In the time of a global pandemic, soaring unemployment, massive wildfires, and racial strife, it feels like the world is going to hell. It’s not, says Reason Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey, the coauthor (with HumanProgress.org’s Marian Tupy) of Ten Global Trends Every Smart Person Should Know: And Many Others You Will Find Interesting .
When one looks at the data, it becomes clear that the world is dramatically improving over the long term. So why are people so pessimistic about the future? Ronald Bailey recently joined the Political Economy podcast to explore this question.
In his recent book, “ Stubborn Attachments ,” economist Tyler Cowen offers a brief thought experiment meant to illustrate how seemingly tiny differences in GDP growth rates generate massive wealth differences over time. What if, Cowen asks, the US economy grew at one percentage point less annually from 1870 through 1990?
Resourceful Earth Day also signals a hope more appropriate to spring, marking a return to a positive view of man’s role on this planet. Indeed the old Marxists, convinced that they would dominate the future, optimistically favored economic and technological change. The forces of change, they believed, would move man toward heaven here on Earth.
That optimistic element has disappeared. The environmental establishment has grown increasingly gloomy, convinced that the Earth is suffering from the “Terrible Toos” — too many people, too much consumption, too great a reliance on technology which is understood too little. Earth Day has become a day of atonement for man’s criminal assault on our planet. That pessimism reflects, in part, their realization that history is no longer on their side; thus, change is no longer in their interest. Stasis must be the order of the day.
With attacks on things like biotechnology, automobiles, suburban opportunity and trade, they now seek only, as Aaron Wildavsky noted, “an egalitarian society based on rejection of economic growth in favor of a smaller population eating lower on the food chain, consuming a lot less, and sharing a much lower level of resources much more equally.”Master Resource
The problems of famine, overpopulation, poverty and disease are resolvable. In fact, they have been resolved in the United States and other places where human ingenuity is free to solve them. The calamity criers of the green movement predicted great disasters afflicting the planet by the year 2000. The Carter administration’s Global 2000 Report forecast global calamity, and Paul Ehrlich claimed on the “Johnny Carson Show,” “If I were a gambler, I would bet even money that England will not exist in the year 2000.”
Unfortunately for the eco-catastrophists, as we approach their due date for disaster, the planet is in increasingly good shape. This point was recently conceded by America’s arch-druid. “Not only do we have the healthiest economy in a generation,” said Vice President Al Gore, “we also have the cleanest environment.”
On this Resourceful Earth Day, we may hope that Gore and his fellow foot soldiers in the environmental brigades will ponder these points and rethink the wisdom of the current policy of placing all one’s faith in federal political solutions. The greens’ constant calls for massive government controls, forced population limits, harsh curbs on economic activity, and a curtailing of technology threaten to produce exactly the results that such actions seek to avoid —a world of ecological and economic disaster. On this April 22, let us commit to both a freer and a cleaner world; they go together after all.ibid
And there’s also this piece by Julian Simon:
During the first great Earth Week in 1970 there was panic. The public’s outlook for the planet was unrelievedly gloomy. The doomsaying environmentalists–of whom the dominant figure was Paul Ehrlich–raised the alarm: The oceans and the Great Lakes were dying; impending great famines would be seen on television starting in 1975; the death rate would quickly increase due to pollution; and rising prices of increasingly-scarce raw materials would lead to a reversal in the past centuries’ progress in the standard of living.
The media trumpeted the bad news in headlines and front-page stories. Professor Ehrlich was on the Johnny Carson show for an unprecedented full hour—twice. Classes were given by television to tens of thousands of university students.
It is hard for those who did not experience it to imagine the national excitement then. Even those who never read a newspaper joined in efforts to clean up streams, and the most unrepentant slobs refrained from littering for a few weeks. Population growth was the great bugaboo.
Every ill was the result of too many people in the U. S. and abroad. The remedy doomsayers urged was government-coerced birth control, abroad and even at home.
On the evening before Earth Day I spoke on a panel at the jam-packed auditorium at the University of Illinois. The organizers had invited me for “balance,” to show that all points of view would be heard. I spoke then exactly the same ideas that I write today; some of the very words are the same.
Of the 2,000 persons in attendance, probably fewer than a dozen concluded that anything I said made sense. A panelist denounced me as a religious nut, attributing to me weird beliefs such as that murder was the equivalent of celibacy. My ten-minute talk so enraged people that it led to a physical brawl with another professor.
Every statement I made in 1970 about the trends in resource scarcity and environmental cleanliness turned out to be correct. Every prediction has been validated by events. Yet the environmental organizations and the Clinton administration–especially Vice President Al Gore, the State Department, and the CIA –still take as doctrine exactly the same ideas expressed by the doomsayers in 1970, despite their being discredited by recent history. And the press overwhelmingly endorses that viewpoint.
