This is a question that gets asked various forms almost every day. Often this question is tied to global climate change or some other looming ecological disaster.
I’m turning 54 this next month, I thought I might explain to some of you, especially the younger ones why we, and yes I’m including myself in that group, often ignore the facts that experts go to such lengths to inform us with. The reason is simple. The “experts” have a very long track record of being wrong, and not just a little long, but wildly wrong. Experts have, since the beginning of written history, been prophesying doom of one sort or another. A thousand years ago it was the religious experts that were absolutely sure that the world would end with the year 1000. In fact here is a list of dates predicted for the end of the world on Wikipedia. If you look at that list closely you will notice something peculiar. Before the 1900 all the predictions were based in religion. But starting with the Camille Flammarion prediction that the 1910 appearance of Halley’s Comet would snuff out all life on the planet, the predictions took a decidedly scientific turn. Of course there was still a lot of religious predictions and the Wikipedia article focuses on those, but outside religion the predictions of a natural disaster or calamity destroying all life on earth seemed to be on everyone’s mind. Here is a list of some of the scientific predictions for the last 100 years. All of these were wrong, and many are spectacular failures.
Look at this example: It is now pretty clearly agreed that the CO2 content [in the atmosphere] will rise 25% by 2000. This could increase the average temperature near the earth’s surface by 7 degrees Fahrenheit. This in turn could raise the level of the sea by 10 feet. Goodbye New York. Goodbye Washington, for that matter.- – Presidential advisor Daniel Moynihan 1969 or how about this gem In ten years all important animal life in the sea will be extinct. Large areas of coastline will have to be evacuated because of the stench of dead fish. — Paul Ehrlich, Earth Day (1970) or this wildly wrong prediction An international team of specialists has concluded from eight indexes of climate that there is no end in sight to the cooling trend of the last 30 years, at least in the Northern Hemisphere. – New York Times – January 5, 1978
People like me, the older generation, grew up in the 1950s 60s 70s with these dire predictions all around us. And this does not even include the always looming threat of nuclear war. Almost everyone in those days believed that nuclear war with the Soviet Union was inevitable. We grew up with that sword of Damocles hanging over our head. As we grew older we watched as EVERY one of the most dire weather predictions failed to materialize. And now we have the experts telling us that a two degree rise will change the world. In the immortal words of Col. Potter from MASH, Mule Muffins!
For a hundred years the experts have been saying we’re all going to die, but we are still here.
The climate changes. The earth has been much warmer than it is now, and it has been much cooler too. Life, mankind, finds a way. Sure there will be changes in the future but this is nothing new, life goes on.
There are two things that everyone of these dire predictions fail to address. The positive side of global warming and the ingenuity of mankind. The positive side of global warming you may ask? How about fewer winter deaths; lower energy costs; better agricultural yields; fewer droughts; richer biodiversity. It is a little-known fact that cold weather deaths exceed hot summer deaths, not just in first world countries, but also those with very warm summers. Don’t believe me, how about Professor Richard Tol of Sussex University ? There are many more, take time to research both sides of the debate.
And then there is the ingenuity of mankind. I am completely confident in the ability of mankind to make the technological and engineering advancements to mitigate the negative effects of global warming.