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Halloween Hangover: Ehrlich, Holdren, Hansen Unretracted

“If I were a gambler, I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000.”

- Paul Ehrlich, quoted in Julian Simon, The Ultimate Resource 2, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996), p. 35.

“As University of California physicist John Holdren has said, it is possible that carbon-dioxide climate-induced famines could kill as many as a billion people before the year 2020.”

-  Paul Ehrlich, The Machinery of Nature, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1986, p. 274.

In the name of science, Paul Ehrlich, John Holdren, and James Hansen (et al.) have made doom-and-gloom predictions about business-as-usual in an attempt to shock humanity into immediate legislative action and lifestyle changes.

It did not work. The elapsed predictions have failed to come to pass. Little wonder that new installments of climate alarmism, such as Juliet Eilperin’s “25% of Wild Mammal Species Face Extinction: Global Assessment Paints ‘Bleak Picture,’ Scientists Say, and Figure of Those at Risk Could Be Higher” in the Washington Post (October 7), don’t register with voters.

Worsening their predicament, the perpetrators will not renounce their specious predictions. They remain the smartest guys in the room–versus all of us commoners, we the hundreds of millions of market-failure-ites.

Here are the Big Three: 1) the dean of modern alarmism, Paul Ehrlich; 2) Al Gore’s influential climate scientist James Hansen; and 3) Obama’s “dream ‘green’ team” member John Holdren.

Let’s start with Dr. Holdren.

Holdren’s Billion Deaths

It was Ehrlich who outed his protege on what is perhaps the most outlandish prediction of forthcoming doom of all: one billion potential deaths by 2020. That is about ten years and one in seven of us. Are you scared?

At his confirmation hearings as Obama’s science advisor, Holdren did not disown this prediction–in fact he defended it three times.

Background: Paul Ehrlich fathered the neo-Malthusian movement with his 1968 bestseller, The Population Bomb, and John Holdren was an instant convert. In 1971, mentor-and-disciple wrote:

“We are not, of course, optimistic about our chances of success. Some form of ecocatastrophe, if not thermonuclear war, seems almost certain to overtake us before the end of the century. (The inability to forecast exactly which one – whether plague, famine, the poisoning of the oceans, drastic climatic change, or some disaster entirely unforeseen – is hardly grounds for complacency.)”

-  John Holdren and Paul Ehrlich, ‘What We Must Do, and the Cost of Failure’, in Holdren and Ehrlich, Global Ecology, p. 279

And Dr. Doom senior and junior have been at it ever since, as chronicled in a series of posts at MasterResource.

James Hansen: Six Years to Too Late

In the face of believed-to-be certain doom, NASA scientist James Hansen said in mid-2006:

“We have at most ten years—not ten years to decide upon action, but ten years to alter fundamentally the trajectory of global greenhouse emissions.”

- James Hansen, “The Threat to the Planet,” New York Review of Books, July 13, 2006.

It is known that a fundamental shift away from fossil fuels is not going to happen domestically on internationally. So can we give up the futile climate crusade, Dr. Hansen, based on your belief? Can we replace mitigation with adaptation and think about unleashing that incredible bread machine called Capitalism to best address real and imagined challenges to come?

A North Carolina Left environmental group, NC WARN, embraces Hansen’s prediction in end-of-the-world terms:

NASA’s James Hansen and the head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, R.K. Pachauri, warn that global emissions must start downward by 2015 or the climate crisis will move beyond humanity’s control.

Such inspired Ken Green to note: “Desperation is setting in among climate alarmists who by their own math can see that the window is rapidly closing on ’saving the planet’.” Again, with the window closing, can we ‘get real’ and try freedom over statism?

Paul Ehrlich: The World Ended Yesterday (oops!)

Where does one begin with Paul Ehrlich, the arch enemy and intellectual loser to the late Julian Simon? MasterResource has extensively examined Ehrlich’s oeuvre , but here are just two of the more outlandish of his predictions.

“The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s the world will undergo famines–hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now.”

- Paul Ehrlich, The Population Bomb, (New York: Ballentine Books, 1968),  p. 13.

“We can be reasonably sure . . . that within the next quarter of a century [by 2000] mankind will be looking elsewhere than in oil wells for its main source of energy.”

- Paul Ehrlich and Anne Ehrlich, The End of Affluence (Rivercity, Mass.: Rivercity Press, 1974, 1975), p. 49.

And then there was Ehrlich’s prediction from 1970 that Julian Simon jumped all over to get Sir Paul to enter into his ill-fated bet on the future of mineral resource prices as a measure of scarcity: “If I were a gambler, I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000″ (cited above).

Conclusion

So Halloween is every day with the fear mongers. But the sunshine of reality intervenes time and again to demonstrate that Julian Simon is right and the neo-Malthusians wrong. Big Government know-it-all’s–the coercionists–rant and rave even today about how the public ignores the forewarned peril. But humility and mid-course corrections are called for. Only then will the Howlin’ Wolfs (with apologies to Chester Burnett) receive the respect that they long for.

Appendix: Daniel Greenberg’s Halloweenish Encounter with Paul Ehrlich, et al. as told by Roger Pielke Jr.

