Not surprisingly, champions of the Paris accord are warning that U.S. withdrawal will lead to global environmental devastation. Are they correct? In answering this question, it is worthwhile looking at past predictions climate doomsayers have made, and to compare their dire warnings with what has actually happened. This article was originally published in the Jan. 4, 2016 print issue of The New American magazine.
The 1975 Newsweek article entitled “The Cooling World,” which claimed Earth’s temperature had been plunging for decades due to humanity’s activities, opens as follows:
There are ominous signs that the Earth’s weather patterns have begun to change dramatically and that these changes may portend a drastic decline in food production — with serious political implications for just about every nation on Earth. The drop in food output could begin quite soon, perhaps only 10 years from now. The regions destined to feel its impact are the great wheat-producing lands of Canada and the U.S.S.R. in the North, along with a number of marginally self-sufficient tropical areas — parts of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indochina and Indonesia — where the growing season is dependent upon the rains brought by the monsoon.
The evidence in support of these predictions has now begun to accumulate so massively that meteorologists are hard-pressed to keep up with it. In England, farmers have seen their growing season decline by about two weeks since 1950, with a resultant overall loss in grain production estimated at up to 100,000 tons annually.
The article quotes dire statistics from the National Academy of Sciences, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Center for Climatic and Environmental Assessment, Columbia University, and the University of Wisconsin at Madison to indicate how dire the global cooling was, and would be.
Experts suggested grandiose schemes to alleviate the problems, including “melting the arctic ice cap by covering it with black soot or diverting arctic rivers,” Newsweek reported. It added, “The longer the planners delay, the more difficult will they find it to cope with climatic change once the results become grim reality.” Sound familiar — except that the “climate change” alarmists were warning against global cooling?
For decades, climate alarmists have been warning that, without a United Nations-run global “climate” regime to control human activity, alleged man-made “climate change” will bring the wrath of “Mother Earth” down upon humanity.
They did it again from November 30 to December 11, 2015 at the Paris Summit on Climate Change, and warned, yet again, that it is the “last chance” to save humanity from itself. But climate alarmists have a long history of forecasting disaster — and of being wrong about everything.
In fact, stretching back decades, virtually every alarmist prediction that was testable has been proven embarrassingly wrong. What follows is just a tiny sampling of those discredited claims.
A new ice age and worldwide starvation: In the 1960s and ’70s, top mainstream media outlets, such as Newsweek above, hyped the imminent global-cooling apocalypse. Even as late as the early 1980s, prominent voices still warned of potential doomsday scenarios owing to man-made cooling, ranging from mass starvation caused by cooling-induced crop failures to another “Ice Age” that would kill most of mankind.
Among the top global-cooling theorists were Obama’s current “science czar” John Holdren and Paul Ehrlich, the author of Population Bomb, which predicted mass starvation worldwide. In the 1971 textbook Global Ecology, the duo warned that overpopulation and pollution would produce a new ice age, claiming that human activities are “said to be responsible for the present world cooling trend.” The pair fingered “jet exhausts” and “man-made changes in the reflectivity of the earth’s surface through urbanization, deforestation, and the enlargement of deserts” as potential triggers for his new ice age. They worried that the man-made cooling might produce an “outward slumping in the Antarctic ice cap” and “generate a tidal wave of proportions unprecedented in recorded history.”
Holdren predicted that a billion people would die in “carbon-dioxide induced famines” as part of a new “Ice Age” by the year 2020.
Ehrlich, a professor at Stanford University, similarly claimed in a 1971 speech at the British Institute for Biology, “By the year 2000 the United Kingdom will be simply a small group of impoverished islands, inhabited by some 70 million hungry people.” He added, “If I were a gambler, I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000 and give ten to one that the life of the average Briton would be of distinctly lower quality than it is today.”
To stave off the allegedly impending ecological disasters, the two alarmists demanded the implementation of “solutions.” In the book Ecoscience, the duo pushed a “planetary regime” to control resources, as well as forced abortions and sterilization to stop overpopulation, including drugging water and food supplies with sterilizing agents.
