The End of Doom

Against the Dogmatists, a Review of The End of Doom

Modest self-promotion of my new book

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Ronald Bailey

As a service (self serving?) for Reason readers I am cross-posting this review of my book, The End of Doom: Environmental Renewal in the Twenty-first Century (St. Martin's Press) here from RealClearBooks.

Against the Dogmatists

By Rupert Darwall

Environmentalist doom-saying, according to author Ronald Bailey, is not about scientific prediction but about ideology: one that says nature is good and humanity is evil. In The End of Doom, Bailey challenges modern environmentalism on its own ground. Cut loose from its scientific moorings, environmentalism attacks the human aspiration for a better life. Doing so, at the very least, it holds back the positive economic and social developments that, over the course of this century, will see nature become chiefly an arena for human pleasure and less a source of raw materials.

Environmentalists have long targeted globalization, which they see as destructive of local cultures and local habitats. As Bailey shows, they have it completely wrong. The emancipation of women, along with increased life expectancy, leads women to have fewer children, especially in wealthier societies. Bailey has a gift for letting the anecdotal illustrate the trend. A Johannesburg taxi driver remonstrates with Bailey for not having children and tells him that whereas his father had 12 children, he has six—but his children have none. Eureka. This is the demographic transition which, Bailey suggests, will see the world's population peak at 9.6 billion in 50 years' time and gently decline to 9 billion by the end of the century.

Capitalism and the rule of law are the key drivers of this development, and those countries most open to trade have seen the fastest decline in fertility rates. By contrast, the lawlessness, violence, and economic chaos of many countries in sub-Saharan Africa result in stubbornly high fertility rates. This state of affairs turns conventional environmentalist nostrums on their head. For example, in one of the most cited papers on ecology, "The Tragedy of the Commons," biologist Garrett Hardin asserted in 1968 that human over-population would necessitate replacing Adam Smith's invisible hand with government coercion.  But Hardin was theorizing without facts. "Hardin's fears of a population tragedy of the commons are actually realized when the invisible hand of economic freedom is shackled," Bailey writes.

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St.Martin's

One after another, Bailey neatly picks off each "peak everything" fear. Even though commodity prices are now coming off the top of a super-cycle, since 1871, the Economist industrial commodity price index has sunk to around half its value. Thanks to improved energy productivity, in 2007, the U.S. consumed half the energy it would have if energy productivity had remained at its 1970 level. Technology will continue to make more efficient use of resources. 3D printing could reduce materials needs and cost by up to 90 percent.

Bailey makes the crucial distinction between scarcity and shortage. Scarcity exists because human wants are boundless while the resources to satisfy them are limited. Shortages arise when something is not available at any price and when governments intervene to stop markets working properly. According to a survey on water access in major cities in the developing world, poor people pay a multiple of what those connected to the water mains do. How to improve water access for the world's poor? Privatization. Only 3 percent of the poor in developing countries get their water from private-sector water suppliers, yet even this miniscule percentage has provoked an outcry against a "global water grab" by giant corporations. Bailey notes that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is silent on the role of markets and prices in managing water scarcity.

The End of Doom marshals findings from a prodigious survey of scientific papers and other scholarly papers – about 220, by my count, or four for every five pages. But more often than not, Bailey himself provides the most thought-provoking ideas. "Resources are defined by human knowledge and technology," he writes, which helps explain the fall in commodity prices. "Never do anything for the first time" says all you need to know about the precautionary principle. "History provides us with no models of sustainable development other than democratic capitalism" deftly skewers the 1987 UN Brundtland report and Pope Francis's recent musings.

Bailey brands Rachel Carson's cancer chapter in Silent Spring a "stroke of public relations genius," and he condemns the Nixon administration's "political" ban on DDT for taking away the most effective way to control malarial mosquitoes. Carson's unwillingness to fairly balance costs and benefits became the hallmark of the modern environmental movement, which today is busy attacking genetically engineered Golden Rice—even as Vitamin A deficiency causes 1.9 to 2.8 million preventable deaths each year and half a million cases of childhood blindness. As Bailey notes, "environmentalist organizations raise money to support themselves by scaring people."

Once a climate skeptic, Bailey now sees the balance of evidence pointing to the likelihood that rising temperatures would become a problem by the end of the century. It would be hard to find a more evenly balanced account of the scientific uncertainties of global warming. The prolonged pause or plateau in global temperature is "something of an embarrassment," Bailey writes, and he quotes a climate scientist cautioning against extrapolating long-term trends from it; but the scientist also concedes that "the inconsistencies we found among the models are a reality check showing we may not know as much as we thought we did."