Daniel Greenberg Meets the Climate Scientists

Daniel Greenberg, the widely respected journalist and author who focuses on science policy and politics, was invited by Nature to review my book, The Climate Fix.  Little did he know that review would bring him up close and personal with the activist wing of the climate science community.  After writing a positive review of my book, Greenberg found himself under attack by Michael Mann, Paul Ehrlich and Stefan Rahmstorf on the pages on Nature.
What followed was an email exchange that provides some insight into the mindset of the activist wing of the climate science community.  Greenberg shared this exchange with me with the following message, published here with his permission:

Roger, Re my stirring experience of jousting with Mann, Ehrlich, and Rahmstorf: What a scurrilous bunch. My sympathy to you and anyone else who has to deal with them. They’re gravediggers of science. Nature will soon publish my riposte and, I think, a disclaimer of any ties to me by the Marshall Institute. Below, my further exchanges with the low-life trio. Best regards, Dan

Here is Greenberg’s email to Michael Mann that concludes the exchange, reproduced with his permission:

Dear Professors Mann, Ehrlich, and Rahmstorf,

Your correspondence concerning my review of Roger Pielke’s book “Climate Fix” has provided me with a deeper understanding of the widespread public skepticism toward climate science. In your hands, apple pie and motherhood would come under public suspicion. Have you considered taking a remedial reading course? Can you comprehend the difference between a book reviewer’s own beliefs and the reviewer’s presentation of the beliefs expressed by the author of the book under review? Apparently not. Furthermore, your insinuation of an undisclosed relationship between me and a conservative think tank is preposterous. In 2006, I participated in a panel discussion sponsored by the Marshall Institute—as I have done with numerous other organizations, including the Brookings Institution, RAND, AAAS, and various academic societies and universities. Common practice for journalists. Nor did I, as you allege, write a report, or anything, for the Marshall Institute. The panel’s words were transcribed and published by the Institute. I wrote nothing for them. You guys are the devil’s gift to the Tea Party and other climate-change wackos.

Sincerely, Dan Greenberg

If Michael Mann thinks that he has been treated unfairly by my decision not to publish his side of the exchange, I will be happy to post up his emails with his permission.  Somehow I doubt that he will be as forthcoming as Greenberg.  The repeated character assassination and behind-the-scenes attacks of a small segment of the climate science community gives the entire field a black eye, and it continues unabated.  Greenberg is right, these guys could make apple pie and motherhood come under public suspicion.

48 comments

1 Jon Boone { 11.01.10 at 9:39 am }

Such eschatological tricks deserve no treats. It was the physicist Edward Teller who said, “Highly speculative theories of worldwide destruction—even of the end of life on Earth—used as a call for a particular kind of political action serve neither the good reputation of science nor dispassionate political thought.” In this he was referring to the likes of the Ehrlichs; C. Dillon Ripley, who in 19970 predicted that by 1995 between 75 and 80% of all species of living animals will be extinct; Oxford biologist Norman Myers who in his book The Sinking Ark 31 years ago said that one million separate species would be gone by 2000; and Frank Lovejoy, who is now president of the Heinz Center for Science, Economics, and the Environment, who also crafted the first projections of global extinction rates for the Global 2000 Report to the President in 1980. If he were right, 15-20% of all species in 1980 would be history today.

The mindset of such sensibilities seems forged in the kind of apocalyptic analysis familiar to students of religion. Indeed, much of the rhetoric of Global Warming seems gleaned from the Christian Bible, particularly the Book of Revelation. Erhlich, Hansen, Mann, and Rahmstorf, four of the horsemen of the Climate Change apocalypse, remind ever so much of the life and work of William Miller,a Baptist lay preacher who predicted in ads taken out in the New York Herald Tribune that Jesus would return Oct. 22, 1844. Many heard Miller’s trumpet call and experienced a great disappointment when the day came and went. Out of those ashes was born the Seventh-day Adventist Church which, along with the Mormon Church and numerous other millenarians from Oneida in New York to New Harmony in Indiana, began to dot the religious landscape of North America. (If only they had access to government grants….)

Not to be forgotten was Irishman John Nelson Darby (1800-1882), founder of the Plymouth Brethren and inventor of a form of premillennialism called dispensationalism. Believing he was “rightly dividing the word of truth” (Timothy 2:15), Darby conflated the texts of Revelation, Daniel and Ezekiel, coming up with seven dispensations, or divinely appointed periods, that show humans their utter failure to effect their own salvation. In contrast with the postmillennial theology of “liberals” like Miller, the premillennial schema of Darby was pessimistic. This world was slated for destruction and devastation. Christ would come at the beginning of the millennium, snatch away to heaven the true spiritual church from the apostate (i.e., liberal) Protestants and (whorish) Papists. Then God would let loose the events of the last days: wars, famines, earthquakes, the Great Beast and the Antichrist, the restoration of the earthly Israel (Jews), the conversion to Christ or damnation to hell, a short reign of Christ with his saints (a Third Coming!), the loosening and final binding of Satan, the final destruction of this world and the creation of a new heaven and new earth.

The secular twist to all this given by today’s scientific banshees is both all too familiar and contemptible. But it’s not science. It’s hellish environmentalism. Literally.

2 GM { 11.01.10 at 1:16 pm }

This one reminds me of what people wiser than me had said about debating creationists – “Never debate creationists because in 5 minutes they can spew out more lies and distortions of the truth than you can refute in 5 hours”. The situation here is pretty much the same…

3 Ed Tribuna { 11.01.10 at 2:10 pm }

GM,

If you’re going to make such a statement you should at least support it with some examples.

4 P Walker { 11.01.10 at 2:27 pm }

Ed Tribuna ,

GM has gained some notariaty as one who will not support his/her statements .
Mr. Bradley – this is a great article . You might want to ask Anthony if he would post it at WUWT where it would reach a wider audience .

5 GM { 11.01.10 at 4:21 pm }

P Walker { 11.01.10 at 2:27 pm }
Ed Tribuna ,

GM has gained some notariaty as one who will not support his/her statements .
Mr. Bradley – this is a great article . You might want to ask Anthony if he would post it at WUWT where it would reach a wider audience .

Well, let’s see what happened in the last thread

http://www.masterresource.org/2010/10/dear-peak-oilers-zimmermanns-functional-theory/

You can’t argue with arguments with someone who rejects science as the proper way of understanding the world around us.

And when he is given facts, he simply ignores them. As creationists usually do, which is one of the many reasons I often highlight the similarities between (and the common origins) the different denialists.

The reality is that the likes of Simon and Bradley and other economists of that kind are on the same intellectual level as the likes of Ken Ham and Kent Hovind, it’s just that the latter aren’t (yet) taken seriously by society in general.

