Enviro-Loser Watch: Recycling Doomsday

A worthy green book.

There are several variations of Easterbrook’s First Law of Doomsaying (after Gregg Easterbrook, author of one of the best environmental books ever, A Moment on the Earth—dated but still worth reading) which goes something like this: Always predict catastrophe soon enough to worry people, but far enough in the future that people will forget when you are wrong.

To this I add what I call the Gore-Hansen Interrogative, which goes as follows: Will people like Gore, James Hansen, et al, who traffic in the trope that “we only have ten years left to do something about X” shut up when the ten years are up?  (We’re down to about two years left on the “ten years left to do something about global warming clock.)  Of course this question is absurd: these folks will never shut up, though as we can see with Gore’s CurrentTV, people will stop listening.  Somewhere I have a collection of these “only ten years left to” statements, starting with UN Secretary General U Thant declaring in 1970 that we only had ten years left to get a handle on the environmental catastrophe or the Earth would be doomed.  That’s 42 years ago.  And yet we’re still here.

But be not dismayed!  Remember that recycling is a prime virtue of environmentalism, along with the fact that they just can’t get Thomas Malthus out of their waking nightmares as we noted here a couple days ago.  Something called the Jay W. Forrester Institute at MIT (which seems not to have a website) has issued a study predicting global economic collapse.  When?  In 2030.  Suitably far ahead that this study will be forgotten.

The amazing thing is that this study actually attempts to vindicate the 1972 Club of Rome “Limits to Growth” report.  Amazingly the Club of Rome still exists, and they’re still on their “limits to growth” jag.

Now step back for a minute and consider this.  Recall Bjorn Lomborg’s “Litany” of environmental disaster in his 2001 book The Skeptical Environmentalist:

We are all familiar with the Litany: the environment is in poor shape here in Earth. Our resources are running out. The population is ever growing, leaving less and less to eat. The air and water are becoming ever more polluted. The planet’s species are becoming extinct in vast numbers–we kill off more than 40,000 each year. The forests are disappearing, fish stocks are collapsing, and the coral reefs are dying. We are defiling our Earth, the fertile topsoil is disappearing; we are paving over nature, destroying the wilderness, decimating the biosphere, and will end up killing ourselves in the process. The world’s ecosystem is breaking down. We are fast approaching the absolute limit of viability, and the limits of growth are becoming apparent.

The book that drove them crazy

Now, just how did environmentalists react to this highly accurate summary?  They denied it was true.  They called it a “straw man.”  Allen Hammond of the World Resources Institute, for example, argued that Lomborg’s Litany “paints a caricature of the environmental agenda based on sometimes mistaken views widely held thirty years ago, but to which no serious environmental institution subscribes today.” (Emphasis added). Michael Grubb of Cambridge University, one of Britain’s leading environmental figures, wrote in a Science magazine review of Lomborg that “to any professional, it is no news at all that the 1972 Limits to Growth study was mostly wrong or that Paul Ehrlich and Lester Brown have perennially exaggerated the problems of food supply.”

Even the original authors of The Limits to Growth study backed away from their original confidence in doomsday.  In a 2004 thirty-year update to The Limits to Growth, the authors confessed that “we are not predicting that a particular future will take place. . . . We do not believe that available data and theories will ever permit accurate predictions of what will happen to the world over the coming century.”

But like recovering alcoholics who succumb when walking past a busy and well-lit tavern, environmentalists just can’t help themselves.  Hence the new MIT study, which is just a recycled version of the old study.  So where are the Hammonds and Grubbses of the environmental world to repeat their disclaimers of 2001 that no serious environmental organizations believe this kind of environmentalism?  That’s right: they were lying.  They all believe it.  They always will.

P.S.  From the news squib about the MIT study, this worthy note:

The Smithsonian notes that several experts strongly objected to “The Limit of Growth’s” findings, including the late Yale economist Henry Wallich, who for 12 years served as a governor of the Federal Research Board and was its chief international economics expert. At the time, Wallich said attempting to regulate economic growth would be equal to “consigning billions to permanent poverty.”

That’s the whole point, isn’t it?

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