Julian Simon (1932–1998) died 22 years ago this week, just short of his 66th birthday, too young by today’s standards. But Simon Lives! moments are common, with the most recent being the President of the United States telling the world leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos:
“[W]e must reject the perennial prophets of doom and their predictions of the apocalypse. They are the heirs of yesterday’s foolish fortune-tellers — and I have them and you have them, and we all have them, and they want to see us do badly…. They predicted an overpopulation crisis in the 1960s, mass starvation in the ’70s, and an end of oil in the 1990s. These alarmists always demand the same thing: absolute power to dominate, transform, and control every aspect of our lives.” “
Simon is an intellectual mentor to many in the free market movement. His worldview and perseverance remain an inspiration. Numerous tributes have been published, including at MasterResource. MasterResource, in fact, was named for the very term Simon used for energy.
David Simon on Climate Alarmism
The Malthusian scare de jure is global warming/climate change. So it was a delight to read an op-ed by David M. Simon, one of Julian’s two sons. A fellow of the Washington-based Committee to Unleash Prosperity, as well as an attorney working in Chicago, David publishes at RealClearPolitics (RCP).
“Paul Krugman Is a Global Warming Alarmist. Don’t Be Like Him” (January 16, 2020), was listed at RCP as “Global Warming Is a Non-Problem That Warrants No Action” January 19. Either title, and more importantly the content, would have made his father proud.
David Simon starts with the hyberbole that Julian so often quoted to debunk.
In 2004, The Guardian.com reported a secret Pentagon warning about global warming: “major European cities will be sunk beneath rising seas as Britain is plunged into a ‘Siberian’ climate by 2020. Nuclear conflict, mega-droughts, famine and widespread rioting will erupt across the world.”
In 2008, Al Gore announced that “the entire North ‘polarized’ cap will disappear in five years.”
In 2009, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon declared that “[t]he world has less than 10 years to halt the global rise in greenhouse gas emissions if we are to avoid catastrophic consequences for people and the planet.”
David Simon then turns to New York Times columnist (and MasterResource piñata) Paul Krugman:
Yet the supposedly authoritative statements of global warming doom continue. In a January 3, 2020, column titled “Apocalypse becomes normal”, Paul Krugman in his usual understated way told us that “[o]n our current trajectory, Florida as a whole will eventually be swallowed by the sea” and “[m]uch of India will eventually become uninhabitable.”
Krugman makes the same mistake as other false prophets of global warming doom. His and their predictions are works of science fiction because, contrary to scientific principles, they ignore the facts about global warming’s actual impact.
The facts instead show that global warming is a non-problem that warrants no action.
Simon presents six reasons:
First, the earth’s temperature has been rising at a microscopically slow pace. NASA’s data set for global temperatures goes back to 1880 and shows that since that year, the earth’s temperature has risen by only 1.14° C. An increase of 1.14° C over 139 years translates to an average increase of only 0.008° C per year.
Second, a warmer earth saves lives. In 2015, the prestigious medical journal The Lancet reported that worldwide, cold kills over 17 times more people than heat. A group of 22 scientists examined over 74 million deaths in the United States, China, Brazil, and ten other countries in 1985-2012. They found that cold caused 7.29 percent of these deaths, while heat caused only 0.42 percent. And of these temperature-related deaths, “moderately hot and cold temperatures” caused 88.85 percent of the deaths, while “extreme” temperatures caused only 11.15 percent.
Third, while the earth’s temperature has risen, the number of natural disaster deaths has been sharply declining. In 2019, EMDAT, The International Disaster Database, reported that since the 1920s, the number of people killed annually by natural disasters has declined by over 80 percent. And this happened as the world’s population quadrupled from less than two billion to over seven and half billion.
Fourth, the global air pollution death rate has fallen by almost 50 percent since 1990. In 2019, University of Oxford economist Max Roser and researcher Hannah Ritchie reported in Our World in Data that “since 1990 the number of deaths per 100,000 people have nearly halved.”
Fifth, any impact on the economy is likely to be minimal. In 2019, the National Bureau of Economic Research estimated that if the earth’s temperature rises by 0.01° C per year through 2100 – 25 percent faster than it actually has since 1880 – total U.S. GDP in 2100 will be 1.88 percent lower in 2100 than it would otherwise be….
Finally, restricting carbon emissions to attempt to stop global warming is the wrong path – even the most severe restrictions will have almost zero impact on the earth’s temperature. Climatologist Patrick J. Michaels calculated that if the United States eliminated all carbon emissions – which would not only require Americans to give up fossil fuels, but also to stop breathing (to cease exhaling carbon dioxide) – it would only reduce global warming by a negligible 0.052° C by 2050.
“Check the facts,” implores David Simon in the final paragraph of his editorial. Like Dad, like Son.