In the May 2000 issue of Reason Magazine, award-winning science correspondent Ronald Bailey wrote an excellent article titled “Earth Day, Then and Now” to provide some historical perspective on the 30th anniversary of Earth Day. In that article, Bailey noted that around the time of the first Earth Day in the 1970, and in the years following, there was a “torrent of apocalyptic predictions” and many of those predictions were featured in his Reason article. Well, it’s now the 47th anniversary of Earth Day, and a good time to ask the question again that Bailey asked 17 years ago: How accurate were the predictions made around the time of the first Earth Day in 1970? The answer: “The prophets of doom were not simply wrong, but spectacularly wrong,” according to Bailey. Here are 18 examples of the spectacularly wrong predictions made around 1970 when the “green holy day” (aka Earth Day) started:
Reality Check/Inconvenient Facts:Global sea levels are rising at an alarmingly fast rate — 6.7 inches in the last century alone and going higher. Surface temperatures are setting new heat records about each year. The ice sheets continue to decline, glaciers are in retreat globally, and our oceans are more acidic than ever. We could go on…which is a whole other problem.The majority of scientists are in agreement that human contributions to the greenhouse effect are the root cause. Essentially, gases in the atmosphere – such as methane and CO2 – trap heat and block it from escaping our planet.
So what happens next? More droughts and heat waves, which can have devastating effects on the poorest countries and communities. Hurricanes will intensify and occur more frequently. Sea levels could rise up to four feet by 2100 – and that’s a conservative estimate among experts.
1. From the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Annual Report for 2016, we’re actually in the longest major hurricane drought in US history of 11 years (and counting):
The last major hurricane (Category 3 or stronger) to make landfall in the US was Wilma on2. The frequency of hurricanes in the US has been declining, see top chart above that shows the hurricane count (all Categories 1 to 5) in the first seven years of each decade back to the 1850s, based on NOAA data here. In the seven years between 2010 and 2016, there were only eight hurricanes (all Category 1 and 2), which is the lowest number of hurricanes during the first seven years of any decade in the history of NOAA’s data back to 1850. It’s also far lower than the previous low of 14 hurricanes during the period from 1900 to 1906.
NovemberOctober 24, 2005. This major hurricane drought [of more than 11 years] surpassed the previous record of eight years from 1861-1868 when no major hurricane struck the coast of the United States. On average, a major hurricane makes landfall in the U.S. about once every three years.
3. What you probably won’t hear about from the Earth Day supporters is the amazing “decarbonization” of the United States over the last decade or so, as the falling CO2 emissions in the bottom chart above illustrate, even as CO2 emissions from energy consumption have been rising throughout most of the rest of the world. Energy-related carbon emissions in the US have been falling since the 2007 peak, and were at their lowest level last year in nearly a quarter century, going back to 1992. And the environmentalists and the “Earth Day” movement really had very little to do with this amazing “greening” of America. Rather, it’s mostly because of hydraulic fracturing and the increasing substitution of natural gas for coal as a fuel source for electric power, see related CD post here.
Finally, think about this question, posed by Ronald Bailey in 2000: What will Earth look like when Earth Day 60 rolls around in 2030? Bailey predicts a much cleaner, and much richer future world, with less hunger and malnutrition, less poverty, and longer life expectancy, and with lower mineral and metal prices. But he makes one final prediction about Earth Day 2030: “There will be a disproportionately influential group of doomsters predicting that the future–and the present–never looked so bleak.” In other words, the hype, hysteria and spectacularly wrong apocalyptic predictions will continue, promoted by the “environmental grievance hustlers.”