Chicken Little Syndrome Evident in ‘End of World’ Predictions
Climate Change Weekly #338
Reports from the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), Breitbart, and the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) show recent history is littered with grossly mistaken claims made by so-called (often self-proclaimed) experts that the world has been on the precipice of an eco-apocalypse.
CEI details 27 different instances in which the media publicized predictions of climate doom wherein the world’s end date came and passed uneventfully.
Among the doomsday predictions highlighted by CEI’s report that were absolutely debunked by reality are a 1989 Associated Press story, “Rising seas could obliterate nations: U.N. officials,” detailing a United Nations environmental official warning entire countries would be eliminated if the world failed to reverse warming by 2000—yes, that’s 2000, as in nearly 20 years ago. CEI’s report also details numerous stories run in the 1970s in the New York Times, Time magazine, the UK’s Guardian, the Boston Globe, and the Washington Post, among other news outlets, that cited scientists and reports saying the world was on the brink of a coming ice age. For example, the Guardian wrote in 1974, “Space satellites show new Ice Age coming fast,” and the Washington Post in the ‘70s cited scientists from Columbia University who said the world could be “as little as 50 or 60 years away from a disastrous new ice age.”
Breitbart added 14 items to the litany of failed disaster predictions made by prominent personages and much publicized by the mainstream media in the past few decades. These included a projection in the ABC-TV special Earth 2100 (which first aired on June 2, 2009) that Manhattan could be underwater by 2015, and multiple different predictions (including by the U.S. Department of Energy) the world would run out of oil within 10 or 20 years.
Going back further, a 1919 article in Oil and Gas News stated, “In meeting the world's needs, however, the oil from the United States will continue to occupy a less and less dominant position, because within the next two to five years the oil fields of this country will reach their maximum production and from that on we will face an ever increasing decline” (emphasis mine). In 1937, Capt. H. A. Stuart, director of the U.S. naval petroleum reserves, testified before the Senate Naval Affairs Committee that U.S. oil supplies would last for only another 15 years. “We have been making estimates for the last 15 years. We always underestimate because of the possibility of discovering new oil fields. The best information is that the present supply will last only 15 years. That is a conservative estimate,” testified Stuart.
AEI added nine more public proclamations of climate doom to the list of failed predictions the media swallowed hook, line, and sinker. For instance, in 1989 Noel Brown, then director of the New York office of the U.N. Environment Program, said entire nations could be wiped off the face of the earth by rising sea levels if global warming was not reversed by the year 2000. It wasn’t, and they weren’t, in case anyone missed it. Prominent Chicken Little professor Paul Ehrlich (he of dozens of failed eco-disaster predictions) predicted in 1969 that England would not exist by 2000. AEI also cited a prediction by James Hansen, the father of the climate delusion, who as director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in 1988 confidently said much of lower Manhattan would be permanently underwater due to rising seas by 2018. Also cited by AEI: a 1972 prediction, also by Ehrlich, that the world’s oceans would be dead within a decade and the United States would have to impose water rationing by 1974 and food rationing by 1980. Guess what? Didn’t happen!
All these predictions have four things in common: (1) Purported experts predicted major ecological and humanitarian disasters; (2) the mainstream media faithfully reported, indeed hyped, these predictions as if they were revealed truth delivered from Heaven, instead of exercising journalistic integrity and investigating and challenging these alarming claims; (3) time and experience proved each of these experts and their predictions to be woefully, but fortunately, wrong; and (4) the media never called these seers of the apocalypse out for their failed predictions, and instead continued to published additional prognostications of doom (often by the same experts) which also failed, a cycle that continually repeats itself to this day.
As Myron Ebell and Steven Milloy write in CEI’s report, “Modern doomsayers have been predicting climate and environmental disaster since the 1960s. They continue to do so today. None of the apocalyptic predictions with due dates as of today have come true. ... [T]he makers of failed apocalyptic predictions often are individuals holding respected positions in government and science. While such predictions have been and continue to be enthusiastically reported by a media eager for sensational headlines, the failures are typically not revisited.”
— H. Sterling Burnett
IN THIS ISSUE …
The very day the U.N. Secretary General hosted a Climate Action Summit beginning on September 23, an international group of 500 distinguished climate researchers—actual experts—sent a letter to U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres and Patricia Espinosa Cantellano, executive secretary for the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, the first sentence of which stated bluntly, “There is no climate emergency.”
