Monday, April 25, 2016

Doomsayers

     Ever since our media “went national,” the path to greatest exposure has been to maximize the drama. There’s some development or trend you want people to know about? Predict the most dramatic, all-enveloping consequences you can make sound plausible. Reporters and editors will give you more attention than those who speak in more moderate, wait-and-see terms and tones.

     Consider the case of Comet Kohoutek, which passed close to Earth in 1973:

     Due to its path, scientists theorized that Kohoutek was an Oort-cloud object. As such, it was believed that this was the comet's first visit to the inner Solar System, which would result in a spectacular display of outgassing. Infrared and visual telescopic study have led many scientists to conclude, in retrospect, that Kohoutek is actually a Kuiper-belt object, which would account for its apparent rocky makeup and lack of outgassing.

     Before its close approach, Kohoutek was hyped by the media as the "comet of the century". However, Kohoutek's display was considered a let-down, possibly due to partial disintegration when the comet closely approached the Sun prior to its Earth flyby. Since this was probably the comet's first visit to the inner Solar System, it would have still contained large amounts of frozen volatiles since its creation. Although it failed to brighten to levels expected, it was still a naked-eye object.

     What few remember about that “let-down” is that a substantial number of astronomers differed dramatically with those who predicted a “spectacular display.” Many advised those interested in observing Kohoutek’s approach to acquire field glasses or low-power telescopes for the purpose. But those predictions were almost completely ignored by the media.

     The moral here should be obvious.


     For several decades now, April 22 has been designated “Earth Day,” an occasion for all sorts of pointless sacrificial gestures toward that great Leftist shibboleth, “the environment.” Via Cold Fury comes a link to a list of the predictions made by “Earth Day” promoters on its first “celebration.” Here are a few choice samples:

     1. Harvard biologist George Wald estimated that “civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind.”

     4. “Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make,” Paul Ehrlich confidently declared in the April 1970 Mademoiselle. “The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years.”

     6. Ehrlich sketched out his most alarmist scenario for the 1970 Earth Day issue of The Progressive, assuring readers that between 1980 and 1989, some 4 billion people, including 65 million Americans, would perish in the “Great Die-Off.”

     8. Peter Gunter, a North Texas State University professor, wrote in 1970, “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 the Near East, Africa. By the year 2000, or conceivably sooner, South and Central America will exist under famine conditions….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.”

     13. Paul Ehrlich warned in the May 1970 issue of Audubon that DDT and other chlorinated hydrocarbons “may have substantially reduced the life expectancy of people born since 1945.” Ehrlich warned that Americans born since 1946…now had a life expectancy of only 49 years, and he predicted that if current patterns continued this expectancy would reach 42 years by 1980, when it might level out.

     14. Ecologist Kenneth Watt declared, “By the year 2000, if present trends continue, we will be using up crude oil at such a rate…that there won’t be any more crude oil. You’ll drive up to the pump and say, `Fill ‘er up, buddy,’ and he’ll say, `I am very sorry, there isn’t any.'”

     15. Harrison Brown, a scientist at the National Academy of Sciences, published a chart in Scientific American that looked at metal reserves and estimated the humanity would totally run out of copper shortly after 2000. Lead, zinc, tin, gold, and silver would be gone before 1990.

     18. Kenneth Watt warned about a pending Ice Age in a speech. “The world has been chilling sharply for about twenty years,” he declared. “If present trends continue, the world will be about four degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990, but eleven degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age.”

     Not one of the apocalyptic predictions made on “Earth Day 1970” came even close to true. However, every one of them received respectful attention from the major media. The reporters and editors who decided to trumpet those prophecies of doom never recanted their decisions...and often blared quite similar, and similarly wrong, forecasts of disaster over the years to come.

     The media’s guiding maxim was once “If it bleeds, it leads.” Today the formula would probably be something like “Disaster is our master.” Nor does the subsequent failure of the predicted catastrophe to occur have any noticeable effect on subsequent editorial decisions.


     Economist Julian Simon tried his best to dampen the cataclysmic choruses by applying facts and reason. His 1983 book The Ultimate Resource (expanded and reissued in 1998 as The Ultimate Resource 2) is a compendium of his arguments for a more temperate assessment of such predictions. Needless to say, the media were not interested, even though in every case he addressed, Simon has been proved right by events.

     That’s the media for you. Screams of approaching doom sell newspapers and commercial slots. Reasoned assessments of observable developments well supported by the available evidence do nothing for circulation. If this begins to sound to you as if the “news media” are in some business other than reporting the actual news, you’re not alone.

     What’s that you say? Might the doomsayers and the media be cooperating, albeit without conscious collaboration, to promote something more than just the sale of newspapers and air time? Quite possibly. The doomsayers want to be noticed, appreciated, and funded. The media perpetually seek access to persons in high office, and influence over their decisions. And those persons in high office are ever on the lookout for ways in which to increase their power, prestige, and perquisites. There does seem to be a zone of mutual interest among those agendas.

     Have a nice day.

5 comments:

brinster said...

Why would anyone want to increase growing seasons worldwide as the result of an increase in C02 and temperature? That would be insane wouldn't it? More food production, less mass starvation...we can't have that, can we.
In the meantime, Mobil/Exxon are allegedly guilty of "lying" about climate change, while the likes of Paul Ehrlich are still getting grant money to con us.
Ain't about "saving the planet." As usual with this bunch it's about their control, and our loss of freedom.
The oceans will cease to rise and the planet will begin to heal, my ass.

Jack Imel said...

"As usual with this bunch it's about their control, and our loss of freedom."
So true, brinster... and one of our freedoms this bunch hates is our humor. They can't stand it when we make light of their fallacies. Few things expose deceivers quite as thoroughly as the light of humor. The individual is/has always been a great enemy of the controllers.
And I like your CO2 thing... who would have thought "green" plants could be such great air quality regulators. When CO2 increases, the trees grow more leaves, make more O... Oh, wait, that doesn't make a best selling byline (or head line)

brinster said...

Thanks Jack. I'm no genius, and I'm smart enough to know I ain't that smart. And yes, humor is a great weapon. I try to use it as often as I can. Exercising my white privilege, ya understand.
Here's a little tidbit that isn't talked about. The oceans contain massive amounts of CO2. CO2 becomes less soluble at warmer temperatures. Soooo, the warmer the ocean temperatures are, the greater the amount of CO2 is released. It's the chicken or the egg scenario. CO2 can't be causing a temperature rise...it's the other way around. Higher ocean temps, higher atmospheric CO2.

Francis W. Porretto said...

As it happens, Joanne Nova has an excellent article on this today. (If you're not familiar with her, she's a crack science journalist from Australia, and deserves an even bigger following than she already has.)

brinster said...

Thanks for the link Francis. Joanne Nova is not only brilliant, but she's a looker too.