Saturday, April 23, 2016

45 Years of Failed Environmental Predictions


Happy Earth Day

Never Trust The Doom-Mongers

Earth Day Predictions That Were All Wrong
The Daily Caller, 22 April 2016
Andrew Follett

Environmentalist truly believed and predicted that the planet was doomed during the first Earth Day in 1970, unless drastic actions were taken to save it. Humanity never quite got around to that drastic action, but environmentalists still recall the first Earth Day fondly and hold many of the predictions in high regard.

So this Earth Day, The Daily Caller News Foundation takes a look at predictions made by environmentalists around the original Earth Day in 1970 to see how they've held up.

Have any of these dire predictions come true? No, but that hasn't stopped environmentalists from worrying. From predicting the end of civilization to classic worries about peak oil, here are seven green predictions that were just flat out wrong.

 1. Civilization  Will End Withing 15 or 30 Years.”
Harvard biologist Dr. George Wald warmed shortly before the first Earth Day in 1970 that civilization would soon end “unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind.” Three years before his projection, Wald was awarded the Nobel Pize for Physiology or Medicine.

2.“100-200 Million People Per Year Will Be Starving to Death During the Next Ten Years.”
Stanford Professor Dr. Paul Ehrlich declared in April 1970 that mass starvation was imminent. His dire predictions failed to materialize as the number of people living in poverty has significantly declined and the amount of food per person has stead increased, despite population growth. The world's Gross Domestic Product per person has immeasurably increased despite increases in population.

Ehrlich is largely responsible for this view, having co-published “The Population Bomb” with the Sierra Club in 1968. The book made a number of claims including that millions of humans would starve to death in the 1970s and 1980s, mass famines would sweep England leading to the country's demise, and the ecological destruction would devastate the planet causing the collapse of civilization.

3.“Population Will Inevitably  and Completely Outstrip Whatever Small Increases in Food Supplies We make.”
Paul Ehrlich also made the above claim in 1970, shortly before an agricultural revolution that caused the world's food supply to rapidly increase.

Ehrlich has consistently failed to revise his predictions when confronted with the fact that they did not occur, stating in 2009 that “perhaps the most serious flaw in The Bomb was that it was much too optimistic about the future.”
 4. Demographers  Agree Almost Unanimously....Thirty Years From Now, the Entire World Will Be in Famine.”
Environmentalists in 1970 truly believed in a scientific consensus predicting global famine due to population growth in the dev eloping world, especially in India.

Demographers agree almost unanimously on the following grim timetable: by 1975 widespread famines will begin in India; these will spread by 1990 to include all of India, Pakistan, China and tre Near East, Africa. By the year 2000, or conceivably sooner, South and Central America will exist under famine conditions,” Peter Gunter, a professor at North Texas State University, said in a 1970 issues of The Living Wilderness. By the year 2000, thirty years from now, the entire world, with the exception of Western Europe, North America, and Australia will be in famine.”

India, where the famines were supposed to begin, recently became one of the world's largest exporters of agricultural products and food supply per person in the country has drastically increased in recent years. In fact, the number of people in every country listed by Gunter has risen dramatically since 1970.

5. In a Decade, Urban Dwellers Will Have to Wear Gas Masks to Survive Air Pollution.”
Life magazine stated in January 1970 that scientists had “solid experimental and theoretical evidence” to believe that “in a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive 1985 air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching Earth by one half.”

Despite the prediction, air quality has been improving worldwide according to the World Health Organization. Air pollution has declined sharply in industrialized countries. Carbon dioxide (CO2), the gas environmentalists are worried about today, is odorless, invisible and harmless to humans in normal amounts.

6. “Childbearing [Will Be] a Punishable Crime Against Society, Unless the Parents Hold a Government License.”
David Brower, the first executive director of The Sierra Club made the above claim and went on to say that [a]ll potential parents [should be] required to use contraceptive chemicals, the government issuing antidotes to citizens chose for childbearing.” Brower was also essential in founding Friends of the Earth and the League of Conservation Voters and much of the modern environmental movement.

Brower believed that most environmental problems were ultimately attributable to new technology that allowed humans to pass natural limits on population size. He famously stated before is death in 2000 that “all technology should be assumed guilty until proven innocent” and repeatedly advocated for mandatory birth control.

Today, the only major government to ever get close to his vision has been China, which ended its one-child policy last October.

7. By the Year 2000...There Won't Be Any More Crude Oil”
On Earth Day in 1970 ecologist Kenneth Watt famously predicted that the world would run out oil.

Numerous academics like Watt predicted that American oil production peaked in 1970 and would gradually decline, likely causing global economic meltdown. However, the successful application of massive hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, caused American oil production to come roaring back and there is currently too much oil on the market.

American oil and natural gas reserves are at their highest levels since 1972 and American oil production in 2014 was 80 percent higher than in 2008 thanks to fracking.

Furthermore, the U.S. no controls the world's larges tuntaped oil reserve, the Green River Formation in Colorado. This Formation alone contains up to 3 trillion barrels of untapped oil shale, have of which may be recoverable. That's five and a half times more oil than the rest of the world's proven reserves combined.

(H/T, Ronald Bailey at Reason and Mark Perry at the American Enterprise Institute.)