The letter continued by saying,
Climate science should be less political, while climate policies should be more scientific. Scientists should openly address the uncertainties and exaggerations in their predictions of global warming, while politicians should dispassionately count the real benefits as well as the imagined costs of adaptation to global warming, and the real costs as well as the imagined benefits of mitigation.
Natural as well as anthropogenic factors cause warming. The geological archive reveals that Earth’s climate has varied as long as the planet has existed, with natural cold and warm phases. … Warming is far slower than predicted. …. It tells us that we are far from understanding climate change.
Climate policy relies on inadequate models. Climate models have many shortcomings and are not remotely plausible as policy tools. …
CO2 is not a pollutant. It is essential to all life on Earth. … More CO2 is beneficial for nature, greening the Earth: additional CO2 in the air has promoted growth in global plant biomass. It is also good for agriculture, increasing the yields of crops worldwide.
Global warming has not increased natural disasters. There is no statistical evidence that global warming is intensifying hurricanes, floods, droughts, and suchlike natural disasters, or making them more frequent. However, CO2-mitigation measures are as damaging as they are costly. …
There is no climate emergency. Therefore, there is no cause for panic and alarm. We strongly oppose the harmful and unrealistic net-zero CO2 policy proposed for 2050. … The aim of international policy should be to provide reliable and affordable energy at all times, and throughout the world.
None of the letter’s signatories—experts with hundreds of years of cumulative climate research and thousands of peer-reviewed publications between them—were asked to discuss their views before the U.N. during its climate summit. Could that be because their scientifically informed message doesn’t match the U.N.’s official position that we face a climate crisis?
China and India, the world’s first and third largest emitters of carbon dioxide, have seen their carbon dioxide emissions continue to grow faster than those of almost all other nations since 2015, when they pledged to control emissions under the Paris climate agreement. Indeed, both countries are building coal-fueled power plants, with China building such plants both within its borders and abroad.
Despite being economic powerhouses on the world stage (China has the world’s second-largest GDP, and India is fifth), both countries claim they should be counted as developing, not developed, countries when it comes to the U.N.’s climate payouts.
In separate statements released the week before the U.N.’s climate summit, China and India said developed countries—including the United States, which pulled out of the Paris climate agreement—should meet commitments to fully fund the U.N.- and World Bank-administered Green Climate Fund (GCF). They called on developed nations to fulfill their $100 billion annual cumulative pledge by 2020, in order to enable developing countries such as themselves to cope with the effects of climate change.
Despite having the world’s second largest economy, the statement released by China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment said China “also enjoys the right to receive funds” and admonished developed countries to “implement and strengthen” and “honor the commitment” to “support the developing world in addressing climate change.”
The statement from India’s ministry of finance informed the U.N. it would exert its “best effort” to meet its Paris emission commitments but “finance holds a key for all its actions,” implying should India not get funds from the GCF, it should be held blameless for failing to keep its commitments.
That sounds like climate extortion to me—or, as is also accurate, foreign governments putting the needs and interests of their countries’ peoples first, as leaders of any country should do.
In October 2018, the journal Nature published a report claiming the oceans had been warming faster, and by a greater amount, than previously thought, meaning the Earth may have been warming even faster than estimated. These results received a great deal of uncritical coverage in the media, with stories at, among other outlets, the BBC, the New York Times, Scientific American, and the Washington Post, each of which has been all too willing to promote unverified assertions the world faces a climate crisis and it’s worse than we think.
Within weeks, independent climate researcher Nicholas Lewis discovered significant methodological flaws in the paper, which resulted in the authors issuing a “correction” to their findings. The media largely ignored the authors’ admission of errors. Now, better late than never, on September 25, nearly a year after Nature first published the alarming ocean warming paper, it has formally retracted it, having evidently determined the correction offered by the authors was insufficient to overcome the papers’ fundamental flaws.
“This is just the latest example of climate scientists letting themselves down by using incorrect statistics,” said Lewis, commenting on the errors and retraction. “The climate field needs to get professional statisticians involved up front if it is going to avoid this kind of embarrassment in future.”
Benny Peiser, Ph.D., director of the Global Warming Policy Forum (GWPF), says the Nature paper is not rare but rather is all too common in what passes for peer review in climate research.
“Climatology is littered with examples of bad statistics, going back to the infamous Hockey Stick graph and beyond. Peer review is failing and it is falling to amateurs to find the errors. Scientists in the field should be embarrassed,” Peiser said in a GWPF statement.