Apocalypse Not: I love the smell of skepticism in the morning

2009 bugMatt Ridley has just had a tremendous essay published in WIRED magazine, one that everyone should take a few minutes to read, because it sums up the issues of all the end time fears, fallacies, and failures we have collectively experienced in one tidy little package. – Anthony

By Matt Ridley

When the sun rises on December 22, as it surely will, do not expect apologies or even a rethink. No matter how often apocalyptic predictions fail to come true, another one soon arrives. And the prophets of apocalypse always draw a following—from the 100,000 Millerites who took to the hills in 1843, awaiting the end of the world, to the thousands who believed in Harold Camping, the Christian radio broadcaster who forecast the final rapture in both 1994 and 2011.

Religious zealots hardly have a monopoly on apocalyptic thinking. Consider some of the environmental cataclysms that so many experts promised were inevitable. Best-selling economist Robert Heilbroner in 1974: “The outlook for man, I believe, is painful, difficult, perhaps desperate, and the hope that can be held out for his future prospects seem to be very slim indeed.” Or best-selling ecologist Paul Ehrlich in 1968: “The battle to feed all of humanity is over.

In the 1970s [“and 1980s” was added in a later edition] the world will undergo famines—hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked on now … nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate.” Or Jimmy Carter in a televised speech in 1977: “We could use up all of the proven reserves of oil in the entire world by the end of the next decade.”

Predictions of global famine and the end of oil in the 1970s proved just as wrong as end-of-the-world forecasts from millennialist priests. Yet there is no sign that experts are becoming more cautious about apocalyptic promises. If anything, the rhetoric has ramped up in recent years. Echoing the Mayan calendar folk, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved its Doomsday Clock one minute closer to midnight at the start of 2012, commenting: “The global community may be near a point of no return in efforts to prevent catastrophe from changes in Earth’s atmosphere.”

Over the five decades since the success of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring in 1962 and the four decades since the success of the Club of Rome’s The Limits to Growth in 1972, prophecies of doom on a colossal scale have become routine. Indeed, we seem to crave ever-more-frightening predictions—we are now, in writer Gary Alexander’s word, apocaholic. The past half century has brought us warnings of population explosions, global famines, plagues, water wars, oil exhaustion, mineral shortages, falling sperm counts, thinning ozone, acidifying rain, nuclear winters, Y2K bugs, mad cow epidemics, killer bees, sex-change fish, cell-phone-induced brain-cancer epidemics, and climate catastrophes.

So far all of these specters have turned out to be exaggerated. True, we have encountered obstacles, public-health emergencies, and even mass tragedies. But the promised Armageddons—the thresholds that cannot be uncrossed, the tipping points that cannot be untipped, the existential threats to Life as We Know It—have consistently failed to materialize. To see the full depth of our apocaholism, and to understand why we keep getting it so wrong, we need to consult the past 50 years of history.

The classic apocalypse has four horsemen, and our modern version follows that pattern, with the four riders being chemicals (DDT, CFCs, acid rain), diseases (bird flu, swine flu, SARS, AIDS, Ebola, mad cow disease), people (population, famine), and resources (oil, metals). Let’s visit them each in turn.

Read the entire essay here: http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2012/08/ff_apocalypsenot/all

Be thankful for all the good things we have, and worry not for the future as described by alarmists.

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152 thoughts on “Apocalypse Not: I love the smell of skepticism in the morning

  1. I have just finished reading “The End-of-the-World Delusion” by Justin Deering. This is a romp through the Prophets of Doom from ancient Greece to today. Deering calls Climate Change ‘the Secular Apocolypse’ and is scathing about it.

    Why do so many people get taken in so easily?

    This article is a fun read although it is, at the same time, quite sad.

  2. With all of our accomplishments– construction of amazing cities, exploring the universe, advancements in medical science saving lives, technology providing world-wide communication in an instant— & we still fall prey to the ‘Chicken Littles’ of the world. In that regard, we are still some cave-dwelling pre-human poking it’s own dung with a stick, wondering if it would taste good.

    And the climate alarmists keep feeding it to us.

  3. I’m sure this foolishness is not worth the time spend reading it. I can think of a thousand, way better fantasies, to occupy my mind such as sex, drugs and rock and roll.

  4. DirkH says:
    August 17, 2012 at 3:43 pm
    Wired? Matt Ridley?

    the first time Wired publishes somebody sane?

    Over the years, I’ve found Wired to be a reliable and interesting magazine. I might not agree with everything they put to print, but to me that’s not a bad thing. In my opinion, if you agree with everything you read…. You’re not reading enough! :-)

  5. And of course, all these disasters, like Noah’s flood, caused by our sins; by the fact that humans are unnatural and do not belong on earth.
    Misanthropy has a long pedigree.

  6. leftinbrooklyn says:
    August 17, 2012 at 3:42 pm
    “we still fall prey to the ‘Chicken Littles’ of the world. In that regard, we are still some cave-dwelling pre-human poking it’s own dung with a stick, wondering if it would taste good.”

    Careful with the “we”. I recently checked grist on alexa (I occasionally track the relative success of websites) and alexa had this to say – “Based on internet averages, grist.org is visited more frequently by females who are over 65 years old, have no children and are college educated.”

  7. So, why are we so addicted to these doomsdaysayers? One reason, IMO, is that people are fairly well off. Not all, of course, but those who raise their worried heads are generally on the right side of the street. If fact, I would say that the level of alarmism reflects the level of wealth in the social layers that are most addicted to predicting disasters.

    And behind it all lies the ancient fear of hubris. Lest the gods punish us for our disgusting comfort, we must make the right kind of sacrifices and repent. Well, other people mainly make our sacrifices, but that’s not so important.

    When will we see a study of correlation between doomsday culture and religious culture? Why are the western academic societies the primary proponents of CAGW? There is no Hansen in China.

  8. how uncomfortable for today’s end of the world enthusiast, stuck mumbling the words

    “this time it’s different”

  9. You will note that the person who actually did something about treating HIV in Africa goes unnamed. Even wired can’t give George W. Bush credit for anything.

  10. DirkH says:
    ‘Careful with the “we”. ‘

    Well, ‘we’ as a species. Not every member of the species of course, but enough to keep the alarmists in business. And the troubling thing is, the availability of the gullible never seems to wane, even as we advance intellectually. From the first lunatic to stand on a hill and shout ‘the end is near!’, to the ‘Bill McKibbens’ of today.

  11. I really think there is scope for a psychologist (or psychiatrist) who has experience in dealing with religion to examine the sayings and writings of Green opinion leaders and point out the many parallels between environmental zealotry and religious fervour. I’ve already identified many cases in which the arguments of religious apologists have been adapted to defend AGW alarmism, and I think the parallels run far deeper than this. Somewhere at the bottom of it all there is an enormous reservoir of guilt and self-loathing.

  12. And add in the idea that our species has the knowledge of our own eventual destruction. So I suspect we selfishly wish for the Earth go down in flames while we are still alive. It gives some sense of importance to our little spec of dust-like life…

  13. Rest easy all. The general public doesn’t buy all this crap. It’s the few who gobble up whatever the media feeds them…

  14. “Apocalypse Not.” Great title. Despite what Ridley says in the article, DDT is NOT toxic to humans. Dr. J. Gordon Edwards, once an environmentalist, referred to Rachel Carson as a liar. Edwards was famous for eating a spoonful of DDT while giving a lecture on it. He died from a heart attack while hiking at age 85.

  15. PHYSICAL REVIEW E 84, 011130 (2011)
    Social consensus through the influence of committed minorities

    “We show how the prevailing majority opinion in a population can be rapidly reversed by a small fraction p of randomly distributed committed agents who consistently proselytize the opposing opinion and are immune to influence. Specifically, we show that when the committed fraction grows beyond a critical value pc ≈ 10%, there is a dramatic decrease in the time Tc taken for the entire population to adopt the committed opinion. In particular, for complete graphs we showthat whenp pc, Tc ∼ lnN.We conclude with simulation results for Erd˝os-R´enyi random graphs and scale-free networks which show qualitatively similar behavior.”

    http://arxiv.org/abs/1102.3931

  16. Apoca-lips-blubbing Now! But Mike Lorrey’s “disasturbation” is even better, I admit.

  17. Re: Peridot: “Why do so many people get taken in so easily?”

    I think it is tied to people liking to be scared. The bigger the scare, the better. It is why SciFi and horror movies make money. It is why we have lots of cable channels with programming on this disaster or the next one. Some vaguely connected to reality. Most not. History, History 2, Discovery, SciFi, NatGeo, etc are all examples

    I find most of it funny. Probably some sort of sick view of entertainment on my part. Always liked the old SciFi “B” movies. First date I took a young lady to decades ago was a late 1960’s Japanese movie entitled “Green Slime.” The beastie ended up looking like a one-eyed pickle. What’s not to like about that? Laughed until it hurt. She went out with me again. Cheers -

  18. The reason some of these apocalyptic myths are allowed to take hold is because in a lot of cases there is that kernel of truth. With respect to climate change, I don’t think many would argue that it hasn’t warmed somewhat over the last 150 years. I personally believe it’s warmed a bit over that timeframe, not just from the temperature records but also from other lines of physical evidence. Nevertheless, there’s absolutely no truth to the environmentalist myth that we’re on the precipice of some sort of apocalypse.

    Many scientists don’t buy this nonsense, but they just don’t get the media coverage. So instead we hear from Al Gore telling us to prepare for a barrage of hurricanes and a 20′ ocean rise, Hansen telling us that that Manhattan should have been swallowed by the sea three years ago, Lovelock telling us humanity will be reduced to a few breeding pairs by 2100 as Gaia exacts its revenge through climate change (of course, he’s since backed down from that nonsense). When Dr. Hoerling of NOAA released his studies on some of the recent heat waves and concluded they could be explained entirely by natural variation, this wasn’t good enough for the alarmists so they came up with their own explanation about a loaded die. The current drought? Is it caused by global warming? Well, probably not, considering drought is a regular occurrence in the Plains and its incidence has been decreasing with time.

    What’s crazy is even the actual IPCC report doesn’t come close to supporting half of the nonsense some of the crazies spew. The IPCC projects improved crop yields from global warming, and projects a manageable 7 to possibly 23 inches of sea level rise during the 21st century, not the meters often portrayed in the media. Even the high range seems questionable though, considering sea levels have been rising around 3 mm per year, which would correspond to just under a foot over the next 100 years. These charlatans NEVER discuss any of the positives of warming either — it’s strictly verboten according to the Gospel of Al (Gore). You hear about heat waves killing people, but global warming is projected to prevent many more deaths from cold than cause additional heat-related deaths.

  19. Rest easy all. The general public doesn’t buy all this crap. It’s the few who gobble up whatever the media feeds them…

    Unfortunately it is the few who rule our lives, seize our money, piss it away on new restrictions on our freedom.

  20. “cui bono says:
    August 17, 2012 at 3:57 pm
    Apocalypse just feeds our self-importance. Well done Mr. Ridley.”

    Yes, sort of. Apocalypticism is a result of our self-importance, the belief that we must be living in the most important moment in history. Why? Well, because … we’re here.

  21. Contrari:

    you hit it on the head. Hansen, Mann, etc. & Co. know that they are getting large amounts of tax-payers money for their bad science and they feel guilty. So to compensate for their sub-conscious guilt, they are compelled to throw sacrificial lambs (you and me who are not ripping anyone off) into the propaganda volcano. The rich and ignorant left, especially Hollywood, are true examples of this.

    shameless.

