“There has to be a lot of shrillness taken out of our language,” Environmental Defense Fund chief Fred Krupp said in a moment of candor last month. “In the environmental community, we have to be more humble. We can’t take the attitude that we have all the answers.”(1)
Fred Krupp–please call Joe Romm, the incendiary editor of the (‘Lack of’?) Climate Progress blog of the Center for American Progress. Romm is as shrill as ever, and except to his apocalyptic apostles, people are turned off. What is wine for his hard core is whine to the open-minded, which is the large majority of us. Making jokes about global-warming exaggeration has turned into pretty good sport, as Krupp must know.
The latest from Dr. Doom (what’s new?) is that we are living on borrowed time. Under the blog title Worst Ever Carbon Emissions Leave Climate On the Brink, Romm warns:
Greenhouse gas emissions increased by a record amount last year, to the highest carbon output in history, putting hopes of holding global warming to safe levels all but out of reach, according to unpublished estimates from the International Energy Agency.
If Romm et al. really think it is getting too late, then perhaps another strategy should be advocated as their Plan B. Let’s use affordable, reliable energy to help strengthen society for the unknown future. And let’s get serious about free-market capitalism, aka the incredible bread machine.
Such policy is far better than squandering wealth on dilute energies in an attempt to shave hundredths of a degree off of a hypothetically estimated future temperature average. And such avoids central government control of energy and the environment at the expense of private property rights and voluntary exchange between consenting adults.
Litany of Exaggeration
Romm has been sounding (false) alarms for decades–and bullying those who disagree with him. Here is another post that Romm himself identifies as a signature piece: “A Stunning Year in Climate Science Reveals that Human Civilization is on Precipice.”
A historical argument against climate alarmism is the long failed history of predicted food, energy, and population crises. It began, famously (or infamously), with Thomas Robert Malthus’s An Essay on Population in 1798, forecasting a geometric increase in population overwhelming an arithmetic increase in good supply. Running out of this and that–Romm keeps that alive with such posts as “Science: Peak Oil Production Might Already Be Here.”
Fred Krupp, the leader of the Environmental Defense Fund, has been hearing shrill for many decades—and he is no doubt tired of having such thrown back into his face when he makes a case for urgent action.
Terrorism is certainly a matter of concern, but if it diverts us from the environmental trends that are undermining our future until it is too late to reverse them, Osama Bin Laden and his followers will have achieved their goal.
Hardly alone, Sir John Houghton across the Atlantic called global warming a “weapon of mass destruction” that kills more people than terrorism.
The typical textbook The Principles of Sustainability advertises sustainability as “the most important issue facing the world today” given our “rapid environmental deterioration.” Another book of the same genre is titled The 2030 Spike: Countdown to Global Catastrophe. Such brings to mind an old prediction that Obama’s chief science advisor John Holdren refuses to renounce: that one billion people could perish from man-made climate change by 2020.
The Limits to Growth , published under the auspices of the Club of Rome back in 1972, predicted a global collapse as rising population outstripped resources. Oil and gas were specifically predicted to be exhausted by 1990 and 1992, respectively. Two of the book’s authors later reported that they “moved to a farm in New Hampshire to learn about homesteading and wait for the coming collapse.”(2) Needless to say, they would exit the farm to return to civilization, apocalypse not.
A Few Quotations
A book of other examples of exaggeration and hyperbole could be compiled. Here are some.
With respect to climate change, we have abruptly passed the tipping point in what until recently has been a tense political controversy. Why? Industry leaders, nongovernmental organizations, Al Gore, and public attention have all played a role. At the core, however, it’s about the relentless progress of science. As data accumulate, denialists retreat to the safety of the Wall Street Journal op-ed page or seek social relaxation with old pals from the tobacco lobby from whom they first learned to “teach the controversy.” Meanwhile, political judgments are in, and the game is over. Indeed, on this page last week, a member of Parliament described how the European Union and his British colleagues are moving toward setting hard targets for greenhouse gas reductions. Now that the scientific consensus is clear, it’s time to ask what the U.S. Congress is doing to keep pace with this new reality…
– Donald Kennedy, “Climate: Game Over,” Science, 27 July 2007: Vol. 317 no. 5837 p. 425
“The leading experts predict that we have less than 10 years to make dramatic changes in our global warming pollution lest we lose our ability to ever recover from this environmental crisis,”
– Al Gore, Washington, S.C. July 17, 2008
“The potential for true catastrophe lies in the future, but the downslope that pulls us toward it is becoming recognizably steeper with each passing year. . . . Sooner or later the steepness of the slope and our momentum down its curve will take us beyond a point of no return.”
– Al Gore, Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit (New York: Plume/Penguin, 1992, 1993), p. 49.
And revision is in the air as false claims are disproven by Father Time.
Six years ago, the United Nations issued a dramatic warning that the world would have to cope with 50 million climate refugees by 2010. But now that those migration flows have failed to materialize, the UN has distanced itself from the forecasts. On the contrary, populations are growing in the regions that had been identified as environmental danger zones….
[So] meanwhile a new forecast is doing the rounds. At the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in February, Cristina Tirado, an environment researcher at the University of California in Los Angeles, warned of 50 million environmental refugees in the future. That figure was a UN projection she said — for 2020.
–Axel Bojanowski,Spiegel Online, 18 April 2011
The alarmists have long argued that the free market optimists among us are like a person who jumps off the skyscraper only to report that things are breezy and pleasant en route. But so many of us have been “jumping” for so long on so many issues that just maybe the dreaded bottom is just a mirage. Just maybe we haven’t jumped off anything but are safe in the hands of human ingenuity in capitalistic settings.
It is time for substance over shrill. The alarmists need to exercize humility (or face continued humiliation) and to go to Plan B: unshackling wealth-creating capitalism for whatever future might lie ahead. A corrected, updated environmentalist policy program in Washington, D.C. would be timely.
(1) Fred Krupp, quoted in “’Shrillness’ of greens contributed to failure in Washington — EDF chief, Greenwire, April, 5, 2011, subs. req’d.
(2) quoted in Robert Bradley, Capitalism at Work: Business, Government, and Energy. Salem, MA: Scrivener Press, 2009, p. 235.