Earth Day predictions

Earth Day this year is Friday, April 22. It is a time when environmental groups trot out their bogeyman predictions that the sky is falling unless we take urgent action NOW!

Let’s go back to the first Earth Day in 1970 and see some of the predictions made around that time.

“We have about five more years at the outside to do something,” ecologist Kenneth Watt declared to a Swarthmore College audience on April 19, 1970.

Harvard biologist George Wald estimated that “civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind.”

“We are in an environmental crisis which threatens the survival of this nation, and of the world as a suitable place of human habitation,” wrote Washington University biologist Barry Commoner in the Earth Day issue of the scholarly journal Environment.

Stanford University biologist Paul Ehrlich: “Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make.” “The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years.” Ehrlich sketched out his most alarmist scenario for the Earth Day issue of The Progressive, assuring readers that between 1980 and 1989, some 4 billion people, including 65 million Americans, would perish in the “Great Die-Off.”

“It is already too late to avoid mass starvation,” declared Denis Hayes, the chief organizer for Earth Day, in the Spring 1970 issue of The Living Wilderness.

In that same issue, Peter Gunter, a professor at North Texas State University, wrote, “Demographers agree almost unanimously on the following grim timetable: by 1975 widespread famines will begin in India; these will spread by 1990 to include all of India, Pakistan, China and the Near East, Africa. By the year 2000, or conceivably sooner, South and Central America will exist under famine conditions….By the year 2000, thirty years from now, the entire world, with the exception of Western Europe, North America, and Australia, will be in famine.”

(Source for quotes above:

September, 1969, from Sen. Daniel Moynihan to John Ehrlichman: “It is now pretty clearly agreed that the CO2 content [in the atmosphere] will rise 25% by 2000. This could increase the average temperature near the earth’s surface by 7 degrees Fahrenheit. This in turn could raise the level of the sea by 10 feet. Goodbye New York. Goodbye Washington, for that matter.” (Source: Nixon Library) The reality: Rather than increasing by 81 parts per million as the “pretty clearly agreed” experts feared, CO2 rose by only 45 parts per million and temperature increased by 0.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Sea level rose by 3.9 inches rather than 10 feet. (Source)

And since:

July 9, 1971, Washington Post: “The world could be as little as 50 or 60 years away from a disastrous new ice age, a leading [NASA] atmospheric scientist predicts.”

June 24, 1974, Time Magazine predicts another ice age is imminent. “As they review the bizarre and unpredictable weather pattern of the past several years, a growing number of scientists are beginning to suspect that many seemingly contradictory meteorological fluctuations are actually part of a global climatic upheaval.” “Telltale signs are everywhere — from the unexpected persistence and thickness of pack ice in the waters around Iceland to the southward migration of a warmth-loving creature like the armadillo from the Midwest.”

April 28, 1975, Newsweek predicts global cooling: “There are ominous signs that the Earth’s weather patterns have begun to change dramatically and that these changes may portend a drastic decline in food production – with serious political implications for just about every nation on Earth.”

April 22, 2002, the Australian Broadcasting Company predicted “Across the world, coral reefs are turning into marine deserts. It’s estimated that more than a quarter have been lost and that 40 per cent could be gone by 2010.” The reality: At the time of the broadcast, world coral reefs where estimated to be about 255,000 sq. km. So, by 2010, that should have dropped to 153,000 sq. km. But according to World Resources Institute , as of Feb. 2011, coral reef area is estimated to be 249,713 sq. km.

On the credibility of climate models from the Journal of Hydrological Sciences (2008): “Geographically distributed predictions of future climate, obtained through climate models, are widely used in hydrology and many other disciplines, typically without assessing their reliability. Here we compare the output of various models to temperature and precipitation observations from eight stations with long (over 100 years) records from around the globe. The results show that models perform poorly, even at a climatic (30-year) scale. Thus local model projections cannot be credible, whereas a common argument that models can perform better at larger spatial scales is unsupported.”

As Bjorn Lomberg wrote and documented in the “Skeptical Environmentalist,” most claims by environmental groups are not supported by the facts and the environment is in much better shape than we are led to believe. Keep that in mind this Earth Day.

 ”Prediction is very hard, especially about the future” – Yogi Berra