6 P Walker { 11.01.10 at 5:44 pm }

GM ,
No one can argue with someone who refuses to accept the idea that he might be incorrect .

7 GM { 11.01.10 at 6:35 pm }

That much we can agree on. But you ignored pretty much everything in my post above

8 Geoff { 11.01.10 at 8:00 pm }

Dear Mr. Bradley, Thanks for the reminder of the lunatic positions espoused by these three gents. But here’s the really depressing part – all three are members of the National Academy of Sciences. What does that say about the organization that is supposed to be the pinnacle of good science?

9 Ed Tribuna { 11.01.10 at 8:08 pm }

GM,

I’m still confused. You state:
“they can spew out more lies and distortions of the truth than you can refute in 5 hours”. The situation here is pretty much the same…”

As I read that, you’re calling Mr. Bradley a liar. The peak oiler post you refer to seems unrelated. I’m just asking you to support your implied liar comment.

I’m not in the energy business. I come to this site to become better informed. Please help inform me. I research some, but certainly not all, of what I read here. What I have double checked seems to have been factual. If Mr. Bradley and other contributors to this blog are lying to the readers I’d like to know that.

Ed…

10 GM { 11.02.10 at 12:01 am }

Ed Tribuna { 11.01.10 at 8:08 pm }
GM,

I’m still confused. You state:
“they can spew out more lies and distortions of the truth than you can refute in 5 hours”. The situation here is pretty much the same…”

As I read that, you’re calling Mr. Bradley a liar. The peak oiler post you refer to seems unrelated. I’m just asking you to support your implied liar comment.

I’m not in the energy business. I come to this site to become better informed. Please help inform me. I research some, but certainly not all, of what I read here. What I have double checked seems to have been factual. If Mr. Bradley and other contributors to this blog are lying to the readers I’d like to know that.

See, I can give you tons of references, which will take me a lot of time, or I can explain it to you with words. Yet, it won’t make any difference if you don’t read the references or you reject the validity of science as way of understanding the world. I have a lot of experience battling both creationists and limits-to-growth denialists, and both things have happened, often in the same time. Someone asks for references, you give him reference, he says “That’s too long, I didn’t and I don’t plan to read it”, or they come back at you with the “Science is a work of man, it is fallible, the world of God isn’t, I am not listening to any science” in the case of creationists, or, in the case of economists, see below.

BTW, if you ask about facts, ask yourself how much facts do “Peak Oilers” have and how much facts do people like Simon, Freedman, Bradley and the rest do? Just go to TheOilDrum and spend some time with the often very dense technical discussion provided by geologists and petroleum engineers which make the case for Peak Oil with lots and lots of data and compare it to the empty “The market will take care of everything” mantra repeated here. Also ask yourself why is it that pretty much all petroleum geologists and engineers are very concerned about Peak Oil and why, on the other side, economists mostly aren’t . Who is a more relevant voice in the discussion?

You have to understand where people like Simon, Bradley and the rest of the crew are coming from. We have two religions that rule in this society, one is whatever religion people believe in, the other one is economics in the version of it you get in school. Now economics is quite useful in the limited cases where the assumptions it rests on are true, but those cases are very limited, and it takes an act of supreme leap of faith (and lunacy, idiocy, name it) to make it all-encompassing principle on which all decision making if based on.

It is no coincidence that I mention creationists so often. It is because of the well-documented phenomenon of “multi-kookery”, i.e. the tendency of fringe lunatic beliefs running contrary to everything we have learned about the world using the tools of science, and often rejecting science itself (which doesn’t prevent them from loudly claiming it supports their views) altogether, to be held by the same person even when the issues are absolutely unrelated. For example, pretty much all creationists are also climate change and peak oil deniers. In the same way, pretty much all climate change deniers are also peak oil deniers, and also deniers of everything environmental; you ask them why is it that they reject AGW, they tell you that it’s untested, you point out that Peak Oil is very well tested and supported by historical evidence, so there is no reason why they should deny it, they start digging even deeper into the intellectual bankruptcy abyss by starting to rant about even sillier nonsense like biotic oil, etc. I have seen it happen countless times.

The real problem here is that we have a society that is completely scientifically illiterate, and by scientifically illiterate I don’t mean just the lack of knowledge of scientific facts, I don’t even mean the lack of understanding of the scientific method, the real issue is that pretty much nobody understands that science is the only proven way we have to understand the world around us. Which allows people’s preconceived ideological views (which they would never have had to begin with, had they been properly trained when it was time to do so) to trump all facts and reason.

In this case, the problem with Mr. Bradley and the rest is that they have been brainwashed into believing that free market and capitalism are the solution to everything, that economics is infallible. For them, everything that poses a potential threat to this has to be stomped before it has become a serious issue for them. That’s why the resistance to everything environmental and limits to growth-related, irrespective of what the evidence for it is. And that’s why the facts-free insistence that “Everything is better now that it was before” and “We can grow forever”. And science absolutely doesn’t matter here, see this, from the last Peak Oil article, a statement repeated several times in the comments:

The natural-science answer is that in a physical sense, there is less oil today that then by the amount of extraction. But in a social science sense, we have much more oil today than in 1776 or in 1910 because today’s supply is inventoried and produced from known reservoirs.

The last Peak Oil article by Bradley is very relevant

and then:

rbradley { 10.29.10 at 11:03 pm }
Good point Chris T: “resources are not, resources become” is a fundamental Zimmermann point. Again, from a business/economic viewpoint, not a physical science viewpoint.

That’s a direct rejection of science as a valid way of understanding the world (obviously, we live in a physical world, not in a “social science” one), stated as explicitly as you will ever hear it. It doesn’t originate with Bradley, one of the most often quoted examples of what complete idiots economists really are is pretty much the same statement coming from Milton Friedman, and he may not be the first one either, I have not been particularly persistent in tracking down the origins of it and it doesn’t really matter.

Regarding predictions of doom, this is a can of worms I don’t really like to open, because you have to have been alive at the time all of them were made to know what was really a prediction and what was a if-then kind of statement, that later got picked up and quote-mined, and there are an awful lot of such cases.