    Paul from the Bronx

  22. When will we see a study of correlation between doomsday culture and religious culture? Why are the western academic societies the primary proponents of CAGW? There is no Hansen in China.

    So true. These alarmists have no idea what the world is like outside their world. China is building a new coal plant every two weeks. While the West is saddling its economy with unduly burdensome regulations, China is laughing all the way to the bank. And don’t forget about Russia. Russia has zero intention of ever giving up fossil fuels. Russia has nothing to lose. How in the world could global warming be anything but a good thing for Russia?

  23. Excellent article. I wonder sometimes though how much of this is a leftover from the baby-boomer’s very real fears of world nuclear holocaust? When that didn’t happen in the 60s and 70s, I think many of them began looking elsewhere to replace the assurance they’d had that most likely they’d never have to pay back credit cards, mortgages, and student loans — particularly after we survived Ronald Reagan without blowing ourselves up (which, personally, *I* believe was one of the closest things to a real miracle that humanity will ever be able to claim, although I give Gorby some fair credit in there as well.)

    To some extent we’ve also moved into “individualizing” Apocalypse. Herpes was treated as a near apocalyptic event by the older flower children, and it was followed up in the 80s with far more serious predictions of a worldwide AIDS epidemic striking virtually everyone without hairy palms. Secondhand smoke is still out there with millions of children just in California suffering from the “plague” with its “no safe level” (See: http://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/health/Secondhand-Smoke-132808978.html ) and in the last week or so we’re even seeing a resurgence of the wackoid Thirdhand Smoke poisoning all those growing, glowing, children with Polonium (See: http://globalhealthlaw.wordpress.com/2009/01/11/third-hand-smoke/ although the original article seems to have been sadly rewritten to make it scarier since my comments there. I’m pretty sure the original admitted the “research” had just been based on a random public opinion poll.) And now we’re seeing the public uncritically accepting the disaster of our babies being poisoned by deadly Formaldehyde in baby shampoo ( See: http://www.pharmalot.com/2012/08/jj-agrees-to-remove-chemicals-from-products/ ) while we’re hiding them from chemtrails and worrying about their cell phones giving them brain cancer.

    Before the 1950s it would seem that a lot of people always looked to religious apocali (or whatever you’d call them) but now those same neurotics are looking to science for their disasters. I wonder if they’re the “same” people in terms of psychological problems etc? Might make for an interesting research project!

    – MJM

  24. JimP: “How in the world could global warming be anything but a good thing for Russia?”

    ::picturing the remake of Dr. Zhivago shot someplace in the Bahamas::

    – MJM

  25. Contrari says:
    August 17, 2012 at 4:01 pm
    So, why are we so addicted to these doomsdaysayers? One reason, IMO, is that people are fairly well off. Not all, of course, but those who raise their worried heads are generally on the right side of the street. If fact, I would say that the level of alarmism reflects the level of wealth in the social layers that are most addicted to predicting disasters.

    I’d go further and say the demographic most susceptible is the 20 and 30 somethings who live lives of ease, even affluence, generally don’t work at anything important or productive, and feel guilt and anxiety about it.

    I base this observation having lived for a few months in the only federal electorate in Australia who have elected a Green MP.

    But having said that, a really big volcanic eruption, is going to cause some serious problems for a lot of people.

  26. Very good article.

    It looks like the essay I wrote for his contest would go very well with it.

    My fingers are crossed to win.

  27. One curious apocalyptic belief ingrained in most greenies which is never talked about is a belief in the collapse of ecological balance. Personally I have never believed in the concept of an ecological balance in the first place, sure nature tries to reach equilibrium between hunters and preys. But basically what all organisms just try to do are to survive and multiply in a changing environment.
    The mantra is always, we are destroying the environment and causing an ecological collapse by our wicked consumption. To explain to these people that nature is resilient and always changing is difficult.

  28. Doom sells. As simple as that. No news outlet can survive printing just good news. And sooner or later, something bad will happen, all the alarmists will say “See? We warned you.” and go on to even more alarmism. Politicians have to “do something”, usually spending lots of other people’s money, so a good fit with the doomsayers. Stimulus didn’t work? Think of how bad it would have been without it. If we didn’t spend billions on global warming research, we would all melt. (or something like that) So, not at all surprising, and I doubt much will change.

  29. The comments on the ozone hole in the article are interesting. While I have not yet, someday I’ll get around to looking into such more. I used to auto-assume it was validly represented, from mention in a chemistry textbook, but, in the years since, on every activist scare on other topics which I have looked into more, digging deeper tends to find a little partial truth mixed with loads of smelly leaps of logic. Little is more common than to use a qualitative partial truth to justify a quantitative fallacy in binary thought within mentioning important complexities and context, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the ratio of anthropogenic to natural effects was much overstated.

  30. In fact, as the results of a famous wager between Paul Ehrlich and economist Julian Simon later documented, the metals did not run out. Indeed, they grew cheaper. Ehrlich, who claimed he had been “goaded” into the bet, growled, “The one thing we’ll never run out of is imbeciles.”

    Well, there you go. Paul Ehrlich admitted he’s an imbecile.

  31. Norman Borlaug was my hero. while Erilch was screaming:”we’re all gonna dieeee!!”
    (Or a least not him) Borlaug was going and doing real research.
    It is never the headline grabber it is always the quiet ones who do the work…

  32. If they would just stop putting up the stupid windmills, it would indicate a semblance of reasoned restraint.
    Too much money in the pipeline, I guess.
    History will not be kind.

  33. Good article.
    Norman Borlaug should had been mentioned in the people section for playing a large part in feeding the growing population of the planet. A section that perhaps was missing I found was why people who rase the alarm with there doomsday prediction gaining fame and fortune, are never healed accountable for there ultimately failed predictions. One only has to look at the population bomb by Paul Ehrlich. Imagine for a moment that we would had followed his recommendation like stop sending aid to India as it would be a pointless undertaking, What a tragedy it would had been but today in Paul’s future world perhaps with fewer people on the planet nobody would have known that all that suffering was for nothing and Paul would be the hero for saving mankind.
    Still today we know better but Paul Ehrlich is still well respected in the intercellular community tragically while the real heroes are almost forgotten.

  34. sunsettommy wrote:
    “People must be miserable to keep falling for these apocalyptic bromides over the decades”

    Actually, its the other way round.

    Malthusians, eugenicists, anarcho-primitives, neo-Luddites and deep-ecologists aside the real drivers of these scares are the Marxists of the New Left. They promote them because they want people to be miserable.

    Suppose they gave a revolution and nobody came. The economics obsessed Marxism failed in the west because capitalism kept “delivering the goods”. Living standards kept rising. You might be pissed-off if some other guy is richer than you but not enough to revolt if you’re richer than you were the year before.

    If, as a popular 19th century quote put it: “Reform delayed is revolution begun” then the obvious corollary is: “reform begun is revolution delayed.” And if you believe in a utopian collectivized society, and that it can only be achieved through revolution and that the end justifies the means (i.e. you are a Marxist) then there really is only one course open to you.

    You don’t want to tinker with reform. You want people to believe that the water is poisoned; the air is poisoned; evil corporations did this; capitalism did this; it’s time for change.

    The anti-consumerism, anti-corporate, anti-globalization Occupy movement is just the latest manifestation of this, but it goes way back. “Critical Theory” (which is neither a theory or about critical thinking) is a method with a specific goal. Criticize and subvert every aspect of a society’s culture (or more specifically “dominant culture”) so that its members come to despise it enough to want to totally transform it. Herbert Marcuse is the principal theorist but David Fenton has been and still is the principal practitioner.

    I love Matt Ridley’s work but this article, excellent as it is, only scratches the surface.

  35. Unfortunately, today’s disaster-mongers rope all of us in. Having the ear of our largely arts/law educated, scientifically illiterate, political imbeciles has allowed the cost of green non-remedies to be spread across the entire population of the west. I much the old-fashioned variety of doom; you could watch and laugh from a distance and watch them squirm when nothing happened. Sadly, all of us now watch and squirm as nothing happens except our money going to con-men and charlatans.

  36. DirkH

    Wired? Matt Ridley?

    the first time Wired publishes somebody sane?

    Not I think the first time. How about this example:

    This all began in February 1997. Lomborg was in Los Angeles and he read an article in Wired magazine by the late Julian Simon, an American right-wing thinker, trashing the eco-catastrophists. He went back to Denmark and with his statistics students set about the task of proving Simon wrong. Except for a few details, they failed. By the end of the year, he had concluded that Simon was right and the green case was a wild exaggeration. In right-on, PC, left-wing, green Denmark this was heresy. But Lomborg had been trained in heresy.

    That was Bryan Appleyard telling the story of Bjorn Lomborg in October 2007.

    Well done also to jorgekafkazar and tgmccoy for pointing out two weaknesses in Ridley’s article: DDT is less toxic than table salt has never caused the death of a single human being and the man behind the green revolution, Norman Borlaug, wasnt even mentioned. Even so, great article. May another generation of Lomborgs arise as a result.

  37. “the first time Wired publishes somebody sane?”
    Sad – Wired had awesome articles but I stopped reading the site a few years back when they, like Slashdot, some of the space sites, and Fark all went fully into the tank for Obama. Every article suddenly became ‘Why Bush and his religious zealots are dangerous idiots and why Obama and Stephen Chu are going to bring us all a new era of science-wonderfulness, free from any mention of God”. Well, we all saw where science went the last three and a half years under Obama and Chu.

  38. Yes Yes but science is immune from human failings, especially today’s scientists, didnt you know?

  39. Fear, hate and guilt, the use of negative feelings in order to manipulate control a population. A primal urge of leaders throughout human history from the first tribal groups to today and the primary method of social control. Make people frightened and guilty enough and they will do almost anything, the central aim is of course to bypass rational thought and caution and dissent. You would have thought that our leaders might have evolved a different set of governmental principles, a more civilised method of engaging with those they lead? Not at all, we have simply not yet evolved enough yet.

    The road to hell is paved with good intentions, some of the most wicked crimes imaginable have been committed with the best of intentions, we are now beginning to see the results of the latest crime against humanity and it all began with the best of intentions. Those who believed that we should change our ways had two options, the easy and quick(plan A) versus the slow and hard(plan B) and obviously they chose plan A. This method of instilling fear and guilt promised fast results and those behind the choice did it with the best of intentions, as they say in the old country, there is always some muppet who thinks he can ice skate uphill.

    The slow difficult method is the 2nd option, telling the truth regardless and being honest no matter what the inertia encountered, its slower and is much more difficult and has to appeal to the positive aspects of human nature but the changes that occur from using this method are far more lasting and beneficial. Why is it that our leaders always choose option A? It could be that option A brings faster results, that it is tried and tested, that it promises greater adherence and obedience but I have come to the conclusion that we simply have not yet evolved sufficiently to choose plan B as a matter of principle.

    Our leaders still believe that the ends justify the means, that somehow they are immune from the natural and proven consequences of their actions, that they can ice skate uphill. I believe that is a lack of mental maturity, the absence of the rational capacity to learn from past mistakes. Mankind is still in its mental infancy. There will come a time when plan B is the only plan, that plan A is not only unthinkable but viewed with horror and when that time comes the social evolution of the human race will take one of its quantum steps to a better world.

