Fearmongers Never Quit
By Jack Dini, 2/10/2009 9:16:10 AM
Since the 1960s Western Society has been in the grip of a remarkable and very dangerous psychological phenomenon. Again and again we have seen the rise of some great fear, centered on a mysterious new threat to human health and well-being.
As a result, we are told, large numbers of people will suffer or die. Salmonella in eggs; listeria in cheese; BSE in beef; dioxins in poultry; the Millennium Bug; DDT; nitrate in water; vitamin B6; Satanic child abuse; asbestos; SARS; Asian bird flu—the list is seemingly endless. Indeed, we are currently in the grip of the greatest of such fear of all: that of a warming of the world’s climate which, we are officially told, could well put an end to much of civilized world as we know it, report Christopher Booker and Richard North. (1)
Nearly 40 years ago Stanford University population biologist Paul Ehrlich warned of imminent global catastrophe in his book The Population Bomb. Ehrlich predicted that in the 1970s, the world would undergo famines and hundreds of millions of people would starve to death. Ehrlich’s predictions about England were also quite gloomy. “If I were a gambler, I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000.” (2)
Steven Milloy notes, “Forty years later, no such mass starvation has come to pass. While there have been tragic famines resulting in millions of deaths since 1968, none occurred because global food production failed to keep pace with population growth, the core of Ehrlich’s hypothesis. Per capita global food production has, instead, increased by 26.5 percent between 1968 and 2005, according to the World Resources Institute. The number of people who starve to death daily declined from 41,000 in 1977 to 24,000 today, according to The Hunger Project, an organization combating global hunger.” (3)
Milloy adds, “Ehrlich also warned in The Population Bomb that man made emissions of carbon dioxide would cause catastrophic global warming. He suggested that a few degrees of heating could melt the polar ice caps and raise sea level by 250 feet even out-fearmongering Al ’20-foot tidal wave’ Gore on his best worst day.” (3)
Harvard University biologist George Wald in 1970 warned, “…civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind.” That was the same year that Senator Gaylord Nelson warned, in Look Magazine that by 1995 “…somewhere between 75 and 85 percent of all species of living animals will be extinct.” (2)
The Club of Rome provided their doomsday scenario in The Limits to Growth, published in 1972. They warned that the world would run out of gold by 1981, mercury and silver by 1985, tin by 1987 and petroleum, copper, lead and natural gas by 1992. (4)
Jonathan Margolis reports, “Neither acid rain, desertification, nor water supply fluoridation turned out to be quite the calamity that was promised by various lobbies. In 1984, according to the Economist magazine, the United Nations asserted that deserts were swallowing up twenty-one million hectares of land a year.
In 1986, the UN reported that a disastrous 23 percent of trees in Europe were damaged by acid rain and under threat; yet by the end of the decade, the biomass stock of European forests had reportedly increased. In North America, where environmentalists had declared the forests were acidified and dying, an official $700 million, 10-year study concluded: “There is no evidence of a general or unusual decline of forests in the United States or Canada due to acid rain.” Only in Scandinavia, where 16,000 of 85,000 Swedish lakes are said to have become acidified , is acid rain still a major issue in the sense of being widely discussed and publicized. Fluoridation, meanwhile, once regarded as an eco-catastrophe in the making as well as the most appalling attack on individual rights, is barely heard about any more.” (5)
Booker and North sum it up well, “The price we have paid for such panics has been immense; most notably the colossal financial costs arising from the means society has chosen to defend itself from these threats. Yet, again and again, we have seen how it eventually emerged that the fear was largely or wholly misplaced. The threat of disaster came to be seen as having been no more than what we call a ‘scare.’ Each was based on what appeared at the time to be scientific evidence that was widely accepted. Each has inspired obsessive coverage by the media.
Each has then provoked a massive response from politicians and officials, imposing new laws that inflicted enormous economic and social damage. But eventually the scientific reasoning on which the panic was based has been found to be fundamentally flawed. Either the scare originated in some genuine threat that had been become wildly exaggerated, or the danger was found to never have existed at all. By now, however, the damage has been done. The costs have amounted in some cases to billions, even hundreds of billions of pounds, imposing enormous hidden drain on the economy. Yet almost all of this money has been spent, it turns out, to no purpose.” (1)
The media have warned of four separate climate changes in slightly more than 100 years—global cooling, warming, cooling again, and, at present warming. Walter Williams asks, “In 1970, when environmentalists were making predictions of manmade global cooling and the threat of an ice age and millions of Americans starving to death, what kind of government policy should we have undertaken to prevent such a calamity? When Ehrlich predicted that England would not exist in the year 2000, what steps should the British Parliament have taken in 1970 to prevent such a dire outcome? Finally, what makes us think that environmental alarmism is any more correct now that they have switched their tune to man made global warming?” (2)
In the midst of all the hype about global warming, have you heard about the glitch that’s been encountered? After nine years of non-warming, the planet actually began to cool in 2007 and 2008 for the first time in 30 years. The net warming from 1940 to 1998 had been a minuscule 0.2 degree C; the UK’s Hadley Center says the earth’s temperature has now dropped back down to about the levels of 100 years ago. There has thus been no net global warming within ‘living memory’, says Dennis Avery. (6) Add to this the fact that so far, 2009 doesn’t look like another barn-burner for the warming advocates.
Perhaps the next scare will be an impending ice age.
Christopher Booker and Richard North, Scared to Death, (London, Continuum UK, 2007) viii
Walter E. Williams, “Environmentalists’ Wild Predictions,” Creators Syndicate, Inc., August 11, 2008
Steven Milloy, “The Real Population Bomb,” junkscience.com, August 21, 2008
Donella H. Meadows, et al., The Limits To Growth, (Great Britain, Newgate Press Ltd., 1972)
Jonathan Margolis, A Brief History of Tomorrow, (New York, Bloomsbury, 2000), 87
Dennis T. Avery, “Consensus on Man-made Warming is Shattering,” www.cgfi.org, July 21, 2008