But yes, there are failed predictions of doom. So what? Does it mean that they will always wrong? Say we are to build a city for one million people on New Britain, with skyscrapers and everything, and I tell you that those building have to be really earthquake-proof because New Britain happens to be one of the most seismically active areas in the world. You come back to me saying “It will cost too much and I don’t really believe there will be any major earthquake there anyway, let’s wait five years and see”. Five years later there is no major earthquake and you go ahead and build the city, without any strict building standards enforced. Now what is the probability that a major earthquake will hit? It is 100% because the plates are still moving and it absolutely doesn’t matter whether there was an earthquake or not in those 5 years, because the due to the laws of physics, it is certain that there will be one. So, of course, some time later, it hits, with predictable consequences.

That’s the kind of situation with limits to growth – yes, we haven’t collapsed yet, no it wasn’t even predicted that we will have collapsed by now by the original Limits To Growth study, but yes, we are precisely on the trajectory that will lead to planetary civilizational collapse, with 100% certainty. When exactly is difficult to predict, but there are so many converging crises and so little time to do anything about them, with no understanding on the part of people in charge.

If you want a detailed description of what’s wrong with the world, and why Bradley, Lomborg and the rest are either completely clueless, totally in denial, or outright lying about those issues, I can do it, but this already got too long as it is, so here is just a short list. Note that the most contentious one of these is global warming, the rest are pretty much indisputable. Note also that each of them on its own is more than capable of bringing down civilization and that they aren’t really separate issues when it comes to root causes and solutions (the only way to tackle them is in their entirety), and note that they are all vigorously denied here, and ironically, also at places lie WUWT (which is, after all, about climate, yet is in denial about everything environmental in general).

Climate change
Peak Oil (most urgent)
Peak Fresh Water (second most urgent)
Peak Gas, Coal, Uranium
Peak Phosphorus
Peak Everything (all other minerals an industrial civilization needs)
Soil degradation
Ocean acidification (which is a separate issue from AGW, although also caused by CO2)
Ecosystem collapse/loss of biodiversity due to overfishing, deforestation, etc.
Overpopulation

11 Brian H { 11.02.10 at 12:46 am }

Peak Oil is dead.
Overpopulation is a myth.
Therewith go the two fundamental props of every position GM espouses.

12 Brian H { 11.02.10 at 12:48 am }

Incorrect link syntax above: Overpopulation is a myth.

13 Brian H { 11.02.10 at 12:51 am }

Hm. This site addy seems to have gotten pasted into the link above. Once more: Overpopulation is a myth .

14 Brian H { 11.02.10 at 12:53 am }

Still not working.
Overpopulation is a myth

15 GM { 11.02.10 at 1:13 am }

Brian H { 11.02.10 at 12:53 am }
Still not working.
Overpopulation is a myth

As I said, it takes a completely scientifically illiterate person to deny basic ecological principles.

The links in question does exactly that.

The basics are as well-established:

1. There is something called carrying capacity of the environment, which, if the environment doesn’t change, is constant for all species other than humans. For humans, it is also dependent on the per capita consumption of resources, and it happens to shrink all the time because our per capita consumption of resources increases.

2. The carrying capacity is determined by the LONG-TERM maximum sustainable population, where long-term sustainable means that the size of the population and its per capita consumption aren’t deteriorating the environment thus eroding carrying capacity

3. When populations overshoot the carrying capacity of the environment, they erode it, which eventually leads to the collapse of the population, typically to a level much lower than the initial as carrying capacity has been destroyed in the process. That level is sometimes zero.

4. Since we have a society built on the assumption of perpetual economic growth, i.e. perpetual increase in our total environmental footprint, we will sooner or later overshoot and collapse. Demographic transition doesn’t matter at all here, if you stabilize population but keep increasing per capita consumption of resources, you still collapse .

5. So the question is is humanity in overshoot already or not. Given that all indicators (climate change, ocean acidification, ecosystem destruction) point that we have exceeded the capacity of the environment to absorb our waste and that we are eating up our natural capital, and that on top of that, the current size of the human population is only possible because of the use of non-renewable fossil fuels, we are almost 100% sure that we are in overshoot.

Which of the above is myth?

This is why, as I said, it is very difficult to debate brainwashed un/under/miseducated dimwits who live in a fact and logic-free world. True for creationists, true for AGW denialists, true for anti-vaxxers, true for economists.

16 Geoff { 11.02.10 at 3:04 am }

Hi GM,

Could you be an expert lapidopterist too?

I wonder if you’ve ever been to The Netherlands. At any rate, I don’t think you hear very often they have “exceed their carrying capacity”. Did you know that if you took the entire population of China, plus the entire population of India and added them to the existing population in just the continental US, the population density would be lower than that of The Netherlands today?

Please don’t be simplistic.

17 GM { 11.02.10 at 3:56 am }

Geoff { 11.02.10 at 3:04 am }
Hi GM,

Could you be an expert lapidopterist too?

I wonder if you’ve ever been to The Netherlands. At any rate, I don’t think you hear very often they have “exceed their carrying capacity”. Did you know that if you took the entire population of China, plus the entire population of India and added them to the existing population in just the continental US, the population density would be lower than that of The Netherlands today?

Please don’t be simplistic.

LMAO. You have the guts to use the word “simplistic” when you just used the most outrageously moronic “objection” against overpopulation???

That’s why I have to call people cretins, morons, idiots, and other such names. Because they are cretins, morons, idiots, etc.

When you reach the level of intellectual development that will allow you to pass second grade in a respectable educational system (not the absolute travesty of such that you apparently come from) and become able to understand what “carrying capacity” actually means, then come argue.

Suffice to say that the Netherlands would starve and freeze to death if it was cut off from the rest of the world, which it imports carrying capacity from. The world as a whole, however, has nowhere to import it from…

18 Ed Tribuna { 11.02.10 at 7:12 am }

GM,

You paint with a very broad brush. I now understand the reference to lies.