  40. Great that someone mentioned the Wired article that led to Bjorn Lomborg’s research. As I recall, Lomborg said he was at the LA airport and saw the Wired issue with Julian Simon on the cover. He read the article and, as a leftist statistician, believed that Simon’s claims could be easily disproved. And that is how he converted himself to optimistic and reasonable views on progress and technology (Lomborg had his graduate students crunch the numbers). Simon similarly converted himself when he tried to verify and promote the problems of overpopulation. Here is link to the Doomslayer article: http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/5.02/ffsimon_pr.html w

  41. An interesting article but it is still rather one-sided, in some ways taking the opposite extreme. Often, I find that when someone comes up with a reasonable hypothesis about something, one group will take the extreme point of view that emphasizes the worst scenario while an opposing group will take the opposite extreme point of view. Mr Ridley’s examples demonstrate that, while in reality the truth is somewhere in between.

    On another note, I am, what I like to call, an amateur historian. I recall an article about the occurrence of Doomsday cults and the cyclical nature of when they happen. This article showed a link between the cults and times of natural disasters like droughts, and man made disasters like economic depressions/recessions, and demonstrated that they they follow a cycle, much like climate change but on a shorter frequency (about 70 years if I recall correctly). I can’t find the article but I’m sure that it will turn up again somewhere – if I can find it again I will provide a link.

  42. Good article, nice title. May I suggest a follow-up in December with the minute hand on the clock at a minute PAST twelve? He could call it ‘The Doomsday Crock’. Had we stuck to the biblical remedy for false prophets there would be far fewer of them. But not even the religious doomsayers get it right. The Apocalypse is followed by 1000 years of peace and justice with nary a self-serving politician in sight. What’s not to like about that?

  43. The irony is that that original deep thought hippies of the 60s in fact adopted an anti-Malthus philosophy of profound optimism the likes of which went on to develop Silicon Valley. The two most influential leaders they had were artsy futurist Timothy Leary and technology guru Buckinster Fuller, both featuring very prominently in The Whole Earth Catalog which was the bible of alternative living. Fuller very specifically and bluntly pointed out Malthus had been proven wrong again and again with his “doing more with less” mantra. It was those who had rather psychotically bad acid trips, I’m afraid, that went onto populate academia and liberal political organizations hell bent on artificial resource rationing.

  44. Even Jesus Christ told his closest followers that he did not know the time or the date for when this would happen….. ONLY The Father Knew…… my advice is watch for the signs of the times…. don’t be like the foolish Virgins….. stay close to the lord at all times.

  45. I believe we may very well be doomed, but by a different set of Four Horsemen: proliferating busybody laws; increasingly militarized police who recognize no limits on their powers to bully; an astronomical, unsustainably expensive welfare state; and “mainstream” media who are too busy making up each week’s new phony emergency to recognize the real crisis we face: the police state.

    I will be surprised if this year’s election is even close to honest.

  46. Good article, as far as it goes.

    It needs to mention two other items – Charles McKay’s 1840 book ‘Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds’, which neatly summed up all that the article says. Interesting quote from it (I write from memory):
    “…It will be seen that when men go mad, they go mad in herds, and when they recover their senses it is slowly, and one by one…”

    The other item is Julian Simon’s ‘cornucopia’ theory. He used this in the 1970s to show Ehrlich and the others that they were completely wrong about impending disaster – and famously won a bet with Ehrlich who didn’t believe that things would actually get better. Nowadays, everyone still remembers Ehrlich and forgets Simon. Quote from him, talking about people WANTING to believe in disasters, even though the data says they will not happen:

    “It seems as if they have been vaccinated against the truth…”

    There are existing texts describing panics in Greek city-states from 500 BC, worrying about overpopulation and expecting the end of the world as a result. Men have ALWAYS panicked in this way, and clever fraudsters will continue to make money out of this failing…

  47. Yardbird says:
    August 17, 2012 at 3:51 pm
    “And of course, all these disasters, like Noah’s flood, caused by our sins; by the fact that humans are unnatural and do not belong on earth.”

    “Humans are unnatural”??

    What are you smoking??

  48. Amazing article which manages to be right on almost all its points and be wrong overall. But then again, it is a rather easy exercise when you mix the absurd and the real and use the former to ridicule the later.

    Nothing much will happens on Dec 22, but it doesn’t mean that 7 billion people are not putting a huge stress on the planet increasing the risk of their own demise. The more we learn, the more we realize that ancient civilizations succumbed to climate or ecological changes, sometimes man-made, think Easter Island, sometimes natural as for ancien Egypt. Ours is different as it covers the whole planet but just as fragile in the end.

    Peak oil is a joke? Maybe. But since we reached peak production (excluding “liquids”) in 2005, prices have gone up inexorably disrupting our economic model relentlessly.
    Warming is not real? Might be. For what we know, it is more likely that we are heading towards the next glaciation. Nevertheless, the few glaciers I have seen in the Alps and the Rockies are in dramatic retreat, the permafrost in Russia is melting faster than ever and freak events are on the rise everywhere.

    What is very real is that we have created an incredibly “lean” society with almost no stocks anywhere and the chance that a shock, even minor will destabilize everything is increasing every year. Last week, by accident, I found myself lost in a huge poultry factory thinking: Is this really where all the eggs and chicken wings come from nowadays?

    So yes, we should probably worry less about the coming asteroids, the stone “predictions” of people who could not see their own imminent demise, and all the scares of the day which vanishes almost as fast as they appeared. Still, civilizations are mortal. None have survived more than a thousand years and ours (since the renaissance) is just closing on 500 …

  49. Galane says:
    August 17, 2012 at 7:13 pm
    “In fact, as the results of a famous wager between Paul Ehrlich and economist Julian Simon later documented, the metals did not run out. Indeed, they grew cheaper. Ehrlich, who claimed he had been “goaded” into the bet, growled, “The one thing we’ll never run out of is imbeciles.”

    Well, there you go. Paul Ehrlich admitted he’s an imbecile.”

    That was not the only daft and wrong prediction by Ehrlich: ..
    “By the year 2000 the United Kingdom will be simply a group of impoverished islands inhabited by some 70 million improverished people…If I were a gambler I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000.” Speech at Bristol Institute for Biology, September 1971

    But, of course he was a gambler, otherwise why accept a bet with Julian Simon. Ehrlich’s problem was that his ” predictions” were not forecasts at all…they were simply statements of what he wished to happen….or even just statements to gain attention and momentary fame.

  50. It doesn’t matter how many times an idea fails, some people will always adhere to it. It’s like our error-correcting mechanism has bugs in it.

    Sadly, we have outstripped our corrective mechanisms in a way – we’ve become so good at being apex predators we don’t need to hunt, so good at controlling our immediate environment we don’t need to light fires or wear skins, so good at communicating we don’t need to travel.

    Now, all of these are *good* things, they just have bad side effects. One of which is insulation from the consequences of your ideas – you can live through life with totally non-functional ideas, and no reason to change them.

    It has also been postulated that people often hold ideologies because it personally serves them psychologically – an observation that doesn’t solve any problems, but there you are.

  51. Isn’t he forgetting the Bible as the ultimate doomsday document? Or is this too delicate to mention; after all, believers claim the unique the right not to be ridiculed.

  52. michaeljmcfadden 6:12:
    ” picturing the remake of Dr Zhivago shot somewhere in the Bahamas.”

    Much of the original was shot in Spain, with the snow provided by marble dust!

  53. A little adrift on Malaria, where he appears to give credence to the claim of increases due to global warming, otherwise excellent.

    People may not know about the Peak Coal fears of the 19th century:

    The Coal Question: An Inquiry Concerning the Progress of the Nation, and the Probable Exhaustion of Our Coal-Mines, Author: William Stanley Jevons
    Edition Used: London: Macmillan and Co., 1866. (Second edition, revised)
    First Published: 1865 http://www.eoearth.org/article/The_Coal_Question:_Opinions_of_Previous_Writers

    “ONE of the earliest writers who conceived it was possible to exhaust our coal mines was John Williams, a mineral surveyor. In his “Natural History of the Mineral Kingdom,” first published in 1789, he gave a chapter to the consideration of “The Limited Quantity of Coal of Britain.””

    There were pertinent comments about windmills:
    “The first great requisite of motive power is, that it shall be wholly at our command, to be exerted when and where and in what degree we desire. The wind, for instance, as a direct motive power, is wholly inapplicable to a system of machine labour, for during a calm season the whole business of the country would be thrown out of gear.

    Before the era of steam-engines; windmills were tried for draining mines; “but though they were powerful machines, they were very irregular, so that in a long tract of calm weather the mines were drowned, and all the workmen thrown idle. From this cause, the contingent expenses of these machines were very great; besides, they were only applicable in open and elevated situations.”

    And energy taxes:
    “A FEW pages may be given to considering the policy of imposing duties and restrictions with a view to limit the consumption of our fuel.

    The character of a general tax on coal was truly stated by Robert Bald. “It would unnerve the very sinews of our trade, and be a death-blow to our flourishing manufactories. Were our determined enemy set in council, to deliberate upon a plan to wound us in a vital point as a nation, the advising the imposing of this tax would be the most successful he could possibly suggest.”

    And again he says truly, “A small tax on the ton of coal would be a heavy tax on the ton of iron. The whole of our mining concerns depend as to their prosperity upon the abundance and cheapness of fuel, and if the price be increased by means of taxes, the utility of the steam-engine will be greatly abridged.”

    Sydney Smith described how a man in former days was taxed at every step from the cradle to the coffin. But through coals we shall be taxed in everything and at every moment.

    Our food will be taxed as it crosses the ocean, as it is landed by steam upon the wharf, as it is drawn away by the locomotive, as the corn is ground and the bread mixed and kneaded and baked by steam, and the meat is boiled and roasted by the kitchen fire. The bricks and mortar, the iron joists, the timber that is carried and sawn and planed by steam, will be taxed.

    The water that is pumped into our houses, and the sewage that is pumped away, and the gas that lights us in and out, will be taxed. Not an article of furniture or ornament, not a thread of our clothes, not a carriage we drive in, nor a pair of shoes we walk in, but is partly made by coal and will be taxed with it.

    And most things will be taxed over and over again at each stage of manufacture. Materials will be burthened in the cost of steam-carriage, and the want of outward coal-freight—in their steam conveyance here—in the machinery that is to manufacture them—the engine to drive the machinery. At every step some tool, some substance, some operation will suffer in cost from the use of taxed coal.”

    Prescient or what?

  54. The alarmists would never get a hearing if there weren’t gullible people out there to give them support.

  55. I enjoyed the article and saw nothing controversial in it. The absence of alarmist comments here suggests that its contents struck home.

    As for resources, at least for the next few hundred years market forces will sort out the problem. For example, the world is running out of tin – which it is – and over the next few years the price will soar which will encourage exploration, so new deposits will be found and the price will then fall. Tin, oil, gas, copper, it’s all the same – the only threat to our future supply of resources are the greenies who are anti the development of just about everything.

    The media love a good scare story, after all it sells lots of copies, or attracts more viewers, and therefore more advertising revenue. As each successive scare story is proven to be ridiculously exaggerated – CAGW for example – the story slowly dies, but there is never any retraction by the media. Why? Any story with the concept of “Business as usual” does not generate advertising revenue, or in cases where this is not relevant, such as the BBC, no reporter is going to: i) admit he was duped, or ii) think of anything else other than dreaming up ‘proof’ for his next scare story. .

    I have just noticed I kept using the term ‘his’, is alarmism, especially in climate matters, purely a masculine trait? Are their any female alarmists?

  56. I don’t think that “The Limits to Growth” deserves to be included with the crazies. It was a serious attempt to look at the very real issue of limits, both population and economic. There was no doubt that population growth had to come to an end, either by design or by disaster. I am sure that this book has helped save many lives by increasing awareness of environmental disasters that must result if population remained unchecked. In fact the world has made huge strides to stabilise population. I recommend Hans Rosling’s wonderful videos (on TED and YouTube) for those that want a rosier picture. Humans are making a lot of progress.