The best is saved for last, when Bailey provides a cool antidote to the emotional journey Elizabeth Kolbert took in The Sixth Extinction. With certain exceptions, the IPCC finds "very low" extinction rates during the last several hundred thousand years of climate change. It is a matter of faith, not science, that pristine ecosystems are superior to human-influenced eco-systems. Science, long a tool of environmentalist dogmatists, now shows the ecological notion of the "balance of nature" to be unscientific. In an often high-decibel debate, Bailey's prose is soft-toned and reasonable.  His is a voice that compels attention—and The End of Doom a book that provokes fresh thinking.

Rupert Darwall is the author of The Age of Global Warming: A History (Quartet, 2013).

I will post additional reviews and some responses later.

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  1. The plateau is only an embarrassment if one assumes that temperature would continue to rise linearly, which I doubt anyone has ever seriously proposed.

    1. +1 hockey stick

    2. Al Gore 2009: Polar Ice cap gone by 2014.

    3. No, it is also an embarrassment if no one predicted it or can explain it, which is exactly what happened.

      1. It would also be an embarrassment if you asserted that “up and to the right” was *the* future, now and forever and said that anyone who asked “are you sure?” was a skeptical moron.

        Lots of these people who can’t explain the pause are the exact same people who watch the bottom fall out of the housing or oil markets because of speculation and then say, “We really ought to have a law against such dangerous and baseless speculative practices, especially when they affect so many people so drastically.”

    4. if one assumes that temperature would continue to rise linearly, which I doubt anyone has ever seriously proposed.

      You are obviously unacquainted with the CAGW crowd and their many, many predictions.

      Although, to be fair, many weren’t proposing a linear increase in temperature. They were predicting an accelerating increase in temperature.

    5. The real embarassment was the suggestion from skeptics that when there wasn’t a linear increase from 1998 to 2013, that this was significant. There have been longer “linear increase absences” in the past, such as from the ’40s through the end of the ’60s. Temperatures were going to go back up again, and they did last year, and will to an even greater extent this year.

      1. “Temperatures were going to go back up again, and they did last year”

        No they didn’t

        http://www.therightplanet.com/…..months.png

        The climate is still paused as of last months global temperatures.

        “and will to an even greater extent this year.”

        HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

    6. Atmospheric scientist Kevin Trenberth has an excellent article explaining all this and supporting exactly what you said.

      http://theconversation.com/is-…..over-45995

      1. But you miss the point. The whole global warming enchilada is based on computer models that have failed to predict reality for several decades. The so-called hiatus was also unpredicted. These occurrences–these facts–invalidate the models. With the computer models invalidated the whole theory blows up–no matter that there was a dozen or so years, out of thirty, of warming.

        The theory is wrong. Nothing more can be said.

        1. The rising temperatures for the past 100+ years isn’t theory, it’s fact. And the only explanation that nearly all of science has is man. Fact. None of that is theory. What you want to quibble about is how bad it’s all going to get. And whether you like it or not, the preponderance of science is getting more concerned, not less. That is fact as well.

          1. The rising temperatures for the past 100+ years isn’t theory, it’s fact.

            Few more facts:

            CO2 has only been in high enough concentrations (according to AGW theory) over the past 50 to 60 years to have any effect on climate. fact.

            Temperatures rose during the 40 to 50 years prior to that. fact.

            Why was there warming 100 to 50 years ago?

            Why has there been no warming over the past 18 years during a time when CO2 has been at its highest concentration over those 50 years?

          2. Nice. Proggie troll comes to fuck a dead thread.

            I wonder why you stupid fuckers don’t realize that you can’t lie about things that will soon be empirically proven wrong. It is why you, and why the AGW movement and most environmental activists have no credibility.

          3. Jackand Ace|8.13.15 @ 9:01PM|#
            “The rising temperatures for the past 100+ years isn’t theory, it’s fact”

            H points out that the theory is dead and Jack returns with this.
            Jack, he didn’t say temperature trend were dead; he said your THEORY regarding them is.

  2. Bailey is right that the problem is not going to be that we run out of resources. Man has always shown himself to clever enough to avoid that. What Bailey underestimates is how clever nature is. I don’t buy for a minute that death, disease and such are going to be eliminated. Nature has nothing but time to find ways around our technology and is endlessly adaptable in doing so. It is just a matter of time before we have another pandemic that kills a decent percentage of the world population. It may not happen in my lifetime but it will happen.