Ed…

19 Geoff { 11.02.10 at 7:20 am }

Hi GM,

Nice chatting with you too. I don’t recall the last time I was called a cretin.

Have you been to India recently? You may know they are the largest milk producer in the world. How much do you think is spoiled? Overall more than 20% of all Indian food production is spoiled due to poor handling. Do you think that can be improved? Do you think if the entire population of India and China were moved to the continenta US that would free up some land to cultivate (or better send the Americans to India and China since there’s more water in the US for agriculture, which due to inefficient use accounts for 80% of water consumption)?

You seem to have a lot of weight on your shoulders and perhaps you don’t care about this sort of thing, but I asked Paul Volcker today if he visited Fort Knox when he was Chairman of the Federal Reserve to see if the gold was there. He said no.

20 anon { 11.02.10 at 1:04 pm }

The same people who berate Christians for not believing in evolution don’t understand that EXTINCTION IS EVOLUTION DURRRRRR

21 Chris T { 11.02.10 at 2:01 pm }

Which of the above is myth?

This one:

5. So the question is is humanity in overshoot already or not. Given that all indicators (climate change, ocean acidification, ecosystem destruction) point that we have exceeded the capacity of the environment to absorb our waste and that we are eating up our natural capital, and that on top of that, the current size of the human population is only possible because of the use of non-renewable fossil fuels, we are almost 100% sure that we are in overshoot.

Overpopulation occurs when a species overshoots the environment’s ability to sustain itself, not other species. This can only really be determined by two ways:

1) Long term decline in ability to meet basic survival needs (falling calorie intake across the species or falling water consumption)
2) Increasing mortality across the species due to 1.

Our ability to meet our basic survival needs has been increasing over time, with the average global calorie intake going up and malnutrition on its way down. Mortality due to insufficient food or water is falling. Local populations of the species can be overpopulated relative to their local environment, but to say the entire species is overpopulated requires looking at it in total. By any objective definition and metric, humanity is not currently overpopulated; it might be in the future, but to say that for sure requires information we do not and cannot have.

We could drive every other species into extinction, but so long as we can meet our basic survival needs, we would not technically be overpopulated.

22 GM { 11.02.10 at 2:12 pm }

Chris T { 11.02.10 at 2:01 pm }
Which of the above is myth?

We could drive every other species into extinction, but so long as we can meet our basic survival needs, we would not technically be overpopulated.

Once again, this is why I have to call people names, because they earn it with stupidometer-breaking statements like the one above.

If we drive all other species to extinction (something we are very “successfully” working on at present), we will go extinct very soon after that. If you can’t understand why that is, you should have never been let past second grade.

Humans depend on ecosystems being intact for their survival. Ecosystem will eventually recover when we go extinct, it will take them a few million years, as it did after previous mass extinctions, but they will be fine. We aren’t going to be

23 rbradley { 11.02.10 at 2:23 pm }

GM:

Just to try to get this full circle, why is it that the cost and price of ‘depleting’ minerals have not been rising, and why does servicable supply goes up and not down over time even with production/consumption? Why all of this history supporting Simon over Ehrlich?

Or seen another way, can you name just a few minerals that have ‘peaked’ in the sense of a fundamental increase in costs and prices? There are dozens to chose from–give us a few and state your certainty that costs and prices are high and will go higher over time.

(And remember, under your theory, ALL minerals EVERY DAY deplete, so it should be easy to see the effects on cost, price, and quantity….)

P.S. No name calling, just the facts please.

24 GM { 11.02.10 at 2:43 pm }

rbradley { 11.02.10 at 2:23 pm }
GM:

Just to try to get this full circle, why is it that the cost and price of ‘depleting’ minerals have not been rising, and why does servicable supply goes up and not down over time even with production/consumption? Why all of this history supporting Simon over Ehrlich?

No name calling, but I will call the lie a lie. Prices have in fact been rising, oil being the best but hardly the only example:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/87/Oil_Prices_1861_2007.svg

As to why is it that the price didn’t start rising steadily as soon as the first unit of a given resource was used up, the reason is very simple – the market only sees the immediate future, not the long term. The market doesn’t really care that most credible projections give a figure for oil production some 20 million barrels a day lower than the present 10 to 15 years from now, they care about the next 3 months to a year, and if there is enough supply in that time frame, price remains low. And things like ecosystem destruction aren’t even priced at all, those things are actually seen as beneficial (in $$ signs).

Which is a major reason why most people concerned about resource depletion have realized that the market in general doesn’t work and does more harm than good. In a way, you are telling me that they very reason blind faith in the omnipotence of free markets is such a disaster is also precisely the reason why we should embrace that blind faith…

25 rbradley { 11.02.10 at 2:51 pm }

GM

Look at your chart! Why are oil prices adjusted for inflation less now than in the 1860s? the early 1920s? the 1970s?

What about all the other minerals? Say natural gas? Coal?

Why is Hotelling wrong and Simon right looking at the big picture of minerals?

What will the price of oil be in a decade? Like to put real money behind it?

26 GM { 11.02.10 at 4:03 pm }

rbradley { 11.02.10 at 2:51 pm }
GM

Look at your chart! Why are oil prices adjusted for inflation less now than in the 1860s? the early 1920s? the 1970s?

What about all the other minerals? Say natural gas? Coal?

Why is Hotelling wrong and Simon right looking at the big picture of minerals?

What will the price of oil be in a decade? Like to put real money behind it?

You just applied a trick from the creationist debate tactics 101 and completely ignored what was explained in the previous post. Where it was explained to you that prices will not rise until supply gets really tight (by which point it will be way too late to start looking for substitutes for a lot of vital resources, many of which have no substitutes , and never will).

That’s precisely the case with oil – as oil peaked, supply remained flat and prices quadrupled over the last decade.