  57. Let’s not go overboard with this celebration, please. All of our actions have consequences even if they may not be catastrophic to earth. We did poison over 10 thousand with Thalidomide, Millions of people are poisoned each year by pesticides. Acid rain does have effects on ecosystems even if they are not apocalyptic. Mercury, lead and other effluents from manufacturing regularly poison people. Rachel Carson’s warnings were hardly of a coming apocalypse and her message completely distorted and her warnings remain as valid today as they were when silent spring was published. Read. the. book.

    There is ALWAYS a possibility that human activities DO have some effect on climate, even if human produced CO2’s effects are minor since there are lots of other possibilities like land use changes, etc which could have minor effects as well. I personally doubt it but it can not be ruled out considering how crappy the data is and it hardly appears to be significant at this time. But we don’t know crap.

    Keep in mind that human’s seem to be extremely good at damaging or destroying habitats along with their evolved productivity. Consider all of the effectively destroyed fisheries in the world. How is the Atlantic cod fishery doing ? Atlantic Salmon ? Passenger Pigeons ? Buffalo ? Need we continue ? How many thousands of species have we introduced all over the world by our carelessness ?

    Last but nor least, consider that we DO have the power to unleash an apocalypse on ourselves, even if the rest of the world hardly notices. There certainly is nothing wrong with being reasonable and responsible stewards of our home.

  58. Friends:

    This is an interesting thread where many posters unwittingly reveal more about their religious and political prejudices than about the thread’s subject.

    In reality, apocalyptic fears are an inevitable by-product of a basic human instinct .

    Humans are not suited to any specific climate, humidity or altitude, but we inhabit all of the planet except its polar regions (and we visit those). We.are a successful species because of our extreme adaptability, our desire for mutual support, and our unique ability to utilise fire.

    Each advanced species has abilities and behaviours hard-wired into its brains. These hard-wired attributes are called ‘instincts’, and all attributes of every species have been honed by evolution.

    The adaptability of humans has induced them to have an instinct of ‘fight or flight’.

    Unknown threats exist in new territories and outside the light and warmth of the night-time fire. ‘Fight or flight’ maximises survival of a human group when confronted by unanticipated threats (e.g. attack by a large cat or a small poisonous snake), Some members of a group will tend to fight the threat which enables others of the group to flee from the threat: so, the entire group is not destroyed whether or not the threat is defeated.

    Examples of this ancient behaviour are still seen at times of large disasters. Many flee to escape, but some take extreme risks (often sacrificing themselves) to assist the escape of those who have taken flight.

    The instinct which provides this survival behaviour is hard-wired in everybody, so it affects everyone.

    This instinct affects people who live ‘cosy’ lives so rarely – probably never – experience real threats. They have no experience by which to assess threats so their instinct to ‘flight or fight’ encourages a response to apparent threats.

    Each claim that ‘The End Of The World Is Nigh’ is presented as a threat to human survival. It induces three responses among the human population.

    1. People with experience of real threats will tend to reject the claim (it is merely the wind moving the grass and not the approach of wolves).

    2. Some people have a strong proclivity to ‘fight’ so will tend to oppose the claim.

    3. Other people have a strong proclivity to ‘flee’ from the threat so will act to distance themselves from the asserted cause of ‘The End Of The World Is Nigh’.

    Please note that
    fleeing from the threat does not require any understanding of the threat: it only requires a natural desire to act when told to “Run!” .

    For example, many ‘greens’ flee from the threat of global warming by fervently supporting windfarms. They do not understand climate change, energy and technology, and they have irrational belief in (a) promoters of global warming and (b) those who say windfarms are a way to “run” from global warming. Their instinctual behaviour is immune to information which pertains to the realities of global warming (the threat), the effectiveness of windfarms (the need to run), and the promoters of global warming (the people shouting “Run!”).

    Instincts are important but they are not rational.

    Richard

  59. Ray Tomes says:
    August 18, 2012 at 1:54 am
    “I don’t think that “The Limits to Growth” deserves to be included with the crazies. It was a serious attempt to look at the very real issue of limits, both population and economic. ”

    Google Potomac Associates, the PR agency that hyped the book.

    also: King, the guy who commissioned it, pointed out that it is a simple extrapolation, not a realistic model. Most fanboys took it as prophecy instead. Who’s to blame for this misunderstanding? The authors who didn’t make it clear enough? The PR agency that wanted to shift units? The stupid fanboys?

    http://hauntingthelibrary.wordpress.com/2011/07/01/limits-to-growth-heres-what-you-never-hear-about-it-and-the-truth

  60. richardscourtney says:
    August 18, 2012 at 2:35 am

    “For example, many ‘greens’ flee from the threat of global warming by fervently supporting windfarms. They do not understand climate change, energy and technology, and they have irrational belief in (a) promoters of global warming and (b) those who say windfarms are a way to “run” from global warming. Their instinctual behaviour is immune to information which pertains to the realities of global warming (the threat), the effectiveness of windfarms (the need to run), and the promoters of global warming (the people shouting “Run!”).”

    Very insightful. Thanks.

  61. Matt Ridley:
    >>
    In fact, of course, the link between smoking and lung cancer was found to be ironclad. But the link between modern chemicals and cancer is sketchy at best. Even DDT, which clearly does pose health risks to those unsafely exposed, has never been definitively linked to cancer. In general, cancer incidence and death rates, when corrected for the average age of the population, have been falling now for 20 years.

    By the 1970s the focus of chemical concern had shifted to air pollution. Life magazine set the scene in January 1970: “Scientists have solid experimental and theoretical evidence to support … the following predictions: In a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution … by 1985 air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half.” Instead, driven partly by regulation and partly by innovation, both of which dramatically cut the pollution coming from car exhaust and smokestacks, ambient air quality improved dramatically in many cities in the developed world over the following few decades. Levels of carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, lead, ozone, and volatile organic compounds fell and continue to fall.
    >>

    Since 70’s, growing public conscience of cancer dangers and increasing regulations. Result: “corrected” cancer levels are falling. Growing polluiton problem got taken care of.

    Rather than proving the predictions were “wrong” this suggests that they were effective in motivating change to do something about it. This was surely where “concerned” climate scientist started out from. The trouble is they did not know when to stop exaggerating.

    However, governments’ role in this is has far less benign intentions.

    BTW, I love the “solid experimental and [b] theoretical[/b] evidence ” from 1970.

  62. As it becomes obvious that dangerous anthropomorphic “climate change” is a scam, as is “green energy” it will be interesting to watch the political back pedaling.

    Budget deficits are not a scam. There is a finite amount of tax payer money to spend on “green energy” scams that do not significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions which is not a problem as the planet’s response to a change in forcing is resist the forcing change (negative) feedback by increasing or decreasing cloud cover in the tropics as opposed to the IPCC’s assumed amplification of forcing change (positive feedback).

    I am curious at what point the press will acknowledge that James Hansen and his cohorts are raving fanatics who will say anything to push their dystopia.

    “In Storms of My Grandchildren, Dr. James Hansen—the nation’s leading scientist on climate issues—speaks out for the first time with the full truth about global warming: The planet is hurtling even more rapidly than previously acknowledged to a climatic point of no return. Although the threat of human-caused climate change is now widely recognized, politicians have failed to connect policy with the science, responding instead with ineffectual remedies dictated by special interests. Hansen shows why President Obama’s solution, cap-and-trade, which Al Gore has signed on to, won’t work; why we must phase out all coal, and why 350 ppm of carbon dioxide is a goal we must achieve if our children and grandchildren are to avoid global meltdown and the storms of the book’s title. This urgent manifesto bucks conventional wisdom (including the Kyoto Protocol) and is sure to stir controversy, but Hansen—whose climate predictions have come to pass again and again, beginning in the 1980s when he first warned Congress about global warming—is the single most credible voice on the subject worldwide.”

    http://www-eaps.mit.edu/faculty/lindzen/236-Lindzen-Choi-2011.pdf

    “On the Observational Determination of Climate Sensitivity and Its Implications
    We estimate climate sensitivity from observations, using the deseasonalized fluctuations in sea surface temperatures (SSTs) and the concurrent fluctuations in the top-of-atmosphere (TOA) outgoing radiation from the ERBE (1985-1999) and CERES (2000-2008) satellite instruments. Distinct periods of warming and cooling in the SSTs were used to evaluate feedbacks. An earlier study (Lindzen and Choi, 2009) was subject to significant criticisms. The present paper is an expansion of the earlier paper where the various criticisms are taken into account. ….

    ….we show that simple regression methods used by several existing papers generally exaggerate positive feedbacks and even show positive feedbacks when actual feedbacks are negative. We argue that feedbacks are largely concentrated in the tropics, and the tropical feedbacks can be adjusted to account for their impact on the globe as a whole. Indeed, we show that including all CERES data (not just from the tropics) leads to results similar to what are obtained for the tropics alone – though with more noise.

    … We again find that the outgoing radiation resulting from SST fluctuations exceeds the zerofeedback response thus implying negative feedback. In contrast to this, the calculated TOA outgoing radiation fluxes from 11 atmospheric models forced by the observed SST are less than the zerofeedback response, consistent with the positive feedbacks that characterize these models. The results imply that the models are exaggerating climate sensitivity.”

    ….However, warming from a doubling of CO2 would only be about 1oC (based on simple calculations where the radiation altitude and the Planck temperature depend on wavelength in accordance with the attenuation coefficients of wellmixed CO2 molecules; a doubling of any concentration in ppmv produces the same warming because of the logarithmic dependence of CO2’s absorption on the amount of CO2) (IPCC, 2007). This modest warming is much less than current climate models suggest for a doubling of CO2. Models predict warming of from 1.5oC to 5oC and even more for a doubling of CO2. Model predictions depend on the ‘feedback’ within models from the more important greenhouse substances, water vapor and clouds….”

  63. Militant Catholic says:
    August 17, 2012 at 8:25 pm
    “the first time Wired publishes somebody sane?”

    Sad – Wired had awesome articles but I stopped reading the site a few years back when they, like Slashdot, some of the space sites, and Fark all went fully into the tank for Obama.

    Wired was my favorite magazine–I subscribed as soon as the first issue hit the stands. I let my sub laps about 18 months ago, due to the insulting tone of some belligerent articles and editorial sidebars on AGW. It had held out against alarmism up to about three years ago. I suspect it succumbed to pressure from its parent. It is owned by Condé-Nast, which also owns the Atlantic, promoter of a 20-magazine warmist media campaign, and Vanity Fair.

  64. Thanks for the comments, all. I concede that I should have name-checked Norman Borlaug: I have written about him in the past and interviewing him before he died was a high point. A lot got left on the cutting room floor.

    As for the non-toxic nature of DDT, I will follow up the links.

    Matt

  65. P. Solar:

    Your post at August 18, 2012 at 3:13 am confuses “concerns” and apocalyptic predictions.

    This thread is about the reasons for and the reactions to apocalyptic predictions.

    These apocalyptic predictions are assertions of effects which would destroy civilisation as we know it. They include Malthusian projections of “overpopulation”, ‘peak oil’, and man-made global warming.

    Unpleasant effects do not need apocalyptic predictions for them to be addressed; e.g. lack of sewerage and air pollution are reduced by those can afford to reduce them because the reductions make life more pleasant.

    And whether or not smoking-induced cancer was a genuine concern does not alter the fact that smoking tobacco would not have destroyed civilisation as we know it.

    To date, nobody has managed to inform me of any benefit from environmentalism. Conservation has often protected good things, but environmentalists often oppose conservationism; e.g. environmentalists who oppose roads for normal transportation will advocate despoiling pristine countryside with windfarms and the roads to access them.

