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Strident Climate Alarmism: Zwick meets Gleick

“We know who the active [climate-change] denialists are – not the people who buy the lies, mind you, but the people who create the lies. Let’s start keeping track of them now, and when the famines come, let’s make them pay. Let’s let their houses burn. Let’s swap their safe land for submerged islands. Let’s force them to bear the cost of rising food prices….  They broke the climate.”

- Steve Zwick, Forbes, April 19, 2012.

As Chip Knappenberger chronicled earlier this week, there are a number of positive developments in climate science that contradict the doomism and negativity of many climate campaigners. There are benefits, not only costs, to greater carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations in the atmosphere.

And so it came as a shock, a chill, to read the above quotation from Steve Zwick, the editor of the Ecosystem Marketplace and a contributor (as I am) to Forbes online.

Mr. Zwick has since backtracked in the face of criticism that his inflammatory (hate?) speech was hurting his cause (Mr. Zwick, meet Mr. Gleick).

But why does such raw emotionalism keep rearing its unsavory head–even to the point that the guilty damage their own sacred cause? Peter Gleick has certainly self-destructed for a moment of relief or joy.

The answer is that the public is not buying climate alarmism, and the window is closing to do anything about it (James Hansen’s 10-year clock is ticking louder and louder). And in the face of mounting evidence that the ‘uncertain science’ holds good news, some on the other side with so much vested emotional and intellectual baggage on the issue are not ‘sleeping on it’ as much as they should.

Hence bad decisions like the above op-ed by Mr. Zwick….

Crying Wolf Backfires

Back in 2007, a far-Left group published a warning from two climate scientists, urging ‘don’t cry Wolf on climate change issues.’ And more more recently at a climate-panel discussion at Imperial College (UK), James Randerson of The Guardian commented:

There was a sort of cycle through the 2000s of stories saying “scientists say it’s even worse than we thought”…and I think the media kind of cried wolf. [T]here’s only so far that you can go with that kind of story because the public switched off.

Yes, there has been so much–now dated–alarmism that the public has moved on. Such is just part of the age-old Malthusian (and now neo-Malthusian) litany.

The era of anthropogenic-driven climate alarmism is coming on a half-century. It begins at least as far back as in 1971 when John Holdren and Paul Ehrlich wrote in their essay, “Environmental Roulette, Overpopulation and Potential for Ecocide”:

If man survives the comparatively short-term threat of making the planet too cold, there is every indication he is quite capable of making it too warm not long thereafter. (1)

Amory Lovins sounded the energy alarm in 1975:

Present energy policies however tacit and ill-constructed they may be, are quickly destroying the options that mankind, living and unborn, will need for millennia. (2)

And in 1981, Holdren (now Obama’s top science advisor!) warned: “Too much fossil fuel means flirtation with a CO2-induced climate change potentially catastrophic for world food production.” (3)

And who can forget what could be one of the greatest false predictions in history as told to us by Holdren mentor Paul Ehrlich:

“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.” (4)

Holdren has passed on opportunities to trash this old prediction, and it has just eight years to go!

A Decade Ago

So how long have we been hearing shrill alarmism for amateurs and pros alike? Here is one from a famous Hollywood actor which appeared in the newspaper of record:

Solid science clearly shows that global warming exists and that the administration’s drill, dig and burn approach will only make it worse. . . . If he does not make environmental concerns central to his energy policy, President Bush may well leave the next generation with nothing but ashes to stand in.  (5)

AAAS … and Al Gore

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has little quarter for anyone questioning what is seen as a coming climate crisis. It is considered a challenge that only a whole lot of taxpayer dollars can understand and mitigate. Stated then-president head Donald Kennedy:

The nonparticipation of the United States in the global effort on climate change is more than a national embarrassment. It’s dangerous.” (6)

And here is the type inspirational message trumpeted at AAAS conventions, this one from 1992:

“Many of the world’s life-support systems are deteriorating rapidly and visibly, and it is clear that in the future our planet will be less diverse, less resilient, and less interesting than it is now…. Being optimistic about the future by wearing rose-colored glasses and engaging in wishful thinking in a moral vacuum constitutes a crime against our posterity.” (7)

