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Category — Holdren, John

“The Skeptical Environmentalist”: A Ten Year Appreciation (Bjørn Lomborg vindication of the late Julian Simon continues to resonate today)

Ten years ago this month, a landmark book was published that put neo-Malthusianism on the defensive. The unvarnished facts were there to weaken doom-and-gloom prognostications, but it took a rare individual named Julian Simon (1932–1998)  ) to uncover the anomalies and present them in integrated and compelling form–and to win the most famous wager in the history of economics!

Then came a young Dane named Bjørn Lomborg set out to refute Simon but instead rediscovered the bogey of fixed-pie, depletionist thinking. This audacious 36-year-old also found that whether the result was of market progress or regulation, virtually all environmental indicators were trending positively, not negatively. Lomborg could agree with the title of Simon’s last major public address, “More People, Greater Wealth, Expanded Resources, Cleaner Environment.”

A Heated Debate

And then, with the debate joined, came a slew of establishment neo-Malthusians, led by John Holdren, now Obama’s science advisor, who got emotional and nit-picked.

This story is told in the introduction to an essay I wrote, The Heated Energy Debate: Assessing John Holdren’s Attack on Bjørn Lomborg’s The Skeptical Environmentalist,” published by the Competitive Enterprise Institute in 2002.

I spent months on the 160-footnote essay and even worked with Dr. Holdren’s personal secretary at Harvard University’s Kennedy School to receive the entire corpus of Holdren’s writing. But when I sent Dr. Holdren a draft of my paper for critical review and rebuttal, this is what the not-so-good Doctor wrote back to me: [Read more →]

September 9, 2011   7 Comments

John Holdren: White House Malthusian

If there is one quotation by Obama’s new science advisor that every American should hear, it is this:

“A massive campaign must be launched to restore a high-quality environment in North America and to de-develop the United States. . . . Resources and energy must be diverted from frivolous and wasteful uses in overdeveloped countries to filling the genuine needs of underdeveloped countries. This effort must be largely political” (italics added).

- John Holdren, Anne Ehrlich, and Paul Ehrlich, Human Ecology: Problems and Solutions (San Francisco; W.H. Freeman and Company, 1973), p. 279.

Holdren’s deep-seated belief of the human “predicament” as a zero-sum game–America must lose for other countries to win–was also stated by him two years before:

“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.”

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

Holdren and the Ehrlichs paid homage to the gloomy worldview of Thomas Robert Malthus, who saw “misery or vice” as the necessary equalizer between growing population and the means of subsistence in An Essay on the Principle of Population (1798): [Read more →]

March 3, 2011   15 Comments

John Holdren’s Big Science, One Science Directive (so what has this smartest-guy-in-the-room said in the past?)

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

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

“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 (1986), p. 274

“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.”

- John Holdren and Paul Ehrlich, eds., Global Ecology (1971), p. 6.

“John Holdren (like Paul Ehrlich) has done much to discredit himself by both his failed forecasts and his angry response to his critics…. [But] will Dr. Holdren embrace a challenge culture and make midcourse corrections? Will he temper his temper toward those of us who really care about better, longer living for a growing population, as well as political and economic freedom?”

- Robert Bradley, “John Holdren in Retrospect (Part VIII on Obama’s New Science Advisor)” (February 2, 2009)

John P. Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, has flexed his muscles with a recent directive (see below) to federal employees. Science in the service of public policy is objective, and current science is settled science, even in a wide-open area like climate change.

Neo-Mathusians rejoice–the ten commandments have come from on high!

Well, if Dr. Holdren is making sound science the law for the  Washington, D.C., bureaucracy, can he kindly revisit his past predictions and let us know which ones he would not subject to the God of peer review or present before esteemed professional societies? [Read more →]

December 30, 2010   6 Comments

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? [Read more →]

November 1, 2010   48 Comments

Dear John Holdren: Where is our "Indispensable," "Reliable," "Affordable" Energy?

[Editor note: A previous iteration of this post was published on January 14th. Given the inaction of the Obama Administration on offshore drilling in the last year, part of a pervasive strategy to discourage carbon-based energy production and usage, this post, this question needs to be raised anew.]

From time to time, John Holdren has acknowledged that plentiful, affordable, reliable energy is vital to human well being. Indeed, there is no going back to an energy-poor world. (Remember: caveman energy was 100% renewable.)

America–and the world–need more carbon-based energy, not less. Wind and solar are inferior energies compared to the real thing that consumers choose and want more of–oil, gas, and coal.

