Science & Nature

Despair: so common these days, so good for the 1%

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.

Despair

Edvard Munch’s “Despair” (1894).

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…

Doomster

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.

Truth Will Make You Free

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…

  1. Looking into the past for guidance about warnings of future climate apocalypses.
  2. Checking up on past forecasts about climate change, a guide to the future.
  3. Will we see the end of snow? More importantly, when will we learn to see the world clearly?
  4. Is our certain fate a coal-burning climate apocalypse? No!
  5. The easy solution to the looming monster methane apocalypse.
  6. 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).

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19 replies »

  1. the recent noaa study, published in the june edition of science, thoroughly debunks the whole notion of a “pause”.

    while i am sure that there is plenty of unwarranted alarmism out there, the overall pattern of climate change is well established. will it result in the extinction of the human race? i don’t know and i don’t think anyone else does either.

    however, the response to a threat must be proportional not only to the probability of the threat but also to the magnitude. the probability that i will have a fire that destroys my 100 year old house is too small to measure accurately, but i still pay a substantial sum every year for insurance. such a fire may be exceedingly improbable, but the result would be catastrophic. should the threat of climate change be regarded more lightly than a fire in my house?

    climate change deniers insist that we need not do anything, but failing to take action in the face of an existential threat, even if quite remote, qualifies as insanity in my book.

    Like

    • Jay,

      “the recent noaa study, published in the june edition of science, thoroughly debunks the whole notion of a “pause”.”

      That’s quite a misreading of the scientific literature. There are dozens of article exploring causes of the pause, describing 10 – 12 different theories. Activists on both sides love to play Pope, deeming a study whose conclusions they like “The Truth.” Eventually climate scientists will focus on one theory, as they accumulate more data and analysis.

      “but the result would be catastrophic. should the threat of climate change be regarded more lightly than a fire in my house?”

      Your assertions appear quite unfounded. Since there is little consensus among climate scientists about the magnitude of the threat (surveys don’t even both asking about that). Equally unknown is the cost of limiting climate change. The few studies of this tend to be “garage science” — a few people running absurdly simple models, with inputs consisting mostly of guesses.

      Comparing these guesses about magnitude and odds of severe antropogenic climate change with the well-defined odds of a catastrophic fire in your house — and small cost of insurance — seems … odd. Quite odd.

      Like

    • “but failing to take action in the face of an existential threat, even if quite remote”
      Leaving aside the urge to take issue with the use of ‘existential’, what about flu pandemic, large rock from space, super volcano, xray burst from nearby super nova or even alien invasion.

      Which rank from near certainty at some point, to very very faint possibility. I don’t see us splurging trillions taking avoiding action for any of those ‘existential’ threats, or even taking them seriously to any degree at all.

      To my mind climate change is a problem. But so are dirty water, lack of water, child mortality, lack of energy, lack of education, failure to treat curable diseases and the general grind of poverty that impact billions, kill tens of millions every year and force migration of tens of millions more.

      Anyone who thinks that climate change is the most important problem facing us at the moment probably hasn’t been looking hard enough…

      Like

  2. Gawd. At least, in my day, our professional worriers were concerned about the actual, realistic threat of nuclear annihilation. Today’s cohort worries about a couple of degrees of temperature. It’s like a Monty Python absurdist skit. Like torturing someone with a comfy chair. What a neurotic generation.

    Like

    • Bart,

      You go to the heart of public policy in our time: it’s all about fear. Fear of far away Islamic fundo’s, of the gov’t going broke, the US becoming scrap paper, of hyperinflation, of the oceans boiling, of the world burning, of the campus rape epidemic — we’re like a lunatic trembling in fear of ghosts in the room.

      It’s wonderful for the 1%. It makes us easy to rule. Nothing they could put in the water could make us easier to rule.

      Liked by 1 person

    • My theory is that our psyches require constant stimulation. Well, it’s not exactly an original thought. But, anyway, absent real threats, we have to make up phony ones. The more extended the interval of peace, the more wild-eyed and hallucinatory the made-up threats become.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Bart,

      “The more extended the interval of peace, the more wild-eyed and hallucinatory the made-up threats become.”

      That’s brilliant out-of-the-box thinking! Perhaps its like (as some believe) that children’s immune system requires attacks, otherwise they have a higher incidence of auto-immune disease.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Cat,

      Yes, this UN poll is interesting. Of course, it is not a scientific survey. But it matches the few surveys we do have.

      I cannot sufficiently emphasize the importance of the failure of the 25-year long climate change advocacy campaign. This must be one of the longest and largest campaigns to influence public opinion — ever. The advocates owned the institutional high ground: governments, academia, media, and ngos. I am unsure what this tells us, but I’m certain historians will mark this as big.