But that’s not the point, the point was that prices determined by markets are a very poor way to guide policy and decision making as markets are blind to everything except for the very short-term future, while we’re dealing with long-term problems here. Which means that if you let prices guide you, you will end up in very deep trouble at some point.

I will repeat myself, you can be in denial about one or two of the about 10 civilization-threatening problems I listed, but you have to be absolutely out of your mind to be in denial about all of them. Some of them (soil, water, ecosystem collapse) are so indisputable and it would be such a cosmic embarrassment for you to come out and say they are non-issues, that you avoid mentioning them. Although I wouldn’t be surprised if you do it. After all, people who claim that infinite growth is possible in a finite system, are probably capable of other such feats of “reasoning” that are beyond the imagination of us regular sane folks.

Simon has never been right about resources. To borrow a phrase from PZ Myers; vocabulary, Simon was a demented dimwit who should have been sent to a mental hospital as soon as he wrote the “We can grow exponentially at 3% a year for 7 billion years” statement. He is right in the same way I would be right if I claim that there will never be another megathrust earthquake on the west coast of the US. I am sure there were people who were claiming that in Sumatra 10 years ago, after all Allah would take care of the faithful, right?

We don’t really know what will happen with the price of oil. Paradoxically, it may not rise to hundreds of dollars a barrel until very long after the peak has been passed, due to the deep recession and demand destruction that each spike will cause. We already saw the first such cycle. It will not mean Peak Oil hasn’t occurred.

27 Chris T { 11.02.10 at 10:53 pm }

If we drive all other species to extinction (something we are very “successfully” working on at present), we will go extinct very soon after that. If you can’t understand why that is, you should have never been let past second grade.

Good god, you can’t read can you? What I wrote was a hypothetical illustrating that overpopulation can only be objectively measured relative to the environment’s present ability to sustain a particular species.

28 Alice { 11.02.10 at 11:07 pm }

If you take persons such as Holdren, Ehrlich, and Hansen and demonstrate to them how their thinking processes and assumptions have led them to erroneous conclusions, it is unlikely that they would be capable of changing their minds. Too much has been invested into their current, stagnant points of view. They are incapable of learning or growing.
The left-environmentalist dieoff viewpoint has become religious gospel in many university classrooms. Not just in the environmental sciences, but in social science classrooms, literature and philosophy departments, even in queer ethnic gender studies departments.
You could call it academic lobotomisation, or zombification. But you can observe the results in commenters who regurgitate their programming, rather than to actually interact with others.
It is a sad and destructive, but very real and ongoing phenomenon within academia, governmental, and non-governmental lobbies and inter-governmental agencies.

29 Dave Stephens { 11.02.10 at 11:11 pm }

GM
What does “GM” stand for?
Greatly Mislead?
Gross Malfeasance?
Goofy Machiavellian?
Garbage Mouth?

Folks, GM is a lover of invective, so I’m sure what’s good for the goose is good for the gander…

He is certainly greatly mislead about his “science”…

30 rbradley { 11.03.10 at 1:31 pm }

Cool It! by Bjorn Lomborg is coming soon.

Here is the trailer. http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5383458/cool_it_movie_trailer/

- Rob

31 Jon Boone { 11.03.10 at 1:49 pm }

Be careful of what you wish for, Rob…. Lomborg seems to have moved to a Gore Lite position. Investing $250 billion gleaned from carbon taxes in “new technologies,” as he suggests, some of which date back thousands of years, suggests he’s yet another grifter for rathole economics. Here we go again….

32 rbradley { 11.03.10 at 3:11 pm }

Joe Romm sees Lomborg as the mortal enemy:
http://climateprogress.org/2010/11/03/bj%c3%b8rn-lomborg-cool-it-film-trailer-debunked/

That is what got my attention in this case ….

33 PaulD { 11.05.10 at 2:26 pm }

“markets are blind to everything except for the very short-term future, while we’re dealing with long-term problems here. Which means that if you let prices guide you, you will end up in very deep trouble at some point. ”
Give me some evidence that markets only care about the very near future. For example, if I am the CEO of an oil company and I am convinced that we will run out of oil in 15 years and that as result the price of any remaining oil will be astronomically high, would I not sit on all or at least most of my existing reserves and leave them in the ground until the price of oil skyrockets? And by cutting back on my current production, would this not cause the short-term price of oil to increase? If other oil executives who shared my view did the same thing, the current price of oil would increase until the price increased to a level to cause me to start up production again. Thus, the current price of oil would rise to the level that reflects the markets view of the long-term supply and demand for oil.
When you say that markets take only a short-term view, what you are really saying is that you disagree with the future predictions that are being make by hundreds of market participants who have the expertise and a strong financial interest in making accurate predictions of future oil supply and demand. You may be correct and the market consensus may be wrong, but this is something entirely different than saying that markets do not take into account the long-run.
Back in the 1980′s I had a heated discussion with another graduate student who was convinced that we would run out of oil in the next ten or twenty years. I asked him why the price of oil was so low. He made the same argument that you make that markets only consider the short-term. In other words, he disagreed with the market consensus regarding the long-term supply and demand for oil. As it turned out, the market consensus was correct and he was wrong.

34 PaulD { 11.05.10 at 2:44 pm }

There is a fairly simple reason I tend to believe the reasoning of economists such as Julian Simon over the reasoning of people such GM. People who share GM’s understanding of how the world works have made many predictions over the past 150 years or more, which have been spectacularly wrong. On the other hand, predictions make by economists such as Julian Simon have so far been correct.

35 GM { 11.05.10 at 4:51 pm }

The price of oil is several TIMES higher than it was in the 80s. No that it matters much, as I explained, but I am just pointing out because you seem to suggest that people who predicted it going up were wrong. How were they wrong when it indeed went up and stayed there, during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression which greatly reduced demand? That’s why in addition to calling people cretins, I am also calling them liars – because they are (or at the very least they are so deluded that they have acquired the amazing ability to deny reality when its fist is millimeters away from making contact with their chin).

