As much of the nation suffers from an extended springtime spell of global anti-warming (like psychoanalysis, global warming theory is non-refutable and explains all outcomes), as, even in the face of springtime blizzards, the unrelenting parade global-warming related stories is ramped up to the level of overt propaganda, as all doubters are stridently shouted down and silenced by Gorean Truth (Thomas Friedman implied anyone who questioned man-made global warming was a “crank”), many are the millions who feel they have no choice but to believe in the “science” that says global warming is here, it is caused by man and it will wreak havoc on the environment and humankind.
A brief review of other scientifically foretold environmental disasters, which caused great panic in their time, shows that the dire predictions rarely, if ever, come true.
Overpopulation: A paper by 19th century economist Thomas Malthus predicted that a rapidly increasing human population would eventually outstrip food supplies, leading to wide-scale famine. This view, which many scientists saw as valid until very recently, illustrates one of the main problems with predictions and models. They assume the conditions that exist today will exist in the future.
Malthus did not foresee contraception, equality of women, increasing standards of living and technological enhancements of food production. As a result, population is in decline in Western Europe and the rate of increase is slowing in the rest of the world. The UN predicts the 1990 growth rate of 2% per year in the less developed world will be halved by 2025. From roughly 1940 to 1980, output of the United States most important food crops nearly tripled, while cultivated area increased by only 3%. According to one estimate, food grown on all the world’s arable land could support a population of 30 billion, about five times the current population.
We’re running out of oil: In 1951, the U.S. State Department estimated that global oil reserves would run dry by 1964. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter, citing a CIA assessment, said that oil wells “were running dry all over the world.” Scores of newspapers and publications have re-circulated oil-shortage stories in the past few years as oil prices have risen, even though rising prices are due to a “fear premium” in trading rather than any fundamental shortage of oil.
According to M.I.T. professor M.A. Adelman, world oil production is up 25% since Carter’s “drying up pronouncement. Saudi Arabia alone has fewer than 15% of its known oil fields in production. Writes professor Adelman: “It is commonly asked, when will the world’s supply of oil be exhausted? The best one-word answer: Never.” Oil-shortage scares arise, Adelman argues, because people fail to understand that oil is commodity whose recoverability is dictated by price. Coal is no longer widely mined in Europe, Adelman observes, however there is still millions of tons of coal in European soil. It is just cheaper to dig out of the ground elsewhere.
Man-made chemicals are causing cancer: Chemical-phobia became the world’s top environmental anxiety when Rachel Carson published A Silent Spring in 1972. In her book Carson claimed, among other things, that the pesticide DDT caused cancer in humans. Writing for Reasononline40 years after the book’s publication, Ronald Bailey wrote, “The plain fact is that DDT has never been shown to be a human carcinogen even after four decades of intense scrutiny.”
Chemical-phobia hysteria was fueled by bad science—specifically the practice of over-dosing laboratory animals with huge amounts of chemicals. For example a 1975 U.S. Public Health Service Study found that female rats fed 5,000 times the recommended daily intake of PCB for 21 months developed an increased number of liver tumors. Today, that science is largely discredited. Indeed, Bruce Ames, a biology professor at the University of California has found that humans ingest about 10,000 times more natural pesticides (chemicals plant produce to protect themselves) than man-made pesticides. Still, doctors are in unanimous agreement that eating fruits and vegetable are good for you.
Time limits me from delving into the dangers of overhead power lines, genetically modified food, second-hand smoke and other features of modern society. Suffice it to say, the quantifiable risk posed by these “perils” rests more on pure speculation than science.
Today’s environmental apocalypse, man-induced global warming, is a claim, like many others before it, that rests on apparently irrefutable, but ultimately untestable, unproven science. Science that is not testable is not science, it is conjecture. Given the history of faulty, frightening predictions posing as scientific verity, the moral of the story for the public and our leaders should be this: Beware of Gores bearing Truths.
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