And of course there is Al Gore, whose stridency and false alarms have now made his participation in the climate debate bad for his side and good for his critics.  Let Mr. Gore have the last word:

Our insatiable drive to rummage deep beneath the surface of the earth, remove all of the coal, petroleum, and other fossil fuels we can find, then burn them as quickly as they are found—in the process filling the atmosphere with carbon dioxide and other pollutants—is a willful expansion of our dysfunctional civilization into vulnerable parts of the natural world. (8)


(1) John Holdren and Paul Ehrlich, “Environmental Roulette, Overpopulation and Potential for Ecocide,” in Holdren and Ehrlich, eds., Global Ecology (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1971), p. 77.

(2) Amory Lovins, World Energy Strategies: Facts, Issues, and Options (New York: Friends of the Earth International, 1975), p. 131.

(3) John Holdren, Renewables in the U.S. Energy Future: How Much, How Fast?” Energy, Vol. 6, No. 9 (1981), p. 913.

(4) Paul Ehrlich, The Machinery of Nature (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1986), p. 274.

(5) Robert Redford, “Bush vs. the American Landscape,” The New York Times OP-ED, May 23, 2001, p. A29.

(6) Donald Kennedy, “The Policy Drought on Climate Change,” Science, Vol. 299, January 17, 2003, p. 309.

(7) Al Gore, Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit (New York: Plume/Penguin, 1992, 1993), p. 234.

(8) Peter Raven, presidential address to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, “Science, Sustainability, and the Human Prospect,” Science, August 9, 2002, p. 958.


1 Robert Bradley Jr.: Strident Climate Alarmism: Zwick meets Gleick | JunkScience.com { 04.26.12 at 4:30 am }

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2 Ed Reid { 04.26.12 at 7:28 am }

It appears that “jumping the shark” is the new favorite pasttime of the CAGW alarmists.

I fear many of them are confusing their right to speak out with a perceived right to be heard. Many of us have apparently chosen not to listen, “denying” their perceived, but non-existent, right to be heard. It appears that our choosing to ignore them has caused an emotional boo-boo. Perhaps Gaia will kiss it and make it better. :-)

3 Gil { 04.27.12 at 11:38 am }

Should global warming be viewed in the same light as smog? That is to say it’s a sign of human success. Smog means people are healthy and mobile whereas natural air is to be found in poor countries. Smog might be a little offensive to the senses and might cause some long-term harm. However it’s either that or grow in a primitive subsistence farm inhaling hay and animal waste fumes which directly harm one’s health as well as lead to respiratory illnesses.

4 Kenneth Haapala { 04.27.12 at 4:31 pm }

Excellent comments, but with a slight error — John Holdren is Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Co-Chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. Holdren is considered the President’s Science and Technology advisor.

5 Roger Donway { 04.28.12 at 6:45 am }

Judith Curry, of Climate Etc., has a warning against apocalypticism: http://judithcurry.com/2012/04/26/perils-of-apocalyptic-thinking/#more-8155

In her view, its chief danger lies in its tendency to keep local governments from addressing local issues that they can solve. True enough. It also keeps all levels of governments from letting individuals, civil-society organizations, and economic entities from addressing issues that they can solve.

6 rbradley { 04.28.12 at 10:00 am }


Thanks–I corrected that from Holdren being an ‘energy advisor’ to science advisor. DOE Secretary Chu is presumably the former.

7 Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup | Watts Up With That? { 04.29.12 at 9:30 pm }
8 Ed Fix { 04.29.12 at 10:37 pm }

You can hardly blame the alarmists for getting so strident. How else would a nerdy science geek ever get a chance to save the world?

9 Henri Suyderhoud { 05.02.12 at 8:10 pm }

The big trouble with climate alarmists is that NONE have the slightest understanding and know-how of what the order of magnitude of the Human influence is relative to that caused by all natural sources combined. The best engineering estimate is that Human influence is miniscule, and actually HELPS the environment because more CO2 is good for agriculture in many respects. But I don’t expect people like Al Gore, Holdren, Redford (laughable!), Hanson of NASA, and the whole bunch, to really understand this. Give me a break!

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