Summary: Despair at the confident predictions of doomsters has become an almost defining characteristic of both Left and Right in America, as documented in so many posts here. Nothing but abject servitude serves the 1% better. Here’s an example, looking at the effects of the quarter-century-long campaign predicting doom from climate change.
Assessing the record, and alarmists’ responses to it
Gore correctly predicted a “time of consequences”, but got the details backwards. He quoted Churchill’s 1936 warning about Hitler, given less than 3 years before the invasion of Poland. What have we seen 10 years after Gore’s speech, and 26 years after James Hansen’s Senate testimony)? Few of the predicted horrors have appeared.
The world is a fraction of a degree C warmer. The record pause in hurricane landfalls continues, global numbers and energy of hurricanes has not risen, number of severe tornadoes, area burned in wildfires, number of extremely hot days in the US, the extent of arctic sea ice, Antarctic sea ice, and area of global sea ice — most metrics of extreme weather have remained stable or within historical norms during the past decade (more details here and here). Nor is there evidence we’ve hit the “tipping point”, despite passing so many deadlines during the past 30 years.
Even the air temperature has frustrated Gore’s predictions, as the pause continues in its second decade while scientists debate its causes. The somewhat ramshackle global surface air temperature networks showed a peak of hundredths of a degree in 2014 (and YTD 2015), less than their error bars; the two satellite-based networks show no record for 2014 (details here).
The consequences: a loss of credibility for the climate change activists, as the US public rates it among the least serious threats (see polls by Pew Research and by Gallup). Historians might see this as one of the most incompetent publicity campaigns ever.
Instead of learning and adapting from their failure, climate activists have doubled down. They ratchet up their claims about future doom, with journalists’ support. Often contrary to the IPCC’s findings, as in these articles about the “methane monster”. And as in this gem…
Even with a deal to stop the current rate of greenhouse gas emissions, scientists warn, the world will become increasingly unpleasant. Without a deal, they say, the world could eventually become uninhabitable for humans.
— “Optimism Faces Grave Realities at Climate Talks“, New York Times, 30 November 2014.
The Times quotes no climate scientists for this remarkable claim. The IPCC’s reports say nothing like this. Climate change poses a threat, albeit of uncertain timing and magnitude (as with most large threats). Do these wild claims hurt us more than they help? More precisely, who do they help?
The ugly results of alarmism
Some people see these repeated cries of “wolf” since the 1970s, and learn to disregard such warnings. Unfortunately science is our best tool to see threats looming ahead. And in the story the wolf eventually came. The boy’s false warnings resulted in disaster. (For details see Much of our news is people crying “wolf”. Do we still listen to real warnings?)
Some people hear the repeated warnings and believe them, resulting in despair. This is frequently seen in comments by leftists, for examples as seen on a thread at the website of Brad DeLong (Prof Economics, Berkeley) asking “What will people in 3000 remember from the history 1700-2300?” Some of the comments were analytically brilliant; but I found these visions of certain doom the most striking…
Redwood Rhiadra said “A historian in 3000, if there are any humans still living by then, is likely to only have oral myths and legends of how gods flew above the earth and built great towers in the years before the world burned. … the few remaining survivors trying to survive in the habitable polar regions will have Bronze Age technology at best.”
BruceJ said “Humans? In 2300? At the rate we’re going odds are there WON’T be many of them and the ones that are there will be far too busy trying to survive to bother over history, other than to curse us.”
Chris G said “I’m on board with the pessimists. Everything has a beginning, a middle, and an end. I say, given our current trajectory, 50% chance the excrement hits the fan before 2100 and 90% chance that it does before 2200. (By “the excrement hits the fan” I mean civilization as we know it ends and is replaced by something resembling a warmer version of The Road.)”
Redwood Rhiadra said “There will be no successor civilization. … Our planet had ONE shot at building a sustainable industrial civilization, and we humans f***ed it up, big time.”
The 1% smiles
Despair about civilization is a commonplace in western history (see here for details). Even today Dreams of apocalypses show the brotherhood of America’s Left & Right. Note that most people expressing despair about the future are hard working members of the Outer Party (America’s professionals and managers, in the middle and upper-middle classes). Their despair is an affectation, having no substantial effect on their behavior.
Their despair nicely suits the needs of the 1%. Such people work hard, and for them despair provides an excuse to remain politically passive. “Knowing” that we’re certainly doomed, why bother? The 1% could put nothing in our water supply that would make these people better subjects.
Our love of exaggerated warnings makes predictions of doom attractive clickbait, but this has a cost. Saint Thomas Aquinas said that despair was the greatest of sins. Whether or not that’s true spiritually, despair is among the most destructive of vices for America. The Republic requires citizens who defend it no matter what the risk or cost, not those who preemptively surrender.
For More Information
This is a follow-up to Collapsitarians and their doomster porn, giving a specific example of this widespread phenomenon.
If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. For more information about this vital issue see The keys to understanding climate change and My posts about climate change. See all posts about doomsters, and especially see these posts about climate forecasts…
- Looking into the past for guidance about warnings of future climate apocalypses.
- Checking up on past forecasts about climate change, a guide to the future.
- Will we see the end of snow? More importantly, when will we learn to see the world clearly?
- Is our certain fate a coal-burning climate apocalypse? No!
- The easy solution to the looming monster methane apocalypse.
- Ten years after Katrina: let’s learn from those predictions of more & bigger hurricanes.
To help you better understand today’s extreme .weather
To learn more about the state of climate change see The Rightful Place of Science: Disasters and Climate Change by Roger Pielke Jr. (Prof of Environmental Studies at U of CO-Boulder, and Director of their Center for Science and Technology Policy Research).