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Halloween Thoughts from Obama’s Science Advisor

 “Some form of ecocatastrophe, if not thermonuclear war, seems almost certain to overtake us before the end of the [twentieth] century.”

- John Holdren and Paul Ehrlich[1]

Doom and gloom—and falsity—hallmarks the long career of John P. Holdren, neo-Malthusian and now President Obama’s initial and still science advisor.

What else has the Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy said? And can we assume that he still holds and trumpets these views to Obama?

It’s Halloween, a good time to refresh memories of the man who just might be the scariest presidential advisor in U.S. history!

Read—but don’t be frightened. The sky-is-falling gloom of Holdren, his mentor Paul Ehrlich, and others is in intellectual and empirical trouble. From Julian Simon to Bjorn Lomborg to Indur Goklany to Matt Ridley, the technological optimists have the upper hand in a debate that continues to be one-sided.

Billion Deaths Possible!

“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.”[2]

Economic Decline Coming!

“Today the frontiers are gone, and the evidence is mounting that technology cannot hold the law of diminishing returns at bay much longer. Resources being stressed today are often being stressed globally; they will not be replenished from outside the ‘system’.”[3]

Economic Decline Required!

“Only one rational path is open to us—simultaneous de-development of the [overdeveloped countries] and semi-development of the underdeveloped countries (UDC’s), in order to approach a decent and ecologically sustainable standard of living for all in between. By de-development we mean lower per-capita energy consumption, fewer gadgets, and the abolition of planned obsolescence.”[4]

Optimist Not!

“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.)”[5]

We find ourselves firmly in the neo-Malthusian camp. We hold this view not because we believe the world to be running out of materials in an absolute sense, but rather because the barriers to continued material growth, in the form of problems of economics, logistics, management, and environmental impact, are so formidable.”[6]

Occupy Wall Street!

“[Our] “gloomy prognosis” [requires] organized evasive action: population control, limitation of material consumption, redistribution of wealth, transitions to technologies that are environmentally and socially less disruptive than today’s, and movement toward some kind of world government”[7]

Do I Have to Prove It?

“Now, this problem puts those of us who tend to view with alarm in a somewhat curious position. We’re calling upon society to make major changes, but we cannot prove exactly what will happen and exactly when, in the absence of those kinds of changes.” [8]

Just Kidding!?

“We have been warned by our more cautious colleagues that those who discuss threats of sociological and ecological disaster run the risk of being ‘discredited’ if those threats fail to materialize on schedule.”[9]

———————

In-depth Holdren analysis can be found in these posts:

John Holdren on Global Cooling (Part I in a Series on Obama’s new science advisor, ‘Dr. Doom’) (December 30, 2008)

John Holdren on Global Warming (Part II in a series on Obama’s new science advisor) (December 31, 2010)

John Holdren on Mineral/Energy Depletion (Part III in a series on Obama’s new science advisor) (January 2, 2009)

John Holdren and Anti-Growth Malthusianism (Part IV in a series on Obama’s new science advisor) (January 5, 2009)

John Holdren on Renewable Energy Problems (Part V in a series on Obama’s New Science Advisor) (January 10, 2009)

John Holdren Describes Energy as “Indispensable,” “Reliable,” “Affordable” (Part VI in a series on Obama’s new science advisor) (January 14, 2009)

John Holdren and “The Argument from Authority” (Part VII in a Series on Obama’s New Science Advisor) (January 22, 2009)

John Holdren in Retrospect (Part VIII on Obama’s New Science Advisor) (February 2, 2009)

Also see:

John Holdren Told ‘Not to Make News’ at Confirmation Hearing (February 12, 2010)

Halloween Hangover: Ehrlich, Holdren, Hansen Unretracted (November 1, 2010)


[1] John Holdren and Paul Ehrlich, “What We Must Do, and the Cost of Failure,” in Holdren and Ehrlich, Global Ecology (1971), p. 279.

[2] Paul Ehrlich, The Machinery of Nature (1986), p. 274.

[3] John Holdren and Paul Ehrlich, ‘Resource Realities,’ in Holdren and Ehrlich (eds.), Global Ecology, p. 8.

[4] John Holdren and Paul Ehrlich, “Introduction,” in Holdren and Ehrlich, eds., Global Ecology, 1971, p. 3.

[5] John Holdren and Paul Ehrlich, “What We Must Do, and the Cost of Failure,” in Holdren and Ehrlich, Global Ecology (1971), p. 279.

[6] Paul Ehrlich, Anne Ehrlich, and John Holdren, Ecoscience: Population, Resources, and Environment (San Francisco: W. H. Freeman and Company, 1977), p. 954.

[7] Paul Ehrlich, Anne Ehrlich, and John Holdren, Ecoscience: Population, Resources, and Environment (San Francisco: W. H. Freeman and Company, 1977), p. 5.

[8] Paul Ehrlich and John Holdren, Hearings on the Domestic Supply Information Act, Senate Committee on Commerce and Committee on Government Operations (93rd Cong., 2nd Sess. 1974). Reprinted here.

[9] John Holdren and Paul Ehrlich, eds., Global Ecology (1971), p. 6.

4 comments

1 Don Bishop { 10.31.13 at 9:11 am }

For accounts of “climate-induced famines,” Holdren should read Geoffrey Parker’s book, Global Crisis: War, Climate Change, and Catastrophe in the Seventeenth Century.

Cold is a killer. Famines were common during the Little Ice Age as Parker documents in great detail.

2 Craig { 10.31.13 at 9:52 am }

If you are serious about depopulation, as Dr.Holdren and Dr. Ehrlich seem to be, handing over your health care to a government that just “shuts down” occasionally is a good start. Making energy (food) unreliable and expensive in a time when more may be needed to stay warm ( or cool) also sounds like good policy. Death camps are messy and clumsy politically, Stalin and Mao had terrific succes with starvation and energy depravation, it is slow at first but it picks up speed. Ask the Ukraine.

3 Mark { 10.31.13 at 3:20 pm }

No need for death camps. Just abandon your cars and adopt donkeys and carts. Then, as an added bonus, you can heat your home and cook your food for free by burning the dung. Who wouldn’t jump at the chance?

4 Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup | Watts Up With That? { 11.03.13 at 8:24 pm }

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