Countless other scientists have offered similar cooling warnings. Fortunately, the alarmists were dead wrong, and none of their “solutions” was implemented. Not only did “billions” of people not die from cooling-linked crop failures, but the globe appears to have warmed slightly since then, probably naturally, and agricultural productivity is higher than it ever has been. Now, though, the boogeyman is anthropogenic global warming, or AGW.
Global warming — temperature predictions: Perhaps nowhere has the stunning failure of climate predictions been better illustrated than in the “climate models” used by the UN. The UN climate bureaucracy, known as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), produces periodic reports on “climate science” — often dubbed the “Bible” of climatology. In its latest iteration, the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), the UN featured 73 computer models and their predictions. All of them “predicted” varying degrees of increased warming as atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) increased.
The problem is that every single model was wrong — by a lot. Not only did temperatures not rise by as much as the models predicted, they have failed to rise at all since around 1996, according to data collected by five official temperature datasets. Based just on the laws of probability, a monkey rolling the dice would have done far better at predicting future temperatures than the UN’s models. That suggests deliberate fraud is likely at work.
Dr. John Christy, professor of atmospheric science and director of the Earth System Science Center at the University of Alabama Huntsville (UAH), analyzed all 73 UN computer models. “I compared the models with observations in the key area — the tropics — where the climate models showed a real impact of greenhouse gases,” Christy told CNSNews. “I wanted to compare the real world temperatures with the models in a place where the impact would be very clear.”
Using datasets of temperatures from NASA, the U.K. Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research at the University of East Anglia, NOAA, satellites measuring atmospheric and deep oceanic temperatures, and a remote sensor system in California, he found, “All show a lack of warming over the past 17 years.” In other words, global warming has been on “pause” for almost two decades — a fact that has been acknowledged even by many of the most zealous UN climate alarmists. “All 73 models’ predictions were on average three to four times what occurred in the real world.”
No explanation for what happened to the warming — such as “the oceans ate my global warming” — has withstood scrutiny.
Almost laughably, in its latest report, the UN IPCC increased its alleged “confidence” in its theory, an action experts such as Christy could not rationalize. “I am baffled that the confidence increases when the performance of your models is conclusively failing,” he said. “I cannot understand that methodology.... It’s a very embarrassing result for the climate models used in the IPCC report.” “When 73 out of 73 [climate models] miss the point and predict temperatures that are significantly above the real world, they cannot be used as scientific tools, and definitely not for public policy decision-making,” he added.
Other warming predictions have also fallen flat. For instance, for almost two decades now, climate alarmists have been claiming that snow would soon become a thing of the past.
The end of snow: The IPCC has also hyped snowless winters. In its 2001 report, it claimed “milder winter temperatures will decrease heavy snowstorms.” Again, though, the climate refused to cooperate. The latest data from Rutgers’ Global Snow Lab showed an all-time new record high in autumn snow cover across the northern hemisphere in 2014, when more than 22 million square kilometers were covered.
And according to data from the National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center cited by meteorologist Mike Mogil, “U.S. snow cover on the morning of Dec. 1, 2015 is the highest on record for this day of the year.” In all, 38.7 percent of the United States was covered in snow, surpassing the previous record — 36.5 percent — set in 2006. Worldwide, similar trends have been observed. Global Snow Lab data also shows Eurasian autumn snow cover has grown by 50 percent since records began in 1979.
After their predictions were proven wrong, alarmists claimed global warming was actually to blame for the record cold and snow across America and beyond. Seriously. Among the “experts” making that argument was former cooling zealot Holdren, Obama’s science czar: “A growing body of evidence suggests that the kind of extreme cold being experienced by much of the United States as we speak is a pattern we can expect to see with increasing frequency, as global warming continues.”
When asked for the “growing body of evidence” behind his assertions, Holdren’s office refused to provide it, claiming the ramblings were just his “opinion” and therefore not subject to transparency and accuracy laws. Still, Holdren’s claim directly contradicts the IPCC, which in 2001 predicted “warmer winters and fewer cold spells.”