Here are the facts: On average, people throughout the world have been living longer and eating better than ever before. Fewer people die of famine nowadays than in earlier centuries. The real prices of food and of every other raw material are lower now than in earlier decades and centuries, indicating a trend of increased natural-resource availability rather than increased scarcity. The major air and water pollutions in the advanced countries have been lessening rather than worsening.
In short, every single measure of material and environmental welfare in the United States has improved rather than deteriorated. This is also true of the world taken as a whole. All the long-run trends point in exactly the opposite direction from the projections of the doomsayers. There have been, and always will be, temporary and local exceptions to these broad trends. But astonishing as it may seem, there are no data showing that conditions are deteriorating.
….Julian Simon’s 25th anniversary essay
Of course, since it’s from the Heartland Institute, many will consider it tainted.
“Gatebreaker” is a word I use to describe a special kind of document that until recently has been few and far between. It is a one or two page nontechnical refutation of a specific alarmist argument. It is something a student or citizen can use to confront an alarmist gatekeeper, hence the name gatebreaker.
In short, disposing of wind turbines is a significant problem, with negative impacts on communities and the environment.
It is reminiscent of the negative community and environmental impacts of solar panel disposal. Carolina Journal has reported for years about chemical waste components from used solar panels, including such things as gallium arsenide, tellurium, silver, crystalline silicon, lead, and also GenX and related compounds in solar panel components.John Locke Foundation
First heard from Dennis Prager: the climate change activists are insisting that we believe three separate things:
- The climate is changing;
- Humans are responsible for a lot of that;
- It’s leading to a catastrophe.
Alex Epstein says much the same in Forbes, and looks at the numbers.
If you’ve ever expressed the least bit of skepticism about environmentalist calls for making the vast majority of fossil fuel use illegal, you’ve probably heard the smug response: “97% of climate scientists agree with climate change” — which always carries the implication: Who are you to challenge them?
The answer is: you are a thinking, independent individual–and you don’t go by polls, let alone second-hand accounts of polls; you go by facts, logic and explanation.
Here are two questions to ask anyone who pulls the 97% trick.
1. What exactly do the climate scientists agree on?
Usually, the person will have a very vague answer like “climate change is real.”
Which raises the question: What is that supposed to mean? That climate changes? That we have some impact? That we have a large impact? That we have a catastrophically large impact? That we have such a catastrophic impact that we shouldn’t use fossil fuels?
What you’ll find is that people don’t want to define what 97% agree on–because there is nothing remotely in the literature saying 97% agree we should ban most fossil fuel use.
It’s likely that 97% of people making the 97% claim have absolutely no idea where that number comes from.
If you look at the literature, the specific meaning of the 97% claim is: 97 percent of climate scientists agree that there is a global warming trend and that human beings are the main cause–that is, that we are over 50% responsible. The warming is a whopping 0.8 degrees over the past 150 years, a warming that has tapered off to essentially nothing in the last decade and a half.
Even if 97% of climate scientists agreed with this, and even if they were right, it in no way, shape, or form would imply that we should restrict fossil fuels–which are crucial to the livelihood of billions.
Because the actual 97% claim doesn’t even remotely justify their policies, catastrophists like President Obama and John Kerry take what we could generously call creative liberties in repeating this claim.
On his Twitter account, President Obama tweets: “Ninety-seven percent of scientists agree: #climate change is real, man-made and dangerous.” Not only does Obama sloppily equate “scientists” with “climate scientists,” but more importantly he added “dangerous” to the 97% claim, which is not there in the literature.
This is called the fallacy of equivocation: using the same term (“97 percent”) in two different ways to manipulate people.
Bottom line: What the 97% of climate scientists allegedly agree on is very mild and in no way justifies restricting the energy that billions need.
But it gets even worse. Because it turns out that 97% didn’t even say that.
Which brings us to the next question:
2. How do we know the 97% agree?
To elaborate, how was that proven?
Almost no one who refers to the 97% has any idea, but the basic way it works is that a researcher reviews a lot of scholarly papers and classifies them by how many agree with a certain position.
Unfortunately, in the case of 97% of climate scientists agreeing that human beings are the main cause of warming, the researchers have engaged in egregious misconduct.
One of the main papers behind the 97 percent claim is authored by John Cook, who runs the popular website SkepticalScience.com, a virtual encyclopedia of arguments trying to defend predictions of catastrophic climate change from all challenges.
Here is Cook’s summary of his paper: “Cook et al. (2013) found that over 97 percent [of papers he surveyed] endorsed the view that the Earth is warming up and human emissions of greenhouse gases are the main cause.”
This is a fairly clear statement—97 percent of the papers surveyed endorsed the view that man-made greenhouse gases were the main cause—main in common usage meaning more than 50 percent.