    Richard

  66. So are we saying we have too many bad scientists or there is a “silent majority” of scientists who should speak up? Who is ever right about what to do regarding things that cannot be completely “proven”? Who is to say what is the right path? (meaning before the availability of hindsight)

  67. Good article, thanks for the link! Matt is such a voice of reason and sanity!
    And also good to see that such articles opens other very valid points of discussions:
    – how do such apocalyptic visions and grouping form,
    – how do such small minorities reach and form an accepted “consensus”
    The psychology of the alarmism movement, its links to environmentalism – especially extreme environmentalism has been not enough documented and shown.
    ecopocalysm – nicely coined that down.
    With the time I came to the conclusion that most skeptics are indeed more “green” and more truly environmentalists then alarmists who would ignore nature and any arguments to implement “their solutions”.
    It is a field discussion full of pitfalls, preconceived opinions, holier then you attitude and intolerance – whereas Matt is bringing a lot of sanity and calm, reasonable thinking in it.

  68. Just imagine if the environmental movement had been around in 1800 and warned us then not to dig coal mines and build steam engines because they feared that global temperatures would rise by a degree or two and sea level rise by a few inches over the next 200 years.

    If they had had their way, we would all still be living short, brutish lives.

  69. @Retired Engineer

    “..Doom sells. As simple as that. No news outlet can survive printing just good news…”

    I seem to recall an experiment carried out by a small local magazine editor in New Zealand. He tried printing only good news. After the first month he lost nearly a quarter of his circulation….

  70. Another take on the same story (more at eadavison.com)

    A century’s worth of screaming headlines from the world’s leading news media illustrates their preference for excitement over accuracy:

    ICE 1895, New York Times
    Geologists Think the World May be Frozen Up Again.

    FIRE 1922, Associated Press
    …the Arctic Ocean is warming up, icebergs are growing scarcer and in some places the seals are finding the waters too hot.

    ICE 1923, Chicago Tribune
    Scientist Says Arctic Ice Will Wipe Out Canada.

    FIRE 1930, New York Times
    Alpine glaciers are in full retreat.

    ICE 1974, New York Times
    And unless government officials reacted to the coming [cooling] catastrophe, “mass deaths by starvation and probably in anarchy and violence” would result.

    FIRE 2009, Time Magazine (Entire issue on AGW)
    Be Worried, Be Very Worried.
    Global warming, even most skeptics have concluded, is the real deal, and human activity has been causing it.

    It scarcely needs be said that…
    IPCC forecasts small temperature rise by 2100
    … would scarcely make an inside page.

  71. Greg Rehmke says:
    August 17, 2012 at 9:38 pm
    Great that someone mentioned the Wired article that led to Bjorn Lomborg’s research….

    http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/5.02/ffsimon_pr.html

    Greg, thanks for that link too! Great!
    Excellent article. I love it and particularly the sentence – it says it all:
    “Doomslaying was a thankless task, but it had to be done, like taking out the garbage: it had to be carted to the dump today even if there’d be another big pile of it tomorrow. ”

  72. cafeproz:

    At August 18, 2012 at 4:24 am you ask:

    So are we saying we have too many bad scientists or there is a “silent majority” of scientists who should speak up? Who is ever right about what to do regarding things that cannot be completely “proven”? Who is to say what is the right path? (meaning before the availability of hindsight)

    Taking your questions in turn.

    Q1. So are we saying we have too many bad scientists or there is a “silent majority” of scientists who should speak up?
    A1.
    Scientists conduct research as impartially as possible in attempt to obtain the closest approximation to ‘truth’. They do this by formulating hypotheses, testing the hypotheses against empirical data, and amending or rejecting the hypotheses in the light of all the available data.

    Scientists have a duty to not “speak up”. This would negate their impartiality. A scientist informs of the results of his/her research as dispassionately as possible. People who “speak up” are advocates, not scientists. Many problems now exist because some who claim to be scientists have become advocates.

    Q2. Who is ever right about what to do regarding things that cannot be completely “proven”?
    A2.
    Nobody is ever completely right about anything. And few things can be completely “proven”. Science does not “prove” anything: it disproves hypotheses.

    Q3. Who is to say what is the right path? (meaning before the availability of hindsight)
    A3.
    People decide “the right path”. They often appoint other people (e.g. politicians) to decide “the right path” for them. And some people decide “the right path” for others by grabbing that power to themselves (e.g. warlords).

    I am amazed you felt the need to ask about such obvious things. But I hope these answers have helped.

    Richard

  73. Like others say, fear is control. Look how small groups — cults, mob-syndicates, gangs, teams, even some families, use it. Now countries and world-wide organizations employ it. Always seeking to beat us down, turn us into scared, dependent children. Most children are easy to dominate.

  74. Love the title. Wonderful play on words. Apocalypse snot is certainly the end product of the “team”.

  75. Apocalyptic pap sells. Unfortunately the buyers seem to have the biggest mouths and attract legions of unthinking easily deceived followers with one hand in your pocket. Hello CAGW!

  76. Mr Ridley,
    I note your comment above and await your list of references to the evidence that convinced you that DDT is non-toxic.

    Here is a link to a rather interesting blog post on the topic made by someone who appears to be a genuine historian :

    https://timpanogos.wordpress.com/2008/02/18/greshams-law-ddt-disinformation-crowds-out-facts/

    I suspect the facts [1] [2] are stranger than the fictions being offered by both the pro-DDT [3] and anti-DDT [4] crowds. It is interesting that this environmental issue again seems to reduce down to a contrast of values rather than science. Some people appear to value birds more than humans, whilst others believe we are obliged to act only in our own species’ best interests.

    Thank you for your fine work on climate heresy and rational optimism. I merely wish you do not throw the osprey babies out with the toxic bath water. We ought to judge these things on a case-by-case basis.

    – – – – – –
    [ 1 ] http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/PHS/PHS.asp?id=79&tid=20
    [ 2 ] http://www.inchem.org/documents/ehc/ehc/ehc83.htm#SectionNumber:6.2
    [ 3 ] http://www.21stcenturysciencetech.com/articles/summ02/Carson.html
    [ 4 ] http://www.stanford.edu/group/stanfordbirds/text/essays/DDT_and_Birds.html

  77. Gun control, be it from the NRA right or Brady left, is just another form of control, not unlike the fearsome good-cop bad-cop third degree. And look at their eager customers, the preparers for apocalypse. They write of running for the hills when the SHTF and dismiss my warning that then is too late. It is already too late, legions like me are already in place and ready.

    Good people ought to be armed as they will, with wits and Guns and the Truth. Bless the Bitter Clingers.

  78. Doug Huffman:

    At August 18, 2012 at 2:35 am I wrote:

    This is an interesting thread where many posters unwittingly reveal more about their religious and political prejudices than about the thread’s subject.

    Your post demonstrates that the sentence I quote here was incomplete. Clearly, I should have added;
    “And some people choose to use this thread as an opportunity to promote completely irrelevant bollocks.”

    Richard

  79. Re: malaria/DDT. Disappointed to say the least. Multiple tens of millions of real deaths from malaria without using DDT. The dead are on a scale of combining the dead attributable to Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot in the name of Silent Spring. There are duties and responsibilities that go with any fear-based warning combining activism and “our best science.” While the results may not be apocryphal, the harm from the combination of fear, activism and junk science can exceed the harm from the original concern by more than an order of magnitude.

    Simple lessons constantly having to be learned and relearned. Catastrophe is emotional. Catastrophe happens. Catastrophe sells. Catastrophe motivates. The bigger the catastrophe, the bigger the motivation and the more important you feel. Rationality – not so much. Imagined or misunderstood catastrophe produces its own catastrophe. The words “poison” as used by BioBob above or “pollution” as commonly used to describe CO2 are examples of motivation over reason. Those words sell almost as well and as instinctively as sex and are used carelessly for imaginative misunderstanding.

  80. Peter Miller says:
    August 18, 2012 at 1:50 am

    “I enjoyed the article and saw nothing controversial in it. The absence of alarmist comments here suggests that its contents struck home”.

    “I have just noticed I kept using the term ‘his’, is alarmism, especially in climate matters, purely a masculine trait? Are their any female alarmists?”

    ==============
    Good points.

    Possibly all the females were appointed to high level government positions in the US. Seems the males exhibit pretty much feminine traits. LOL You can interpret that one yourself.

  81. BioBob says:
    August 18, 2012 at 2:06 am

    … Buffalo?

    Killing the buffalo was necessary to deprive the Indians of their food source and force them to become docile.

    “… in 1875, General Philip Sheridan pleaded to a joint session of Congress to slaughter the herds, to deprive the Indians of their source of food.[48]”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_bison

    48. Bergman, Brian (February 16, 2004). “Bison Back from Brink of Extinction”. Maclean’s. Retrieved March 14, 2008. “For the sake of lasting peace, let them kill, skin and sell until the buffaloes are exterminated.”

    Anyway, the buffalo is in no danger of extinction. There aren’t many in the wild but there are ten times as many being raised in captivity. There were many more in the 1800s but today’s population of 500,000 isn’t shabby. As for the ethnic cleansing thing; it’s part of our history and we have to live with that.

    Anything we do will change the environment. Does that mean we have to go back to the caves so things can return to ‘normal’? The whole point of Ridley’s article is that we need to view our situation sanely. Not all environmental changes are bad. In terms of biodiversity, the area where I live is probably just as ‘good’ as it was a hundred years ago. It sure is different though.

  82. Re Beng on ‘fear’
    Mencken summed it up…
    The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

  83. I love Matt Ridley. The Rational Optimist is an excellent reads and the obvious parent of the though behind this essay. However, I (like several above) could not help but think of Lomborg while reading Ridely’s most recent missive. Ridley is admired by at least one influential economist even though his thinking is not necessarily as an economist, as is Lomborg’s. Russ Robert’s has interviewed Ridely, upon release of the Rational Optiimist, on Robert’s always great “Econtalk” podcast. I highly recommend Ridley and Roberts both.

  84. corio37 @4:37
    See Lyle H. Rossiter, Jr., M.D. “The Liberal Mind – The Psychological Causes of Political Madness, October 2006 Free World Books, LLC, St.Charles, IL LCCN 2006926407

  85. Lot’s of great posts . . . to give a shameless plug to wired . . . they did an excellent job on Steve Jobs . . . circumspect!

    The Story of Steve Jobs: An Inspiration or a Cautionary Tale? | Wired …
    http://www.wired.com/business/2012/07/ff_stevejobs/all/Jul 23, 2012
    – Steve Jobs was a Buddhist and a tyrant, a genius and a jerk. What is your interpretation

    Truth is I used to believe in the Boogie Man . . . too! Till I found out it was really my older brothers . . . jerking my chain! Gullible, to me means, just don’t know any better! yet?

  86. There is term circulating to explain this type of thing – first world problems. Until very recently, our lives were just one mini-apocolypse away from being an unmitigated disaster. For the hunter gatherers, it was one injury, one bad hunt, one bad year of horrific weather (drought, harsh winter, flood), one group-wide epidemic. Then we got a little better. We learned agriculture and to store food, but we were still pretty close to that mini-apocolpyse. One bad crop, one locust plague, one bad year of weather, etc. Every time we step up our game, our challenges also have get bigger in order to ruin us, but they were never far from our minds because they were always very real.