But as I said, that price went up doesn’t even really matter that much. What matters is that we are finding 1 barrel of oil for every 4 to 5 we are burning (fact), that EROEI is falling and that the worldwide peak of oil production probably happened this decade. Geology will always beat markets. Markets can’t create negative entropy out of nothing and infinite growth in a finite system is an impossibility. Therefore any socio-economic system that’s based on infinite growth (such as ours) will collapse sooner or later. You have yet to refute that, and you won’t because you can’t, it follows directly from the laws of nature and those are non-negotiable

36 pauld { 11.05.10 at 6:11 pm }

“The price of oil is several TIMES higher than it was in the 80s. No that it matters much, as I explained, but I am just pointing out because you seem to suggest that people who predicted it going up were wrong”
Read my post more carefully. I argued that people who thought the we would be out of oil by the year 2000 were wrong. They were. I think the current price of oil reflects the consensus views of the long-term supply and demand for oil by those who put their money where their mouths are. If you are smarter than the market, I suggest that use your superior knowledge to make boatloads of money.

“Therefore any socio-economic system that’s based on infinite growth (such as ours) will collapse sooner or later. You have yet to refute that, and you won’t because you can’t, it follows directly from the laws of nature and those are non-negotiable”

By definition, the earth has limited resources, but thus far in the history of the world that has not been a practical limitation on growth. History has proven over and over again that the real limit on resources is not the supply of raw material, but mankind’s ingenuity in using them. That ingenuity has increased rapidly at an increasing rate.
Today’s population would not be sustainable using technology that existed in 1900. Today the world’s population is much greater and the per capita income is much higher than it was in the 1900. The supply of raw materials has not increased. Mankind’s ability to produce wealth from limited resources has exploded.
The doomsayers have been consistently wrong because they do not account for human ingenuity.

37 GM { 11.07.10 at 10:54 am }

pauld { 11.05.10 at 6:11 pm }
“The price of oil is several TIMES higher than it was in the 80s. No that it matters much, as I explained, but I am just pointing out because you seem to suggest that people who predicted it going up were wrong”
Read my post more carefully. I argued that people who thought the we would be out of oil by the year 2000 were wrong. They were. I think the current price of oil reflects the consensus views of the long-term supply and demand for oil by those who put their money where their mouths are. If you are smarter than the market, I suggest that use your superior knowledge to make boatloads of money.

Nobody of sufficient expertise has claimed that we will be out of oil by the year 2000, and if someone has, then he shouldn’t have. The argument has never been about running out completely, it is about flows, and specifically flows relative to needs. Once you can’t produce enough to meet the rally inelastic level of demands, some nasty non-linear feedback effect kick in and the whole thing collapses.

I am not interested in making money, if I had I would have already taken my education and skills to Goldman-Sachs or some hedge fund and made them. The difference between me and most people is that I care about the long-term, and by the long term I mean hundreds, thousands and tens of thousands of years in the future. The current short-term trends if continued make the kind of future we would want our descendants to have extremely unlikely.

By definition, the earth has limited resources, but thus far in the history of the world that has not been a practical limitation on growth. History has proven over and over again that the real limit on resources is not the supply of raw material, but mankind’s ingenuity in using them. That ingenuity has increased rapidly at an increasing rate.

OK, you at least admit that resources are finite, So when do we stop growing then? Surely, we have to stop at some point because no amount of “ingenuity” can create negative entropy out of nothing, right?

BTW, “ingenuity” has peaked a long time ago, the pace of really fundamental discoveries has greatly slowed down, as the low-hanging fruit has been already picked up. It is much harder to make progress now.

You can only think otherwise if you have zero understanding of how science works and what the real questions are right now, and if you mistake shiny toys for real advances of technology.

Today’s population would not be sustainable using technology that existed in 1900.

Correct. Now the next step is to understand that the technology we have today would not be possible to exist at the current scale with the amount of energy we had in 1900.

Today the world’s population is much greater and the per capita income is much higher than it was in the 1900. The supply of raw materials has not increased.

Correct. The amount of raw materials available is fixed, the rate at which we are using up non-renewable resources has skyrocketed. At some point exponential growth meets the limit of a finite world.

Mankind’s ability to produce wealth from limited resources has exploded.

Wealth is an absolutely irrelevant concept, especially if by “wealth” you mean $$ signs. You can’t eat money.

The doomsayers have been consistently wrong because they do not account for human ingenuity.

As I am getting tired of repeating, no amount of ingenuity can outsmart the fundamental laws of nature. That’s like jumping from a skyscraper and hoping that you will learn how to fly by the time your brain splatters on the concrete below.

38 rbradley { 11.07.10 at 11:57 am }

GM

The fact is that out of the dozens of minerals, no ‘peak’ has been reached, and we have decades of failed predictions from Paul Ehclrich, John Holdren, Lester Brown, and all sorts of eco icons and neo-Malthusians about running low or running out.

If I were you, I’d go back to the drawing board to examine the history of mineral quantities, costs, and prices for recorded history to see if they are significantly different from other goods and services.

If not, ask yourself if there are too many jumps out of the tall buildings where no landings have been made.

Then look at institutional factors in light of human ingenuity. You might just turn into a Julian Simon, who was once a Malthusian himself.

Don’t be scared to devote some real time into mineral research and don’t be afraid to change your mind and educate to get others to change their minds.

And note one thing. None of your critics is saying that crude oil will not lose market share to other forms of oils, mineral and nonmineral, over the decades and centuries and beyond.

We are arguing that the general mineral world of carbon-based energies is still young on a BTU basis.

39 PaulD { 11.08.10 at 2:25 pm }

GM says “As I am getting tired of repeating, no amount of ingenuity can outsmart the fundamental laws of nature.”

I disagree with virtually everything you write. I am curious what you mean by the above statement. Take an example.
In the 1930′s and 1940′s one could easily have predicted that the supply of copper would be depleted by telephone transmission lines. Then satellites were developed that allowed the long-distance transmission of telephone signals without wire, along with fiber optics that allowed transmissions without copper. Better technologies were substituted for copper. The impending shortage of copper was averted. Does this somehow outsmart fundamental laws of nature?

