Fox News reporter, Maxim Lott, takes a delightful little stroll down memory lane to see how well eight selected environmentalist predictions of various sorts of imminent doom have fared. A few are shared below:
1. Within a few years "children just aren't going to know what snow is." Snowfall will be "a very rare and exciting event." Dr. David Viner, senior research scientist at the climatic research unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia, interviewed by the UK Independent, March 20, 2000.
Ten years later, in December 2009, London was hit by the heaviest snowfall seen in 20 years. And just last week, a snowstorm forced Heathrow airport to shut down, stranding thousands of Christmas travelers.
A spokesman for the government-funded British Council, where Viner now works as the lead climate change expert, told FoxNews.com that climate science had improved since the prediction was made.
2. "[By] 1995, the greenhouse effect would be desolating the heartlands of North America and Eurasia with horrific drought, causing crop failures and food riots…[By 1996] The Platte River of Nebraska would be dry, while a continent-wide black blizzard of prairie topsoil will stop traffic on interstates, strip paint from houses and shut down computers." Michael Oppenheimer, published in "Dead Heat," St. Martin's Press, 1990.
Oppenheimer told FoxNews.com that he was trying to illustrate one possible outcome of failing to curb emissions, not making a specific prediction. He added that the gist of his story had in fact come true, even if the events had not occurred in the U.S.
"On the whole I would stand by these predictions—not predictions, sorry, scenarios—as having at least in a general way actually come true," he said. "There's been extensive drought, devastating drought, in significant parts of the world. The fraction of the world that's in drought has increased over that period."
That may be in doubt, however. Data from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center shows that precipitation—rain and snow—has increased slightly over the century.
As a special treat, Lott talks with the irrepressible doomster Paul Ehrlich who, as far as I can tell, has never been right in any of his forecasts of imminent catastrophe.
7. "By the year 2000 the United Kingdom will be simply a small group of impoverished islands, inhabited by some 70 million hungry people … If I were a gambler, I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000." Ehrlich, Speech at British Institute For Biology, September 1971.
Ehrlich's prediction was taken seriously when he made it, and New Scientist magazine underscored his speech in an editorial titled "In Praise of Prophets."
"When you predict the future, you get things wrong," Ehrlich admitted, but "how wrong is another question. I would have lost if I had had taken the bet. However, if you look closely at England, what can I tell you? They're having all kinds of problems, just like everybody else."
8. "In ten years all important animal life in the sea will be extinct. Large areas of coastline will have to be evacuated because of the stench of dead fish." Ehrlich, speech during Earth Day, 1970
"Certainly the first part of that was very largely true—only off in time," Ehrlich told FoxNews.com. "The second part is, well—the fish haven't washed up, but there are very large dead zones around the world, and they frequently produce considerable stench."
"Again, not totally accurate, but I never claimed to predict the future with full accuracy," he said
I have had the pleasure of covering this beat for two decades now. For examples, see my 2000 article on Earth Day, Then and Now and my testimony at an oversight hearing before the House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources.
I did make one prediction back in 2000 that I still stand firmly behind:
One final prediction, of which I'm most absolutely certain: There will be a disproportionately influential group of doomsters predicting that the future–and the present–never looked so bleak.
Lott's whole article is well worth reading.
Hat tip to Manny Klausner.