Thirty-five years ago this week, the global warming scare was sounded on the front page of the New York Times. “Global Warming Has Begun, Expert Tells Senate” by Philip Shabecoff reported on the testimony of NASA scientist James Hansen and was subtitled: “Sharp Cut in Burning of Fossil Fuels Is Urged to Battle Shift in Climate.” Science and politics—politicized science—has not been the same since in regard to carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.
Shabecoff laid out an official prediction in what was a well-orchestrated event involving senators Tim Wirth and Al Gore and behind-the-scenes environmental pressure groups:
If the current pace of the buildup of these gases continues, the effect is likely to be a warming of 3 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit from the year 2025 to 2050…. The rise in global temperature is predicted to … melt glaciers and polar ice, thus causing sea levels to rise by one to four feet by the middle of the next century.
What was “next century” is this century with the forecast period impending. Taking the midpoints of the above estimates (6 degrees and two-and-a-half feet), the recorded increase from 1988 to 2022 is approximately one degree and four inches.
Falsified already? The true believers say just wait—as they always have.
Hyperbole in high places drives media traffic and opens donor wallets. Exaggeration propels agendas that would otherwise be ignored. But credibility suffers, and bad public policy results in resource waste and diminished freedom. Witness where we are 35 years after the climate alarm.
James Hansen would go on to exaggerate and get caught in failed predictions. But (false) alarmism did not start with him. This year is the 55th anniversary of neo-Malthusian alarm, which can be dated to Paul Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb (1968).
“Too many cars, too many factories, too much detergent, too much pesticide, multiplying contrails, inadequate sewage treatment plants, too little water, too much carbon dioxide—all can be traced easily to too many people,” Ehrlich wrote in his bestseller. But there was something else.
Two decades before Hansen’s climate alarm, and with the global cooling scare (from aerosols) just ahead, Ehrlich was concerned about anthropogenic climate change in any direction.
With a few degrees of cooling, a new ice age might be upon us with rapid and drastic effect on the agricultural productivity of the temperate regions. With a few degrees of heating, the polar ice caps would melt, perhaps raising ocean levels 250 feet. Gondola to the Empire State Building, anyone?
[T]here can be scant consolation in the idea that a man-made warming trend might cancel out a natural cooling trend. Since the different factors producing the two trends do so by influencing different parts of Earth’s complicated climatic machinery, it is most unlikely that the associated effects on circulation patterns would cancel each other.
Climate exaggeration just keeps on coming. Special climate envoy John Kerry stated this week that 7 million people die annually “from greenhouse gas pollution.” But perhaps this is good news given John Holdren’s prediction decades ago that as many as one billion people could die from climate change by 2020.
Falsities about certain knowledge and settled science (reliable climate models) have turned far too many scientists into lawyer-like advocates for alarm. Their wrong predictions have been well documented. The unhappy result has been 35 years of policy misdirection that has created a road to serfdom where all-of-government activism is addressing a misidentified existential climate threat.
The alarm can be sounded on climate policy, not physical climate change. A plethora of command-and-control is in place, as well as a drive to price CO2 with “border adjustments” (tariffs or quotas).
A major mid-course correction is necessary. The next 35 years—and beyond—should shift from government CO2mitigation to free-market adaptation and resiliency as recommended at the intersection of physical science and social science.