    But today, in order to completely wreck society, our apocolypses have to be very big. We’re still one disaster away from utter ruin, but those have to be really big disasters. Super volcanos, meteor strikes, utter fiscal collapse, pandemic plague, zombie apocalypse (just kidding), but you get the idea. We’re so wrapped up in security because of our modern lives that we have to invent really big disasters to scare anyone, so you have a proliferation of the apocalypse. Just like all the other really silly and petty things people find time to gripe about.

    First World Problems

  87. Andrew McRae wrote:

    “Mr Ridley, I note your comment above and await your list of references to the evidence that convinced you that DDT is non-toxic.”

    I had a look at your links Andrew. Some observations:

    1.

    http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/PHS/PHS.asp?id=79&tid=20

    Has some definitive statements.

    No effects have been reported in adults given small daily doses of DDT by capsule for 18 months.
    […]
    Studies of DDT-exposed workers did not show increases in deaths or cancers.

    Most assertions of adverse effects are qualified by terms like: …most likely affect…would be expected…may affect…suggest that…may have…

    This is the part dealing with cancer:

    Based on all of the evidence available, the Department of Health and Human Services has determined that DDT is reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen. Similarly, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has determined that DDT is possibly carcinogenic to humans. EPA has determined that DDT, DDE, and DDD are probable human carcinogens. See Chapter 3 for more information on the health effects associated with exposure to DDT, DDE, and DDD.

    So after decades of research the environmentalists still cannot definitively say that DDT causes cancer. It is only “reasonably anticipated to be” or “is possibly” or is a “probable” human carcinogen.

    Which still sounds scary till you realize that many “natural” compounds found in greater quantities in common foodstuffs fall into the same category. And many other “natural” compounds also found in greater quantitiesin common foodstuffs are definitively (not possibly or probably) classed as carcinogens (as always in sufficient quantities).

    2.

    http://www.inchem.org/documents/ehc/ehc/ehc83.htm#SectionNumber:6.2

    The supposed effect on birds was what launched the campaign against DDT, led first by the Audebon Society and was also the basis for Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring.

    1.8 Toxicity to Birds
    DDT and its metabolites can lower the reproductive rate of birds by causing eggshell thinning (which leads to egg breakage) and by causing embryo deaths. However, different groups of birds vary greatly in their sensitivity to these chemicals; predatory birds are extremely sensitive and, in the wild, often show marked shell thinning, whilst
    gallinaceous birds are relatively insensitive. Because of the difficulties of breeding birds of prey in captivity, most of the experimental work has been done with insensitive species, which have often shown little or no shell thinning. The few studies on more sensitive species have shown shell thinning at levels similar to those found in the wild.

    So the bird species that were actually studied often showed “little or no shell thinning” or “thinning at levels similar to those found in the wild”. Not quite enough to silence spring.

    3.

    http://www.21stcenturysciencetech.com/articles/summ02/Carson.html

    Basically demolishes the claims in Caron’s book.

    4.

    http://www.stanford.edu/group/stanfordbirds/text/essays/DDT_and_Birds.html

    This article cites no peer-reviewed literature and as Paul Ehrlich is one of the three co-authors has zero credibility with me.

  88. Matt Ridley wrote:

    Thanks for the comments, all. I concede that I should have name-checked Norman Borlaug: I have written about him in the past and interviewing him before he died was a high point. A lot got left on the cutting room floor.

    As for the non-toxic nature of DDT, I will follow up the links.

    Actually, Borlaug was one of those who defended the use of DDT long after it became unfashionable (hazardous-to-funding).

    Dr. Borlaug Scored on DDT Advocacy
    DISPUTE OVER DDT
    Los Angeles Times Nov 11, 1971

    http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/latimes/access/661935272.html?dids=661935272:661935272&FMT=ABS&FMTS=ABS:AI&type=historic&date=Nov+11%2C+1971&author=&pub=Los+Angeles+Times&desc=Dr.+Borlaug+Scored+on+DDT+Advocacy&pqatl=google

    The top Scientist of an environment group that has fought the pesticide DDT for nine years said Wednesday that Nobel Prize-winner Dr. Norman E. Borlaug was one or two decades out of date” in advocating its continued use.

    As for the non-toxic nature of DDT

    The best evidence does not come from controlled trials. It is the absence of cancer (or other adverse effects) in specific communities (and in particular children), who were deliberately exposed to large quantities of the stuff, that is the strongest evidence that DDT is generally harmless to humans.

    Outbreaks of polio (or “infantile paralysis” as it was then commonly called) in the 40s and 50s led to desperate attempts to halt this (as yet not well-understood) disease. Towns were “bombed” and kids sprayed with the stuff.

    Videos:

    DDT used to combat infantile paralysis (polio) 1946 San Antonio Texas

    http://www.itnsource.com/shotlist/BHC_FoxMovietone/1948/07/24/X24074801/?v=0

    SLATE INFORMATION: Fighting Polio in Cleveland USA: Ohio: Cleveland Heights: EXT Good shots man spraying crowd of young people with DDT dust from giant hose / DDT cloud enveloping group of young …PAYWALLED

    Early news reports:

    DDT Spray Is Used In Polio Fight
    Dr. J. R. Paul of Yale Directs Experiment in Several Places
    The Hartford Courant Aug 23, 1945

    http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/courant/access/895394602.html?dids=895394602:895394602&FMT=ABS&FMTS=ABS:AI&type=historic&date=Aug+23%2C+1945&author=&pub=Hartford+Courant&desc=DDT+Spray+Is+Used+In+Polio+Fight&pqatl=google

    New Haven, Aug. 21.–(Special.)–The City of New Haven, along with several others throughout the country, has been a testing ground for methods of applying the new powerful insecticide DDT.

    DDT PLANE STILL AWAITED IN ROCKFORD CAMPAIGN ON POLIO
    Chicago Tribune Aug 16, 1945
    The army airplane which was to have been used in the war on, in paralysis to spray the cormmunity with DDT, the powerful new insecticide, had not arrived …

    Schools Order DDT to Fight Danger of Polio
    Chicago Daily Tribune Sep 5, 1945

    http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/chicagotribune/access/478318622.html?dids=478318622:478318622&FMT=ABS&FMTS=ABS:AI&type=historic&date=Sep+05%2C+1945&author=&pub=Chicago+Tribune&desc=Schools+Order+DDT+to+Fight+Danger+of+Polio&pqatl=google

    Two Cook county schools postponed starting their fall term because of the prevalence of infantile paralysis, and Chicago public school officials took emergency measures yesterday to prevent outbreak of the disease in the city’s schools.

    Tokyo to Get Second DDT Dusting for Typhus
    Chicago Daily Tribune Apr 1, 1946

    DDT SENT TO TEXAS; 18,000 Pounds to Be Used in Fight Against Polio
    New York Times – May 20, 1946
    NEWARK, NJ, 19 ( -Three planes carrying 18000 pounds of DDT and 2000 sprayers to combat the spread of infantile paralysis in Texas took off from Newark …

    HEALTH IN GREECE IMPROVED SINCE ’45; Malaria Curbed by DDT…
    New York Times – Nov 9, 1947
    Outside the door of almost every house in almost every village you now see scrawled the magic letters “DDT” and a date indicating when the dwelling was …

    DDT Finder Is Awarded Nobel Prize
    Chicago Daily Tribune Oct 29, 1948
    The discoverer of DDT won the 1948 Nobel prize for medicine tonight. The Caroline institute, the university of medicine in Stockholm,.

    New Generation of Flies Found Resistant to DDT
    Los Angeles Times – Dec 15, 1948
    14 (A – Al new breed of house fies Is beginning to pester Americans and the flies were produced by DDT, the great fly killer.

    U. S. Fight On Malaria Being Won
    Mosquito Campaigns And DDT Use Have Gradually Cut Disease
    The Hartford Courant Dec 16, 1948

    http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/courant/access/886778052.html?dids=886778052:886778052&FMT=ABS&FMTS=ABS:AI&type=historic&date=Dec+16%2C+1948&author=&pub=Hartford+Courant&desc=U.+S.+Fight+On+Malaria+Being+Won&pqatl=google

    New York, Dec. 15.–(AP.)– The United States is on the verge of completely ending malaria in this country.

    Volunteers Eat DDT to Show It Won’t Hurt You on Your Food
    Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963) Dec 30, 1955

    http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/chicagotribune/access/507166002.html?dids=507166002:507166002&FMT=ABS&FMTS=ABS:AI&type=historic&date=Dec+30%2C+1955&author=&pub=Chicago+Tribune&desc=Volunteers+Eat+DDT+to+Show+It+Won%27t+Hurt+You+on+Your+Food&pqatl=google

    Human volunteers have eaten daily doses of DDT for a year to show that food from insecticide sprayed fields is safe, a team of scientists said today.

    DDT was spectacularly successful against malaria but the fact that DDT did little to stop polio may have put wings under the subsequent campaign to ban it.

    DDT DISPARAGED BY AUDUBON AIDE
    He Says Florida Spraying Did Not Halt Encephalitis
    By JOHN C. DEVLIN ();
    September 03, 1962,

    http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=FA0713F63C58107B93C1A91782D85F468685F9

    The Florida area fighting an encephalitis epidemic has been “plastered for years with DDT,” a biologist for the National Audubon Society said yesterday.

    Unfortunately, if you Google polio+DDT you will find a substantial community of enviro-scared, anti-vaccine nuts who blame polio on DDT.

  89. I don’t believe Y2K was exaggerated. Precisely because people were aware of the problems, we fixed most of them. I do recall Al Gore’s campaign website said “January 1, 19100″, and that some ATMs didn’t work correctly.

    Were it not for the “hype”, a lot more of the Y2K bugs (plural; anyone who refers to “the Y2K bug” in the singular is clueless) could indeed have gone unpatched, and caused major problems.

  90. commieBob:

    I write to thank you for – and to draw attention to – your excellent post at August 18, 2012 at 7:52 am.

    I especially liked these two of your points:

    As for the ethnic cleansing thing; it’s part of our history and we have to live with that.

    and

    Not all environmental changes are bad. In terms of biodiversity, the area where I live is probably just as ‘good’ as it was a hundred years ago. It sure is different though.

    If everybody everywhere were always to accept those attitudes then the world would be a better place, and it would always be getting better.

    Richard

  91. “Let’s not go overboard with this celebration, please. All of our actions have consequences even if they may not be catastrophic to earth. We did poison over 10 thousand with Thalidomide, Millions of people are poisoned each year by pesticides. Acid rain does have effects on ecosystems even if they are not apocalyptic. Mercury, lead and other effluents from manufacturing regularly poison people. Rachel Carson’s warnings were hardly of a coming apocalypse and her message completely distorted and her warnings remain as valid today as they were when silent spring was published. Read. the. book.”

    Sorry BioBob but you are full of Barbara Striesand. How about YOU reading “the BOOK”? Try this one on for size (in my hand right now)… “DDT A Review of the Scientific and Economic Aspects of the Decision to Ban It Use as a Pesticied” (EPA 540/1-75-022). I HAVE read that book. Some of the SHODDIEST garbage passing as “science” I’ve ever seen.

    The “egg shell thining” has been found to be caused by the UNCOMBUSTED Ethylene Di-Bromide added to Tetra-Ethyl Leaded gasoline to stabalize the lead addition.

    REMOVED (note I didn’t say BANNED, because the Auto Makers and the Refineries BEG to have the REQUIREMENT to put lead in gasoline during the late 60’s…as HARDENED VALVE SEATS and better refinery mixes..negated the need for the lead to change the OCTANE and coat the valve seats (fatigue cracking)) in 1970. Great co-incidence that by 1980 the “birds of prey” came back.