Holdren on the Importance of Energy

When Holdren or Obama advocates policies that risk making energy artificially scarce or less reliable, these words can be used to argue for nonregulatory approaches to energy policy:

“Virtually all of the benefits that now seem necessary to the ‘American way’ have required vast amounts of energy. Energy, in short, has been our ultimate raw material, for our commitment to economic growth has also been a commitment to the use of steadily increasing amounts of energy necessary to the production of goods and services.”

   -  John Holdren and Philip Herrera, Energy (San Francisco: Sierra Club, 1971), p. 10.

“When energy is scarce or expensive, people can suffer material deprivation and economic hardship.”

    -  John Holdren, “Population and the Energy Problem,” Population and Environment: A Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies, Spring 1991, p. 231.

“Energy is an indispensable ingredient of material prosperity. . . . Where and when energy is in short supply or too expensive, people suffer from lack of direct energy services (such as cooking, heating, lighting, and transport) and from inflation, unemployment, and reduced economic output.”

    -  John Holdren, Population and the Energy Problem,” Population and Environment: A Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies, Spring 1991, p. 232.

“Supplying energy to the economy contributes to the production of a stream of economic goods and services generally supportive of well-being.” [Read more →]

December 31, 2009   5 Comments

Climategate Did Not Begin With Climate (Remembering Julian Simon and the storied intolerance of neo-Malthusians)

A powerful argument against climate alarmism is the failed worldview of modern neo-Malthusianism, which has promoted fear after fear with an intolerant, smartest-guys-in-the-room mentality. Remember the “population bomb” where many millions would die in food riots? Well, obesity turned out to be the real problem.

Remember the Club of Rome’s resource scare? In 1972, 57 predictions of exhaustion were made regarding 19 different minerals. All either have been falsified or will be.

Remember the global-cooling scare promoted by, among others, the Obama administration’s science czar, John Holdren? (Yes, global cooling was a big deal, although it was not a “consensus.”)

And all of the above doom merchants were uber-confident and still are loath to admit they were ever wrong. Holdren, for example, is sticking to his prediction that as many as one billion people could die by 2020 from (man-made) climate change. That’s about ten years, folks.

Climategate/Climate McCarthyism

Now to today. Error and intolerance rule in the global warming scare. Read the flaming emails from the principals of Climategate. Read about Joseph “Climate McCarthyism” Romm by his critics on the Left.  Read the latest from (non-Climategater) Michael Schlesinger, who lost his cool against New York Times environmental reporter Andrew Revkin.

And of course there is John Holdren, now science advisor to President Obama, who said this to me when I asked him to critically review my essay evaluating his 2003 criticism of Bjorn Lomborg, “The Heated Energy Debate.”  Holdren responded:

What exactly entitles you to the evidently self-applied label of ‘energy expert’?  …. You are of course entitled to (verbally) attack me in any legal way you like, but please don’t then pretend in personal notes to me that we are colleagues, each doing our best to get at the truth…. [Y]ou appear to be … lacking both discernible qualifications in the real world and the ability to tell a good argument from a bad one. I want nothing further to do with you.

A strange intellectual dude.

Remember Julian Simon

Today’s Climategate is predictable with some of the same players at work–and many new ones as well. Remember how Paul R. Ehrlich treated his intellectual rival Julian Simon? The Stanford University biologist refused to debate Simon or even meet him in person. He insulted Simon repeatedly in print. Ehrlich even scolded Science magazine for publishing Simon’s 1980 breakthrough essay “Resources, Population, Environment: An Oversupply of Bad News,” with the words: “Could the editors have found someone to review Simon’s manuscript who had to take off this shoes to count to 20?” (quoted in Julian Simon, The Ultimate Resource II, 1996, p. 612). [Read more →]

December 8, 2009   9 Comments

The Global Cooling Scare Revisited (‘Ice Age' Holdren had plenty of company)

“Predictions of future climate trends by Stephen Schneider and other leading climatologists, based on the prevailing knowledge of the atmosphere in the early 1970s, gave more weight to the potential problem of global cooling than it now appears to merit.”

- Paul and Anne Ehrlich, Betrayal of Science and Reason (Washington: Island Press, 1996), p. 34.

Recent attention has been paid to the coming Ice Age talk of John Holdren and Steven Schneider before they got global warming religion.

Here are some “global cooling” quotations and comments from an earlier era. While such concern was not a scientific ‘consensus,’ such as that created by the United Nations’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in favor of high-sensitivity anthropogenic global warming, the Ice Age scare was a very active hypothesis that should give pause to the Boiling Age purveyors of today.

“Certainly the threat of another ice age was the topic of much scientific and popular discussion in the 1970s. Books and articles entitled ‘The Cooling,’ ‘Blizzard,’ ‘Ice,’ and ‘A Mini Ice Age Could Begin in a Decade,’ abounded. The ‘snow blitz’ theory was popularized on the public television presentation of ‘The Weather Machine’ in 1975. And certainly the winters of the late 1970s were enough to send shivers through our imaginations.”

