionary conservative, Thomas Jefferson, who said: "... laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times." But George Will does not believe in keeping pace with the times... or the data. I guess it's a case of willful denial.