The melting ice caps: Another area where the warmists’ predictions have proven incorrect concerns the amount of ice at the Earth’s poles. They predicted a complete melting of the Arctic ice cap in summers that should have already happened, and even claimed that Antarctic ice was melting rapidly.
As far as the Antarctic is concerned, in 2007, the UN IPCC claimed the ice sheets of Antarctica “are very likely shrinking,” with Antarctica “contributing 0.2 ± 0.35 mm yr - 1 to sea level rise over the period 1993 to 2003.” The UN also claimed there was “evidence” of “accelerated loss through 2005.” In 2013, the UN doubled down on its false claim, claiming even greater sea-level rises attributed to the melting in Antarctica: “The contribution of … Antarctic ice sheets has increased since the early 1990s, partly from increased outflow induced by warming of the immediately adjacent ocean.” It also claimed Antarctica’s “contribution to sea level rise likely increased from 0.08 [ - 0.10 to 0.27] mm yr - 1 for 1992 - 2001 to .40 [0.20 to 0.61] mm yr - 1 for 2002 - 2011.” The reality was exactly the opposite.
In a statement released in October, NASA dropped the equivalent of a nuclear bomb on the UN’s climate-alarmism machine, noting that ice across Antarctica has been growing rapidly for decades.
NASA said only that its new study on Antarctic ice “challenges” the conclusions of the IPCC. In fact, the UN could not have been more wrong. Rather than melting ice in the southern hemisphere contributing to sea-level rise, as claimed by the UN, ice in Antarctica is expanding, and the growing ice is responsible for reducing sea levels by about 0.23 millimeters annually. According to the NASA study, published in the Journal of Glaciology, satellite data shows the Antarctic ice sheet featured a net gain of 112 billion tons of ice a year from 1992 to 2001 — more than a trillion tons of ice in less than a decade. Between 2003 and 2008, Antarctica gained some 82 billion tons of ice annually.
The UN’s inaccurate Antarctic claims were illustrated most comically, perhaps, when a ship full of alarmists seeking to study “global warming” was trapped in record Antarctic sea ice in the summer of 2013 and had to be rescued by ships burning massive amounts of fossil fuels.
In the northern hemisphere, alarmists have fared no better. In 2007, 2008, and 2009, Al Gore, a man who has made a fortune pushing warmist ideology, publicly warned that the North Pole would be “ice-free” in the summer by around 2013 due to AGW. “The North Polar ice cap is falling off a cliff,” Gore said in 2007. “It could be completely gone in summer in as little as seven years. Seven years from now.” Speaking to an audience in Germany six years ago, Gore alleged that “the entire North Polarized [sic] cap will disappear in five years.” “Five years,” Gore emphasized, is “the period of time during which it is now expected to disappear.”
Contrary to Gore’s predictions, satellite data showed that Arctic ice volume in summer of 2013 had actually expanded more than 50 percent over 2012 levels. In fact, during October 2013, sea-ice levels grew at the fastest pace since records began in 1979. In 2014, the Arctic ice cap, apparently oblivious to Gore’s hot air, continued its phenomenal rebound, leaving alarmists struggling for explanations.
Data from the taxpayer-funded National Snow and Ice Data Center’s “Multisensor Analyzed Sea Ice Extent” (MASIE) also show Arctic ice steadily growing over the last decade, with a few minor fluctuations in the trend. Despite alarmist claims, polar bear populations are thriving there, too.
Gore, though, was hardly alone. Citing “climate experts,” the tax-funded BBC also ran an article on December 12, 2007, under the headline “Arctic summers ice-free ‘by 2013.’” That piece, which was still online as of December 2015, highlighted alleged “modeling studies” that supposedly “indicate northern polar waters could be ice-free in summers within just 5-6 years.” Some of the “experts” even claimed it could happen before then, citing calculations performed by “super computers” that the BBC noted have “become a standard part of climate science in recent years.”
Increased storms, drought, and sea-level rise: The ice sheets have not cooperated with warmists, and neither have other weather-related phenomena, such as mass migrations owing to sea-level rise.