- Harold Bernard, Jr., The Greenhouse Effect (Cambridge, MA: Ballinger Publishing, 1980), p. 20.

“The worriers about cooling included Science, the most influential scientific journal in the world, quoting an official of the World Meteorological Organization; the National Academy of Sciences worrying about the onset of a 10,000 year ice age; Newsweek warning that food production could be adversely affected within a decade; the New York Times quoting an official of the National Center for Atmospheric Research; and Science Digest, the science periodical with the largest circulation.”

- Julian Simon, “What Does the Future Hold? The Forecast in a Nutshell,” in Simon, ed., The State of Humanity (Cambridge, Mass: Blackwell, 1995), p. 646. 

“In the early 1970s, the northern hemisphere appeared to have been cooling at an alarming rate. There was frequent talk of a new ice age. Books and documentaries appeared, hypothesizing a snowblitz or sporting titles such as The Cooling. Even the CIA got into the act, sponsoring several meetings and writing a controversial report warning of threats to American security from the potential collapse of Third World Governments in the wake of climate change.”

- Stephen Schneider, Global Warming: Are We Entering the Greenhouse Century? (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1989), p. 199. [Read more →]

September 26, 2009   16 Comments

John Holdren: Energy "Indispensable," "Reliable," "Affordable" (so how does this square with Waxman–Markey?)

[Editor Note: This updates an original post dated January 14, 2009. It shows a realistic, rationale side of Dr. Holdren that is often absent. The importance of affordable, plentiful, reliable energy should frame the debate in the U.S. Senate over energy/climate legislation.]

From time to time, John Holdren has acknowledged that plentiful, affordable, reliable energy is vital to human well being. Indeed, there is no going back to an energy-poor world. (Remember: caveman energy was 100% renewable.)

When Holdren or Obama advocates policies that risk making energy artificially scarce or less reliable, these words can be used to argue for nonregulatory approaches to energy policy:

“Virtually all of the benefits that now seem necessary to the ‘American way’ have required vast amounts of energy. Energy, in short, has been our ultimate raw material, for our commitment to economic growth has also been a commitment to the use of steadily increasing amounts of energy necessary to the production of goods and services.” 

    -  John Holdren and Philip Herrera, Energy (San Francisco: Sierra Club, 1971), p. 10. [Read more →]

August 19, 2009   No Comments

John Holdren and Mineral/Energy Depletion (Revisited)

[Editor Note: An earlier series at MasterResource on John Holdren, President Obama's science and technology advisor, is being reprinted given the recent controversy surrounding Dr. Holdren's earlier views. This original post is dated January 2, 2009.]

Physical scientists are prone to viewing hydrocarbons as a fixed quantity. Being fixed, this volume must deplete with production. Extraction costs and thus selling prices must rise. The crisis is only a matter of when ["What will we do when the pumps run dry?" asked Paul Ehrlich and Anne Ehrlich in 1974 (The End of Affluence (p. 49)] . Physicist John Holdren is no exception to this view.

Reality is quite different from the hard science formulation, however. In a business or economic sense, mineral resources are not fixed, known, or depleting. They are created by entrepreneurship (”resourceship”) in a market economy where incentives are present and technology improves. Mineral quantities can and do expand over time as shown by time-series data of estimated world resources.

Social-science understanding of minerals harks back to the functional theory of resources espoused by institutional economist Erich Zimmermann. Zimmermann’s work from the 1930s has been advanced by economists working in the Austrian-school (read real-world) tradition of economics (see here and here).

In 1971, Paul Ehrlich and John Holdren stated: [Read more →]

August 17, 2009   No Comments

John Holdren and Anti-Growth Malthusianism (Revisited)

[Editor Note: An earlier series at MasterResource on John Holdren, President Obama's science and technology advisor, is being reprinted given the recent controversy surrounding Dr. Holdren's earlier views. This original post is dated January 5, 2009.]

If there is one quotation by Obama’s new science advisor that every American should hear, it is this:

“A massive campaign must be launched to restore a high-quality environment in North America and to de-develop the United States. . . . Resources and energy must be diverted from frivolous and wasteful uses in overdeveloped countries to filling the genuine needs of underdeveloped countries. This effort must be largely political” (italics added).

- John Holdren, Anne Ehrlich, and Paul Ehrlich, Human Ecology: Problems and Solutions (San Francisco; W.H. Freeman and Company, 1973), p. 279.

Holdren’s deep-seated belief of the human “predicament” as a zero-sum game–America must lose for other countries to win–was also stated by him two years before: [Read more →]

August 15, 2009   9 Comments