But even a quick scan of the paper reveals that this is not the case. Cook is able to demonstrate only that a relative handful endorse “the view that the Earth is warming up and human emissions of greenhouse gases are the main cause.” Cook calls this “explicit endorsement with quantification” (quantification meaning 50 percent or more). The problem is, only a small percentage of the papers fall into this category; Cook does not say what percentage, but when the study was publicly challenged by economist David Friedman, one observer calculated that only 1.6 percent explicitly stated that man-made greenhouse gases caused at least 50 percent of global warming.
Where did most of the 97 percent come from, then? Cook had created a category called “explicit endorsement without quantification”—that is, papers in which the author, by Cook’s admission, did not say whether 1 percent or 50 percent or 100 percent of the warming was caused by man. He had also created a category called “implicit endorsement,” for papers that imply (but don’t say) that there is some man-made global warming and don’t quantify it. In other words, he created two categories that he labeled as endorsing a view that they most certainly didn’t.
The 97 percent claim is a deliberate misrepresentation designed to intimidate the public—and numerous scientists whose papers were classified by Cook protested:
“Cook survey included 10 of my 122 eligible papers. 5/10 were rated incorrectly. 4/5 were rated as endorse rather than neutral.”
—Dr. Richard Tol
“That is not an accurate representation of my paper . . .”
—Dr. Craig Idso
“Nope . . . it is not an accurate representation.”
—Dr. Nir Shaviv
“Cook et al. (2013) is based on a strawman argument . . .”
—Dr. Nicola Scafetta
Think about how many times you hear that 97 percent or some similar figure thrown around. It’s based on crude manipulation propagated by people whose ideological agenda it serves. It is a license to intimidate.
It’s time to revoke that license.Forbes Magazine
Remember when the coming ice age was the big concern in the press? I sure do. I also remember a book, Climates of Hunger, which warned that the past few decades have been uncharacteristically warm, and the climate was overdue for a reversion to its chilly norm. Result: shorter growing seasons, droughts, and starvation.
A brief history of climate panic…both warming and cooling
For at least
114120 years, climate “scientists” have been claiming that the climate was going to kill us…but they have kept switching whether it was a coming ice age, or global warming.
There follows a long list of items, many of them linked to sources.
Now, the scientific community claims the scientific literature doesn’t reflect the popular fears of a new ice age. Because it wasn’t in the journals, it wasn’t a real concern.
Well, it seems to me, if information transmission from the scholarly journal articles to the popular press is so subject to distortion, why should I trust the articles about global warming / climate change in today’s press?
Judith Curry’s website has a comment about the recent paper in Nature, stating that the oceans are absorbing unexpectedly large amounts of heat. The writer, Nic Lewis, finds some problems with it. (Hat tip: Legal Insurrection)
On page 1 they say:
From equation (1), we thereby find that ΔAPOClimate = 23.20 ± 12.20 per meg, corresponding to a least squares linear trend of +1.16 ± 0.15 per meg per year[ix]
A quick bit of mental arithmetic indicated that a change of 23.2 between 1991 and 2016 represented an annual rate of approximately 0.9, well below their 1.16 value. As that seemed surprising, I extracted the annual ΔAPO best-estimate values and uncertainties from the paper’s Extended Data Table 4[x] and computed the 1991–2016 least squares linear fit trend in the ΔAPOClimate values. The trend was 0.88, not 1.16, per meg per year, implying an ocean heat uptake estimate of 10.1 ZJ per year,[xi] well below the estimate in the paper of 13.3 ZJ per year.[xii]
Later, he concludes:
The findings of the Resplandy et al paper were peer reviewed and published in the world’s premier scientific journal and were given wide coverage in the English-speaking media. Despite this, a quick review of the first page of the paper was sufficient to raise doubts as to the accuracy of its results. Just a few hours of analysis and calculations, based only on published information, was sufficient to uncover apparently serious (but surely inadvertent) errors in the underlying calculations.
Moreover, even if the paper’s results had been correct, they would not have justified its findings regarding an increase to 2.0°C in the lower bound of the equilibrium climate sensitivity range and a 25% reduction in the carbon budget for 2°C global warming.
Because of the wide dissemination of the paper’s results, it is extremely important that these errors are acknowledged by the authors without delay and then corrected.
Of course, it is also very important that the media outlets that unquestioningly trumpeted the paper’s findings now correct the record too.
But perhaps that is too much to hope for.
From Watts Up With That:
The issue of climate change (aka global warming) depends on the answers to three questions being “yes”.
1) Is the planet getting warmer?
2) Is the warming due to human activity?
3) Is this warming going to lead to disaster?
It seems 96% of atmospheric scientists answer question 1 as “yes”.
In another survey, 29% of scientists surveyed say it’s entirely human activity, and 38% say “mostly” (60-80%) human activity.
In a third survey, half believe the effects will be primarily (47%) or exclusively (3%) negative over the next half century.
So, the consensus for an anthropogenic climate change disaster is
96% X 67% X 50% = 32%.
It would be interesting to see the answer to a question 2A) “Can humans significantly reverse the warming of the planet?”
Charts and details at the link up top.