    1. J: If a pandemic doesn’t happen soon, it won’t ever happen.

    2. “What Bailey underestimates is how clever nature is.”
      Sorry, John, “nature” is clever only when man is included in “nature.

  3. It would be hard to find a more evenly balanced account of the scientific uncertainties of global warming.

    From an non-skeptic, I’ll agree.

    A great deal of the skeptic movement has been to propose or request a balanced and effective response only to get screeching in response or ask if, *maybe*, we aren’t seeing the whole picture. Only recently has it been (begrudgingly) conceded by supporters and alarmists that Kyoto was a non-sequitur and that, *possibly*, there are things we aren’t seeing/don’t understand.

    There are certainly skeptics with agendas, but the ideology is epynomous for it’s reluctance to belief rather than strict opposition. Moreover, AGW supporters deliberately use the term as an all-encompassing slur.

  4. Meh,Still liked it better when it was called the Rational Optimist.

  5. On the Eve of the worse global recession in history Ron publishes his book “The End of Doom”

    Perfect timing jack ass.

  6. “It is a matter of faith, not science, that pristine ecosystems are superior to human-influenced eco-systems. ”

    I don’t think it’s faith or science that tells us that dynamism and diversity in an ecosystem is desirable. It seems a matter of aesthetics.

    1. m: Actually the novel eco-systems that humanity is creating show as much or more dynamism and diversity (and more species richness) than do many pristine ones.

      1. “Actually…”

        These novelty eco-systems are to pristine eco-systems what Weird Al Yankovich is to Brittany Spears. A novelty, a rarity, and not much else. If you want to see more representative human influenced eco-systems, try visiting Manhattan or your local corn field or fish farm. Then tell me about dynamism and diversity.

        1. “These novelty eco-systems are to pristine eco-systems what Weird Al Yankovich is to Brittany Spears. A novelty, a rarity, and not much else. If you want to see more representative human influenced eco-systems, try visiting Manhattan”

          For what? For diverse eco-systems?
          Why, yes, I’m sure Manhattan is much more so than many equal areas of ‘pristine’ land.

        2. If you wish for city governments to dissolve their own cities and transportation networks, and to stop the development of new cities, because of your bio diversity preferences, then good luck with that.

          People have been talking like that for decades, and, yet, it seems you lack both the intellect and the gumption to pull that off.

          1. That’s enough of this environment talk. Let’s talk about me now.

            1. “People have been talking like that for decades, and, yet, it seems you lack both the intellect and the gumption to pull that off.”

              Trueman is an imbecile with pretensions of knowledge, all gleaned from Parade Magazine. Ask him for a cite some time and watch the ducking and weaving.
              But that doesn’t stop him from posting whatever lie he thinks supports his most recent claims.
              Nothing he posts has the slightest credibility, and he’s egomaniacal besides.

            2. hat’s enough of this environment talk. Let’s talk about me now.

              There isn’t much to talk about, then.

              Find anything interesting at the local food market, lately? Perhaps some variety of corn you haven’t consumed before?

              That’s what I call relishing diversity.

              1. Let’s talk even more about me.

  7. “he condemns the Nixon administration’s “political” ban on DDT for taking away the most effective way to control malarial mosquitoes”

    Pet peeve of mine. AFAIK, no one has *ever* suggested banning DDT as a way to control malarial mosquitoes. Not even Rachel Carson.

    Carson was, in fact, advocating the ban of DDT for *agricultural* purposes, correctly predicting that over-usage would wipe out all susceptible insects very quickly and render DDT ineffective, as it now is. It is still widely used in India, where it was never banned, but it now only works as mosquito *repellant* – it hasn’t effectively *killed* mosquitos in decades.

    So – Carson was correct about the consequences of over-using DDT, and her goal was right-minded. Her methods were terrible and dishonest and did more harm than good, but to pretend that the DDT ban contributed to the spread of malaria rather than vice versa (i.e. that *overuse* of DDT contributed to the spread of malaria) is just to hand Green-totalitarians more arrows for their quiver.

    1. “it hasn’t effectively *killed* mosquitos in decades”

      i.e. since before it was banned – there was already a noticeable decline in its effectiveness by around 1968. By 1974 its use was already declining in favor of more effective pesticides.

  8. Jesus, the solution to both any environmental problem or energy problem was invented 50 years ago, the molten salt thorium reactor. Thorium is the best fuel that exists and the molten salt reactor is the best way to burn it. The fact that the entire world is not running on MSTRs right now is the greatest evil ever done to mankind.

  9. Dude does not seem to have a clue man. Wow.

    http://www.Total-Privacy.tk

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