40 GM { 11.08.10 at 8:08 pm }

Does this somehow outsmart fundamental laws of nature?

No, that’s precisely the point

41 PaulD { 11.09.10 at 11:06 am }

GM says: “No, that’s precisely the point.”
I guess I misunderstood your point. Could you please explain exactly what are the “fundamental laws of nature” that cannot be outsmarted by any amount of human ingenuity?”

42 GM { 11.09.10 at 3:18 pm }

The point is that human ingenuity makes possible things real, but it can’t make impossible things possible. That’s why despite the enormous demand for perpetual motion machines, nobody has yet created one and nobody will ever will, despite what the laws of supply and demand would tell you.

43 pauld { 11.09.10 at 7:45 pm }

GM:
If you think that people on this blog think that free-markets will someday create a perpetual motion machine, then I understand much better your confusion.

44 GM { 11.09.10 at 9:00 pm }

That’s precisely what they think. To claim that infinite growth is possible in a finite system is pretty much the same thing as claiming that perpetual motion machines will be created

45 Richard Haydn { 02.27.11 at 4:24 am }

Great discussion, exactly what I was looking for. Name calling is not my style but I guess it gets the juices flowing.

I can’t see any way to argue against GM’s basic and fundamental point that finite resources cannot be infinitely consumed. So if we were god-like (with apologies to GM) and knew the earth contained 5 gazillion barrels of oil and we consumed 1 gazillion every thousand years – yes we would run out in 5 thousand years. One cannot argue this fact with short term bets on the price of oil or market theory. It is what it is. Is anyone here seriously arguing that there is unlimited oil contained within the planet earth? It often sounds like this is the case when posters present arguments based on material substitution or technological advancement. But of course it can’t be, not here.

The argument for or against “peak” anything that is finite must be couched in terms of time and technology. The reason the doomsayers, dating back to at least Malthus, failed in their predictions was simply a matter of underestimating technological advances. This doesn’t necessarily mean his predictions won’t hold true in the year 3057.

As to peak oil, the basic question becomes: Do you believe technology will find ways to provide relatively cheap energy that is sufficient to sustain the demand for energy for at least the next say x years. The time frame is critical because any astronomer can give you a ball park figure as to when the sun will cease to shine and we really can’t have too much interest in events 1000 years from now.

But where the argument gets really interesting to us mortals is the time frame of say the next 15, 25, or 50 years when we can expect to experience the effects first hand, or have our grandchildren experience the effects.

And the answer is . . . . . . no one really knows! Bummer. So yes, you cannot scientifically argue that GM is wrong in his basic argument that finite things cannot be infinite. It all comes down to a matter of timing and technology. Up to this point the batting average of the Malthus crowd has been zero. But it is a very long game.

I tend to think the optimists will prevail, but then again I think we will one day exceed the speed of light; after all its no fun having a huge universe if you can never really explore it.

The argument simply boils down to a matter of technology, and here GW argues:


BTW, “ingenuity” has peaked a long time ago, the pace of really fundamental discoveries has greatly slowed down, as the low-hanging fruit has been already picked up. It is much harder to make progress now.

You can only think otherwise if you have zero understanding of how science works and what the real questions are right now, and if you mistake shiny toys for real advances of technology. ”

This is the interesting argument, the crux of the matter. And here I will only comment on the state of physics research. We unlocked many of the secrets of the atom early in the 20th century. Einstein had merely to ride a train and watch the clock on the town tower disappear to imagine himself traveling at the speed of light and time standing still. Then came the quantum mechanics and now we must build super-colliders in the search for elusive particles that match our theories. Anyone with a high school education could understand the theory of lift and marvel at its transformation into modern day flight. Not so with electron spin and all this talk of dead cats.

46 Huntsman on evolution, warming: 'Call me crazy' - Page 40 { 08.28.11 at 12:04 pm }

[...] Re: Huntsman on evolution, warming: 'Call me crazy' Originally Posted by AdamT Actually our rivers did burn, which was a significant factor in passing the clean water act. Shockingly, water quality has improved markedly since then. Not familiar with those consensus scientific findings that predicted crumbling cities and collapsing continents. Perhaps you have a link? Yes, I am quite familiar with that incident of the river catching fire, and in fact it caught fire several times. And while water quality has improved in that river, and thats something to be grateful for, water quality in other areas has been excellent for centuries. Global warming is a money making hoax though it has its believers, just as other hoaxes throughout the centuries have had, and each time people are convinced that maybe this time it will finally be true. But, just like the fears of the past, they have proved to be nonsense. Halloween Hangover: Ehrlich, Holdren, Hansen Unretracted — MasterResource [...]

47 Re: It's Not About Climate Change. It's About Population Control | Tony Johnson { 03.04.13 at 9:05 pm }

[...] Other members of the Gaia -worshiping Club of Rome include Al Gore, George Soros, Maurice Strong, David Rockefeller, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, (notice any trends?), Tony Blair, Deepak Chopra, Henry Kissinger, and Obama’s Science Czar, John Holdren, the absent minded Professor, who along with his mentor, Paul Ehrich, has a 100% record of being wrong on every catastrophic prediction he’s ever made. [...]

48 dspenz { 05.21.13 at 1:55 pm }

For example, PRETTY MUCH ALL creationists are also climate change and peak oil deniers. In the same way, PRETTY MUCH ALL climate change deniers are also peak oil deniers, and also deniers of everything environmental.
PRETTY MUCH ALL petroleum geologists and engineers are very concerned about Peakoil….
-Pretty much a series of broad assumptions. (I use this method to come to quick conclusions on issues involving complicated subjects that I know little about so that I can state my opinion at the BBQ. I might even back it up with verbiage polled from the typically large number of similar folks who have done the exact same surface skimming technique of drawing up a belief. You can’t always sell snake oil to the hair tonic guy)

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