On June 30, 1989, the Associated Press ran an article headlined: “UN Official Predicts Disaster, Says Greenhouse Effect Could Wipe Some Nations Off Map.” In the piece, the director of the UN Environment Programme’s (UNEP) New York office was quoted as claiming that “entire nations could be wiped off the face of the earth by rising sea levels if global warming is not reversed by the year 2000.” He also predicted “coastal flooding and crop failures” that “would create an exodus of ‘eco-refugees,’ threatening political chaos.” Of course, 2000 came and went, and none of those things actually happened. But that didn’t stop the warnings.
In 2005, the UNEP warned that imminent sea-level rises, increased hurricanes, and desertification caused by AGW would lead to massive population disruptions. In a handy map, the organization highlighted areas that were supposed to be producing the most “climate refugees.” Especially at risk were regions such as the Caribbean and low-lying Pacific islands, along with coastal areas. The 2005 UNEP predictions claimed that, by 2010, some 50 million “climate refugees” would be fleeing those areas. However, not only did the areas in question fail to produce a single “climate refugee,” by 2010, population levels for those regions were still soaring. In many cases, the areas that were supposed to be producing waves of “climate refugees” and becoming uninhabitable turned out to be some of the fastest-growing places on Earth.
Even the low-lying Pacific islands scare appears to have flopped. Supposedly on the “front lines” of AGW-caused sea-level rise, the Pacific atoll island nations don’t face imminent submersion and have experienced the opposite of what was predicted. Consider a paper published in March of 2015 in the journal Geology. According to the study, the Funafuti Atoll has experienced among “the highest rates of sea-level rise” in the world over the past six decades. Yet, rather than sinking under the waves, the islands are growing. “No islands have been lost, the majority have enlarged, and there has been a 7.3% increase in net island area over the past century,” the paper says.
Then there are the claims about drought. Some UN alarmists have even predicted that Americans would become “climate refugees,” using imagery that may be familiar to those who suffered through the infamous (and natural) “Dust Bowl” drought of the 1930s. Prominent Princeton professor and lead UN IPCC author Michael Oppenheimer, for instance, made some dramatic predictions in 1990. By 1995, he said, the “greenhouse effect” would be “desolating the heartlands of North America and Eurasia with horrific drought, causing crop failures and food riots.” By 1996, he added, 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.” The situation would get so bad that “Mexican police will round up illegal American migrants surging into Mexico seeking work as field hands.”
When confronted on his predictions, Oppenheimer, who also served as Gore’s advisor, refused to apologize. “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 claimed. “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.”
Unfortunately for Oppenheimer, even his fellow alarmists debunked that claim in a 2012 study for Nature, pointing out that there has been “little change in global drought over the past 60 years.”
Countless other claims of AGW doom affecting humans have also been debunked. Wildfires produced by AGW, for instance, were supposed to be raging around the world. Yet, as Forbesmagazine pointed out recently, the number of wildfires has plummeted 15 percent since 1950, and according the National Academy of Sciences, that trend is likely to continue for decades. On hurricanes and tornadoes, which alarmists assured were going to get more extreme and more frequent, it probably would have been hard for “experts” to be more wrong. “When the 2014 hurricane season starts it will have been 3,142 days since the last Category 3+ storm made landfall in the U.S., shattering the record for the longest stretch between U.S. intense hurricanes since 1900,” noted professor of environmental studies Roger Pielke, Jr. at the University of Colorado. On January 8, 2015, meanwhile, the Weather Channel reported: “In the last three years, there have never been fewer tornadoes in the United States since record-keeping began in 1950.”
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This article only features a tiny sampling of the outlandishly inaccurate predictions made by climate alarmists over the decades. In fact, it is difficult to find any falsifiable alarmist predictions that have come to pass. Generally speaking, the opposite of what was predicted has been observed. In short, there is absolutely no reason to believe today’s alarmist claims of AGW, and even if a handful were to eventually prove correct, destroying the economy under the guise of saving the climate would make adapting to such changes infinitely more difficult.