    I could probably write a 100 page essay, just on memory..but in thoughfulness to the people who scan these pages, I’ll just mention our very own case of the Lake Superior (horrors!) asbestos “pollution”. A local “activist” judge, forced a fine company called Reserve Mining to pay $300,000,000 to install “ultra filtration” units for the municiple water supplies all around Lake Superior. Reserve mining went “belly up” in about 1975. (After developing an “on land” disposal lake for the “tailings”, which are GRAVEL…darn it, GRAVEL!!!! The seperation process uses froathing water, magnets and grinding….NO ADDITIONAL CHEMICALS…)

    2000 people out of work, and a terrible blow to the Arrowhead of MN. In 1976 the EPA sponsored some extensive studies of the “tailings”. Turns out the Asbestos” was nothing but a fine mineral fiber, typical of the rock in the arrowhead region. ALSO TYPICALLY FOUND IN MUNICIPLE WATER SUPPLIES FROM WELLS ALL AROUND THE NORTHERN REGIONS OF MN. The EPA paid for EPIDEMILOGICAL work and found NO increase in GI track cancers in communities with fiber amounts (SMALL, very SMALL) HIGHER than those in Lake Superior water.

    THUS – NON-PROBLEM. Hey, BioBob..tell that to the people whose lives were destroyed by Judge Miles Lord .(He is dying of cancer presently…I think I last heard, ironic..NOT a GI track I understand. Just a penalty of life. Unavoidable in many cases.)

    Max

    Chemical Eng.
    Metallurgical Eng.

  92. commieBob says: exttinction

    My point had absolutely NOTHING to do with extinction. It referred to destruction of biologically productive systems in nature by man. The millions of buffalo that once migrated up and down the great plains are GONE or severely reduced, as are most of the components of their habitat and cohort species. Atlantic Cod are not in any danger of extinction either but there is no commercially viable harvest of that destroyed fishery on the scale of prior numbers either. There are only tiny runs of Atlantic Salmon, remnants of once massive anadromous populations in the North Atlantic basin. etc etc

    And that WAS the point. Take a course in reading comprehension please.

  93. LOL @ http://www.aquapulser.com

    DDT was only one of the chemicals Carson warned about using in a STUPID manner. Your comment is just full of stupid. Tell me all about the benign characteristics of Aldrin, Chlordane,
    Dieldrin, Endosulfan, Endrin, Heptachlor, Lindane, Aldicarb, Carbaryl, and hundreds of others, many of which have also been withdrawn from broadcast use because of toxicity to non-target species.

    Carson never called for complete bans on chemicals, merely suggested that more intelligent use of pesticides would be better for humanity and our environment rather than widely broadcasting chemicals with unknown long and short term effects. Further, Carson was an advocate for use of pesticides to control insect disease vectors in an reasoned manner using integrated pest management.

    I don’t need to read every last diatribe on DDT to know you are wrong about pesticide use in general and I never made any claims about the toxicity of DDT on humans, birds, or bacteria for that matter. If you want to eat DDT, feel free. Give it to your tropical fish or pet birds for all I care.

  94. William Astley says:
    August 18, 2012 at 3:39 am

    As it becomes obvious that dangerous anthropomorphic “climate change” is a scam, as is “green energy” it will be interesting to watch the political back pedaling…..
    ____________________________________
    I think the whole scam was to force a “COMPROMISE” where we shut down nasty coal plants and replaced them with natural gas and the tax payer gets to help foot the bill because it is for the good of mother GAIA. This is why ENRON, Shell and BP were pushing all of this in the first place.
    Enron And BP Invented The Global Warming Industry: Enron, joined by BP, invented the global warming industry. I know because I was in the room. This was during my storied three-week or so stint as Director of Federal Government Relations for Enron….

    It seems some of the independent environmental groups are catching on to the fact that WWF is an accomplice of corporations. Remember HRH Prince Philipp and HRH Prince Bernhard lauunched WWF-US in 1962. Bernard’s family is a large stockholder in Shell Oil. In 1966, The Burmah Oil Company bought Castrol. Burmah Oil, one of Britain’s oldest companies, had once effectively owned the company that became BP, before selling its majority holding to the British government at the start of World War I… Philip Beresford, author of The Book of the British Rich has said that the Queen invests and own trillions of shares in “blue chip” stocks, including General Electric Company of Great Britain, Imperial Chemical Industries, Royal Dutch Shell, and British Petroleum.

    Then there is the e-mail with an attachment written by Shell VP Ged Davis asking for comments from Climate Scientists, Greenpeace and Politicians. Ged Davis’ IPCC-SRES Zero Order Draft on storylines and scenarios. (Agenda 21)
    Oil companies BP and Shell gave money for formation of ClimateGate unit at University of E. Anglia in 1971

    Enron’s other secret

    …The climate-change industry — the scientists, lawyers, consultants, lobbyists and, most importantly, the multinationals that work behind the scenes to cash in on the riches at stake — has emerged as the world’s largest industry. Virtually every resident in the developed world feels the bite of this industry, often unknowingly, through the hidden surcharges on their food bills, their gas and electricity rates, their gasoline purchases, their automobiles, their garbage collection, their insurance, their computers purchases, their hotels, their purchases of just about every good and service, in fact, and finally, their taxes to governments at all levels.

    These extractions do not happen by accident. Every penny that leaves the hands of consumers does so by design, the final step in elaborate and often brilliant orchestrations of public policy, all the more brilliant because the public, for the most part, does not know who is profiteering on climate change, or who is aiding and abetting the profiteers…..

    Some of the climate-change profiteers are relatively unknown corporations; others are household names with only their behind-the-scenes role in the climate-change industry unknown.

    This is perhaps the most telling comment if you realize Lovelock has not really changed his point of view, he is just staying “BOUGHT”

    Lovelock on “fracking”:

    Gas is almost a give-away in the US at the moment. They’ve gone for fracking in a big way. This is what makes me very cross with the greens for trying to knock it: the amount of CO2 produced by burning gas in a good turbine gives you 60% efficiency. In a coal-fired power station, it is 30% per unit of fuel. So you get a two-to-one gain there straight away.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2012/jun/15/james-lovelock-fracking-greens-climate?newsfeed=true

    And last but not least. Remember Robert Watson chair of IPCC?? He was chief scientist for the office of mission to planet earth at NASA, Associate director for environment under President Clinton, former Chief Scientist and Director for Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Development (ESSD) at the World Bank and is now Chief Scientific Adviser, for DEFRA, UK.

    SO what is the World Bank doing for “Climate Change” and Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Development (their phrase)??

    Graph: World Bank Lending for Thermal Generation

    World Bank invests record sums in coal

    Last year, $3.4bn was invested in the dirtiest fossil fuel despite international commitments to cut emissions

    Record sums were invested last year in coal power – the most carbon intensive form of energy on the planet – by the World Bank, despite international commitments to slash the carbon emissions blamed for climate change.

    The World Bank said this week that a total of US$3.4bn (£2.2bn) – or a quarter of all funding for energy projects – was spent in the year to June 2010 helping to build new coal-fired power stations, including the controversial Medupi plant in South Africa. Over the same period the bank also spent $1bn (£640m) on looking and drilling for oil and gas….

    The World Bank’s explanation

  95. David Jones says:
    August 18, 2012 at 12:26 am
    Yardbird says:
    August 17, 2012 at 3:51 pm
    “And of course, all these disasters, like Noah’s flood, caused by our sins; by the fact that humans are unnatural and do not belong on earth.”

    “Humans are unnatural”??

    What are you smoking??

    Sorry David, I thought it was obvious sarcasm.

  96. “”intelligent use of (insert) “your wild oats” would be better for humanity and our environment rather than widely broadcasting “your wild oats” with unknown long and short term effects”””

    A good piece of general advise for just about any discipline.

    h/t BioBob August 18, 2012 at 11:50 am & Carson!

  97. The Monster says:

    August 18, 2012 at 10:09 am

    I don’t believe Y2K was exaggerated. Precisely because people were aware of the problems, we fixed most of them. I do recall Al Gore’s campaign website said “January 1, 19100″, and that some ATMs didn’t work correctly.

    Were it not for the “hype”, a lot more of the Y2K bugs (plural; anyone who refers to “the Y2K bug” in the singular is clueless) could indeed have gone unpatched, and caused major problems.

    2000 is a decimal number. Computers work in binary. To a computer the difference between 1999 and 2000 is nothing special.

  98. @ Yardbird who says: August 18, 2012 at 12:16 pm
    . . . Sorry David, I thought it was obvious sarcasm.

    Not all of us are like Issac Newton who truly had a gift for recognizing the obvious . . .
    Being of “strickt German “upbringin” assuming could get you into a world -o- hurt . . . no such a beast as phacetious!

  99. Matt’s Ted Talk, when ideas have sex, is also worth viewing – and should be compulsory viewing for politician’s and the doomists.

  100. Kelvin Vaughan says:
    August 18, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    2000 is a decimal number. Computers work in binary. To a computer the difference between 1999 and 2000 is nothing special.

    Unless the data was held in Binary Coded Decimal (BCD) form. As it was for dates and most other printable data back then. Some was held in packed decimal format–again, not binary. Converting to and from binary took too much time (it had to go through packed decimal format as an intermediate step, IIRC)–it wasn’t considered worth it, even though it would have saved space–and avoided the Y2K problem.

    Nevertheless, use of binary to store dates would have increased if there’d been a national standard for the start-date for a Julian Date scheme. Instead, a multitude of start-dates for different languages and operating systems and vendors developed. But the NBS (currently NIST) would have had to be on the ball and issue a Federal standard for such, which its Poo-Bah at the time would, I believe, have been too fat-headed to see the need for.

  101. “Matt’s Ted Talk, when ideas have sex, is also worth viewing – and should be compulsory viewing for politician’s and the doomists.”

    There’s plenty of footage of queues outside Northern Rock for politicians to decide on whether to take Matt Ridley seriously.

  102. BioBob says:
    August 18, 2012 at 11:32 am

    commieBob says: exttinction

    … And that WAS the point. Take a course in reading comprehension please.

    The trouble is that we have a lack of civil discourse. I have a question for you. What are you doing here? Are you sincerely trying to convert people to your viewpoint. In that case, you are using the wrong strategy. Most of us here equate ad hominem with “intellectual baby talk” (to quote Christopher Muncton).

    Are you trolling? In that case, you can hardly expect anyone to think you are sufficiently literate to be able to criticize someone else’s reading comprehension if you can’t even catch your own typos. The other thing you should consider is that, if someone else has failed to understand your writing, your writing might be the problem.

  103. I just finished reading the Wired article. About time, jeesh, if we had left it up to timid boot-licking sycophants we would still be living in caves huddling if fear waiting for the cave bear to come back to eat us.

  104. Not you Scipio . . . with that attitude, they would have dressed you in berries and garlic and thrown you to the bear!

  105. leftinbrooklyn says:
    “the availability of the gullible never seems to wane”
    “There is a sucker born every minute” PT Barnum

  106. Nice piece, Matt.

    Re DDT – Steve Milloy has been researching DDT junk science scares for many years and has published extensively on the subject. Here is a link to get you started:

    http://junkscience.com/ddt/

    I don’t any serious student of the topic disputes that DDT was misused and overused at times (although the main downsides were wasted money and increasing bug resistance). But the claims about birds, human health etc are simply unsupported by the evidence. Meanwhile, millions have died of malaria, and on a more First World note, a bit of DDT would soon sort out the bedbug epidemic.

    I think, echoing a poster way upthread who mentioned sci-fi, a lot of the public fascination with disasters is voyeuristic and vicarious, and should not be taken too literally. Yes, it makes good copy and people like to read about it, but only a sad and neurotic minority ever really believe that the world is about to end, and they are the kind of people who will believe just about anything.