      Like

  3. As far as I can tell the remains of the radical left have found nothing better to do than trying to weaponize science to further unlikely revolutions, half baked social restructuring ideas, outright green dictatorship fantasies and the like.
    It went nowhere, for a number of reasons at least some of which should have been quite evident from the get go. What worries me is that, once it becomes clear to them that science cannot do the job they want they will turn against it out of spite. It is not like they have had much love for “bourgeois science” since quite some time and while they may not be able to pry the SUV keys from the cold dead hands of the general population shutting down much of scientific research should be well within their capabilities.

    Like

    • Marcello,

      The amazing aspect of the climate campaign is that they’ve not won (yet). IMO the cause — almost the only cause — has been the uncooperative weather. The pause in warming, the low levels of tornadoes and tropical storms — almost every kind of extreme weather has been at low levels since roughly 2000. The most common explanation is natural variation, which seems plausible. In other words, they’ve been unlucky.

      A few big vivid events — such a few large storms hitting East coast cities — and the activists PR machine might have successfully panicked America — with large effects. Look what Bush Jr was able to do after 9/11 and the very suspicious anthrax attack.

      But remember — for weather every day is a new day. Activists seek a revolution. The rule for revolutionaries is that they only need win once; defenders must win every day.

      Like

  4. whenever i make an important decision i always ask myself “what if i’m wrong?” do i have an out? what’s the back up plan? climate deniers insist that the threat of climate change is zero and therefore no back up plan is needed. we have plans in place (maybe adequate maybe not) for thousand year floods and meteor or comet collisions with earth. are you certain that destructive climate change is less likely? if so, you must have a direct pipeline to the almighty.
    if climate panic is, as you claim, a boon to the 1%, why are so many of the 1%ers, and their political stooges so adamant in their denial? the answer should be obvious. it is not panic that serves the interests of the 1%, it is complacency.

    Like

    • Jay,

      Your comments consist mostly of just making stuff up. Please start citing sources. I’ve been nice about this, but your comments are becoming quite delusional.

      “climate deniers insist that the threat of climate change is zero”
      Please give some examples. While some people probably say that (there are probably some people who believe the world is flat), that’s hardly the standard or most common position.

      “we have plans in place (maybe adequate maybe not) for thousand year floods and meteor or comet collisions with earth.”
      Please point to them.

      “are you certain that destructive climate change is less likely?”
      I have repeatedly said that we need plans. My previous post on this gave recommendations that are politically feasible: How climate change can help the GOP win in 2016.

      Like

  5. I agree with Bart. We live in exceptionally prosperous and peaceful times. So much so, that we have the luxury and time to indulge in ridiculous fears of seemingly mundane threats. I’m sure people who live in poverty or war must find these obsessions completely absurd.
    It’s exactly the same thing that gives rise to our recent obsession with safety- it’s completely over the top.
    This is politically incorrect, but maybe there is a relationship between fearful thinking and the remarkable rise in women’s equality? I’m not trying to assign blame, but I find females to be more fearful in general…

    Like

  6. if you’re really interested, and not just being snarky, have a look here: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/un-asteroid-defense-plan/ and here: encyclopedia of public health, kirch, william (ed.)(1000year flood), and here: http://www.co2science.org/about/position/globalwarming.php (increasing concentration of co2 is a positive development), and that’s before you get to sen. inhofe and his magic snowball. either there is something to the threat of climate change or there is a 30 year long conspiracy including thousands of scientists, hundred of universities, dozens of international ngo’s, the united nations, the noaa and numerous european nations.
    time for occam’s razor?

    Like

    • Jay,

      I have been nice about this, but these are really dumb references. Nice use of Google, however.

      (1) A UN resolution to set up a coordinating group? That’s a plan? Perhaps that’s a first step to starting a process to have a plan.

      “the U.N.’s Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space will help coordinate a mission to launch a spacecraft to slam into the object and deflect it from its collision course.”

      Someone has been reading too much science fiction. This is fantasy; we have only minimal space launch capability beyond low earth orbit. It would have to be a very tiny asteroid for any spacecraft we have to “slam into it” and significantly deflect its orbit — even if we had a long lead time (i.e., detected it far out).

      (2) As for showing that there is a consensus among climate scientists about the magnitude and timing of climate change, you cite a website post by two activist brothers, one a climate scientist and the other a botanist. It’s the opposite of peer-reviewed research. Neither is the Pope of science, able to pronounce the consensus of climate scientists.

      Try a quote from the IPCC’s Working Group I (the physical basis of climate change). But you’ll not find anything there supporting your extreme views. If you read it, you might learn something. But you will not read it, and so you won’t learn anything.

      (3) “you get to sen. inhofe and his magic snowball”

      The rest of your comment is incoherent, ignorant gibberish. Try sticking to what the IPCC says.

      Like

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