The above is abridged slightly from the original by the Global Warming Policy Forum at

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

It Shouldn't Matter Who the President Is

This month we have guest columnist, Jeffrey A. Tucker. He is associated with the Foundation for Economic Education and founder and CEO of He writes:

Freedom lovers everywhere are biting their nails during the election season, wondering how the damage can be limited. Depending on who gains control, we could have trade wars, nationalized health care, the pillaging of Wall Street and Main Street, more wars in the Middle East, a VAT tax, surveillance of your smartphone, mass deportations, internment camps, and worse. Read that sentence slowly in a deep voice and it sounds like the trailer to a dystopian film.

Another Way
Let’s take a step back and ask whether it has to be this way. What if the power of government were so limited that it didn’t matter who occupied the White House? Wouldn't that be a vast improvement?
Let’s say that Rutherford B. Hayes, who was president from 1877 to 1881, had been revealed to be a fascist demagogue and bearded would-be dictator. Maybe the same could be said of Presidents Chester A. Arthur (1881-1885), James Garfield (1881), or Benjamin Harrison (1889–1893). Let’s say they were all crazy authoritarians who longed to rule the country as a private fiefdom. Would it really matter? Probably not.

These were not the presidents who “made history,” and good for them. Hardly anyone remembers them, which is to their credit. They are usually listed among the “worst” presidents, which is to say they didn’t cause giant upheavals. They inhabited the office at a time when the private sector was growing at incredible rates while the government was playing a relatively diminished role.

No Power, No Problem 
As a result, they had no large bureaucracy to control. There was no CIA, NSA, FBI, HUD, DHS, DOL, EPA, and so on. These agencies didn’t exist, and their functions didn’t exist. The Supreme Court didn’t do much. There was no IRS for the president to lean on to persecute his enemies. Surveillance of the population wasn’t yet possible. The government owned no weapons of mass destruction.

There was no central bank to bail out wars and welfare. In fact, the federal government had to balance the budget year to year (as the states still do) because the country was on a strict gold standard. You couldn’t just print money without limit. If the money wasn’t there, it had to be borrowed at market rates. The military was tiny. There were virtually no migration controls, direct taxes, or even passports.

There was no federal government involvement in education, health care, or commerce generally. There was no antitrust regulation, no social security tax, no regulation of consumer products, no environmental land management, no price controls or labor laws to stand between workers and employment, no drug war, no decades-long process of pharmaceutical testing, no gun-free zones, no giant military contacts, and no ability to tax earnings.

Most of the power that presidents had amounted to steering some infrastructure contracts to their friends. And here, their corruption was truly revealed, but the damage they could do was limited. Their money came from a few small tariffs, and the tiny federal budget reflected that. Presidents were managers of a limited government that didn’t intrude into any intimate aspects of life, much less on the whole population. The governments these men headed had strict, meaningful, and practical limits on what they could do. They had no policy plans to speak of, because policy as we know it barely existed.

Leviathan as we know it had not been invented yet. That came later, in the 20th century. Whatever great ambitions of Gilded Age presidents, they couldn’t be realized through their official capacity. Therefore, the stakes of any one election were extremely low for the country at large. That's why these men’s names are barely known. Even back then, hardly anyone paid attention to the presidency as such. The president was a caretaker, holding an honorary position, of interest to only those directly affected.  As bad as the candidates are this year — as threatening as each of them is to someone’s rights and liberties — none would pose a threat if the power to act on ambition were still limited.

"Good Guys" in Office 
Limited government means that, no matter how bad a person is who holds office, he or she lacks the tools necessary to inflict great damage on the population. Under a small government with limited and well-defined powers, Americans are safer, not because a “good guy” won the election, but because the institutions he or she controls cannot be used as tools of oppression. This is what the old liberals meant when they spoke of "a government of laws and not of men."

There is a sense, then, that when we talk about how grim the policies of a Trump or Sanders or Rubio or Hillary or whomever would be, we are not getting to the core of the problem. We should not have to worry about the character or ambitions of the person we elect. A good system of government is one that is protected against control by wicked people. It should even be protected against good people who want to use state power to realize noble ideals. Government should be impervious to the personal zeal of its temporary managers.

Under such a system, we would have fewer hysterics from both right and left demanding that power be used for this group and against that one. You can scream all you want, but it has no more effect than yelling at the paint on the wall to change color. This is what it means to live under rules rather than arbitrary dictates.

Mo' Power, Mo' Problems
Blaming those who are currently demanding crazy, scary, destructive policies misses the deeper point. The real blame should go to the generations who, over the course of a century, overthrew a system of laissez-faire and replaced it with the planning state, a central government with the power to run our lives, take our income, redistribute wealth, manage the industrial sector, enter into unlimited military conflicts, create financial bubbles, and bail out cronies.

Power once created will be used. That the special interests and then the masses clamor for it to be used on their behalf is the inevitable result.

With power also comes a divided population, people seething with hatred against those who stand in their way, interest groups consumed by loathing for anyone with a chance of using power to their own advantage.

The presence of power itself, not the people who seek to turn it to their advantage, is the source of conflict. And such a conflict threatens to destroy friendships and even the social fabric itself. Overweening government is the reason we all can’t get along.

Most of the people who created this mess are long dead, but they still rule us. They bequeathed us a monster that the present generation must contend with. There is really only one responsible way forward: dismantle Leviathan before it destroys us.