    The bulk of popular support for environmentalism comes from more positive sources, such as appreciation of the wonders of nature and the desire for clean air and water. That these essentially benevolent sentiments have been usurped by nutty or just plain unscrupulous political operators and their entourages is what we need to address most urgently. And, the political pendulum does seem to be changing direction in many parts of the West, especially as we are the ones paying the bills for the panic du jour.

  107. In my earlier post I said, “when someone comes up with a reasonable hypothesis about something, one group will take the extreme point of view that emphasizes the worst scenario while an opposing group will take the opposite extreme point of view. Mr Ridley’s examples demonstrate that, while in reality the truth is somewhere in between.” I think that becomes obvious in this particular forum right now concerning the debate about DDT. I really don’t want to get involved in that particular discussion because I don’t have an informed point of view on it. I would, however like to use the example of Hubbert’s peak oil theory in order to demonstrate how the two extreme points of view have exploited it.

    The theory of peak oil attributed to Hubbert was originally not a theory at all. Hubbert observed that for any given geographical area, the rate of production of oil followed a bell curve from discovery of the source of oil to the depletion of the source. He then hypothesized that since oil is a non-renewable resource, this curve could be applied to each of the earth’s sources of oil and a prediction could be made of when their production would begin to decline. He also went farther back and looked at the rate of discovery of new sources of oil and observed that the rate of discovery of new sources of oil for any particular geographical area also followed a bell curve. He then hypothesized that a similar curve could be made for the entire earth and a prediction could be made of when the rate of discovery of new sources of oil would begin to decline. He then used his hypothesis to accurately predict that US oil production would peak in the 1970’s. He was only concerned with the production of high grade oil, but his model has been used for any non-renewable resource.

    The extreme views come into play in the following manner. The doomsayers took Hubbert’s model and assumed that he predicted that we would run out of oil, and then assumed all the catastrophic results of that. The opposite extreme, claimed that we would always find more sources of oil, or alternatives to oil. The middle ground is this. Yes, we will run out of oil, eventually, but we will also turn to other sources of energy and substitutes for oil as the demand for oil outstrips the production and the price of oil rises. We won’t find new sources of oil, at least at a rate which will keep up to our production and consumption. Switching to alternatives also means that we will be faced with economic shocks, at least until we can match the cheapness of oil as a source of energy. Does it mean the end of civilization as we know it, hardly likely, but it also doesn’t mean we can continue to operate the same way we always have. The prediction for peak coal that was made before the utilization of oil is an excellent example. Peak coal would have occurred (and has occurred in places like Britain and Germany) if it weren’t for the use of oil preempting it – what are we going to use to replace oil? One thing to keep in mind is that oil does not only represent a source of energy, it provides the basis for most of the modern chemical industry – fertilizers, medicines, plastics, synthetic textiles, etc.

  108. Michael Tremblay says:
    August 18, 2012 at 11:30 pm

    In my earlier post I said, “when someone comes up with a reasonable hypothesis about something, one group will take the extreme point of view that emphasizes the worst scenario while an opposing group will take the opposite extreme point of view…..
    __________________________________
    You just outlined a darn good reason to switch to nuclear for electric power generation. As a chemist I very much agree with “One thing to keep in mind is that oil does not only represent a source of energy, it provides the basis for most of the modern chemical industry – fertilizers, medicines, plastics, synthetic textiles, etc.”

    The switch would have been done in the 1970’s if it were not for the WELL FUNDED Astroturf protest groups.

    Based on a media scare where I was an insider, I think the Nuclear power scare was a corporate weapon used against the nuclear energy. The Polystyrene scare of the 1990’s most certainly was. Robert Blair stepped on the toes of Shell and BP in the takeovers of Husky Oil and Polysar. They retaliated via the environmental groups/MSM and just about wiped him off the map. (Remember the solid connection between BP, Shell and WWF via the Royals)

    The Polystyrene scare BTW was attributed to a elementary school teacher in NH and blew-up nationally literally overnight. It was also based on a whole pack of lies. It was way too coordinated for my taste. It was timed for one month before the airing of the TV ads announcing that McDonald’s, Sweetheart Plastic and Novacor would be breaking ground on a joint highly innovated post consumer polystryene plant that would be designed to use handicapped labor. Polystyrene from McDonald’s would be cleaned and recycled. My boss, a Chem Engineer was the head of the project BTW.

    These scares may be dreamed up in the brains of fringe cults but they do not get major media traction unless they have a corporate advantage. As usual FOLLOW THE MONEY.

  109. j molloy who says: August 18, 2012 at 6:21 pm
    why are the alarmoholics/catastrophiles/disasterbaters like this ? what does misery love ?

    The serious reality is that “misery” goes on all around us every day in different places in the world. Every single day a certain number of humans die for various reasons . . . that is a miserable day for those who “loved” them. As we speak it is burning out west, you would be having a very bad day if it was your house that burned. It’s not about misery or love just an awareness of the reality and trying to have some empathy for those that are suffering that part of their lives. But, the whole world is not crashing down all at once. I personally believe everyone is terrified of: for example, another WWI type situation . . . and blood did run like a river during those “terrible terrible times”. Even the whole world did not come crashing down all at once . . . just parts of Europe. If one was living somewhere in rural S. America they probably were not even aware there was a war . . . an hopefully lived a full and happy life! The best term I have heard used for this concept is Balanced.
    Don’t want to be gullible or [manipulable], but I don’t want to be calloused, unempathetic or unconstructive either!

    As for the economics of the “Global Climate” debate . . I readily recall the story about Huck Finn getting Tom Sawyer to paint a fence for an old Lady! Huck Finn did very little work but took the lions share of the compensation . . . For me, I neither want to be like Huck Finn or gullible like Tom Sawyer, heck I don’t even want that kind of Huck Finn types around me. There must be a better balance and I think that is what Samuel [Clements] was talking about by telling the cautionary tail.

  110. Michael Tremblay:

    You support an apocalyptic myth (viz. ‘peak oil’) when you write at August 18, 2012 at 11:30 pm

    We won’t find new sources of oil, at least at a rate which will keep up to our production and consumption. Switching to alternatives also means that we will be faced with economic shocks, at least until we can match the cheapness of oil as a source of energy. Does it mean the end of civilization as we know it, hardly likely, but it also doesn’t mean we can continue to operate the same way we always have.

    Firstly, for all practical purposes all resources can be considered to be infinite. We did not run out of flint antler bone, bronze, etc., and we will not run out of anything else for the same reason.

    When a resource is plentiful it is cheap (in money and effort) to obtain so nobody bothers to look for alternatives. As it becomes exhausted it becomes more expensive (‘low hanging fruit’ are picked first) so it becomes worthwhile to look for alternatives. Two possible alternatives exist
    (a) Other places from which the resource can be obtained
    And
    (b) Other things which can be used instead of the resource.

    Often other things which are found turn out to have advantages over the resource they displace.

    Both types of alternative exist in the case of oil. Oil is now often obtained from below the sea when previously it was only obtained from below land. Synthetic crude oil (i.e. syncrude) can be obtained by converting other materials.

    Since 1994 it has been possible to obtain syncrude at competitive cost with crude oil. This is provided by converting coal to syncrude by use of the Liquid Solvent Extraction (LSE) process. (I was part of a team that invented LSE, developed LSE, and operated a demonstration plant which proved the economic and technical abilities of LSE). The LSE technology is owned by UK government.

    The existence of LSE sets a limit to maximum cost of crude oil. If crude cost rose too high then it would be economic to utilise LSE technology to manufacture syncrude instead of drilling for crude.

    There is sufficient coal to last for at least 600 years (some estimate 1,000 years). Nobody can know how much – if any – oil will be needed 600 years in the future.

    If we do need oil many centuries in the future then that problem will need to be addressed, but it is not now a threat except in imagination. Similarly, the Sun will expand to destroy the Earth billions of years in the future, and that too is not now a threat except in imagination.

    Richard

  111. This may be slightly apocalyptic.

    [snip – Elmer, we don’t discuss Chemtrails here, humorous or otherwise. It is listed on the policy page – Anthony]

  112. Matt Ridley is the man. Get his book, the Rational Optimist
    Got to meet him, break bread with him, and the event grows greater in my mind every day

  113. Richard, I think you misunderstood what I was trying to establish, which was to show that the actual truth in most of these arguments lies between the two extremes.

    First, ‘Peak Oil’ is not a myth, but the apocalyptic version of it is. The fundamental reasoning for resource consumption peaks such as ‘Peak Oil’ is well established and is based on mechanisms such as supply and demand as well as the likelihood of new sources and alternatives. I should have pointed out that the main driver of such consumption curves is economics IE Supply and Demand. You pointed out as much with your example of LSE.

    Next, the mythical apocalyptic version of ‘Peak Oil’ is that when peak oil is reached we will suddenly find that we have no oil and we will be faced with the world as depicted in “Road Warrior”, “Thunderdome”, and other such fictions. This is not reality, it is Science Fiction – they ignore that the onset of their version of ‘Peak Oil’ would mean that we would experience a series of shortages and price increases and that alternative sources for energy would become more economic and ultimately replace oil as a source of energy, just as oil replaced coal as the main source of energy in the early 20th century.

    Finally, the opposite extreme version of ‘Peak Oil’ is that it does not exist, it never existed, and will never exist. The absoluteness of the refusal to acknowledge even the possibility of ‘Peak Oil’ makes this position entirely unsupportable since it ignores the evidence of consumption peaks, IE Supply and Demand.

    I do not support the apocalyptic version of ‘Peak Oil’, nor do I support the opposite viewpoint. The actual condition will be somewhere in between. It may mean that we end up using coal, nuclear power, solar power, wind power, tidal power – – – name your source of hypothetical power, but at some point it will become uneconomical to use oil for energy.

  114. Michael Tremblay:

    I apologise if I misunderstood anything you wrote.

    There seems to be very little difference between us, and that slight difference is shown by the final paragraphs of your post at August 19, 2012 at 10:17 pm and my post at August 19, 2012 at 7:32 am.

    You say;

    I do not support the apocalyptic version of ‘Peak Oil’, nor do I support the opposite viewpoint. The actual condition will be somewhere in between. It may mean that we end up using coal, nuclear power, solar power, wind power, tidal power – – – name your source of hypothetical power, but at some point it will become uneconomical to use oil for energy.

    But I say

    If we do need oil many centuries in the future then that problem will need to be addressed, but it is not now a threat except in imagination. Similarly, the Sun will expand to destroy the Earth billions of years in the future, and that too is not now a threat except in imagination.

    Richard

  115. I don’t know whether the following crazyness was added to the list of the recent alarmism. In case you’ve never known be prepared for the Apocalyptic Global Blackout: “Within a few months, the crisis has deepened. In many areas, food shortages are rampant, drinking water has become a precious commodity, and patients in need of blood transfusions, insulin, or critical prescription drugs die waiting. Normal commerce has ground to a halt, replaced by black markets and violent crime. As fatalities climb into the millions, the fabric of society starts to unravel.” (J. Kappenman) You can prepare yourself by reading here: http://spectrum.ieee.org/energy/the-smarter-grid/a-perfect-storm-of-planetary-proportions/

    But this is not all. We may die by a massive radioactive leak from “hundreds of Fukushimas”: http://spectrum.ieee.org/energy/the-smarter-grid/a-perfect-storm-of-planetary-proportions/5/hundreds-of-fukushimas

    Nice article. This is the things I like to read in a technical magazine like IEEE Spectrum…

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