This week Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg began her journey to the United States for the United Nations Climate Conference. While this young girl believes that the planet is headed for an ecological catastrophe, this type of eco-pessimism is not new.
30 years Julian Simon published his article in Science magazine: “Resources, Population, Environment: An Oversupply of False Bad News.”
Juxtapose this with The Limits to Growth and the Silent Spring, each over 40 years old, and try to really see which has turned out to be more accurate.
FromThe Limits to Growth: “Will this be the world that your grandchildren will thank you for? A world where industrial production has sunk to zero. Where population has suffered a catastrophic decline. Where the air, sea, and land are polluted beyond redemption. Where civilization is a distant memory. This is the world that the computer forecasts.”
As Simon noted, the models are just that, and they have turned out to be not that accurate. In many cases, just the opposite of what the eco-pessimists proposed.
It was Simon’s contention that eco-pessimists ignore history, misunderstand finiteness, thinks statically, has a vested interest in doom and is complacent about human innovation.
Almost everything we read about the environment now is ignoring the poor track record of eco-pessimists–this should produce some skepticism about global warming claims today.
The reality is, it’s hard to find actual data – and not models that show either unprecedented change or change is that is anywhere close to causing real harm.
Returning to Simon’s argument that “Incredible as it may seem at first, the term ‘finite’ is not only inappropriate but downright misleading in the context of natural resources…Because we find new lodes, invent better production methods and discover new substitutes, the ultimate constraint upon our capacity to enjoy unlimited raw materials at acceptable prices is knowledge.”
Simon is talking about human engineering and creativity, and in an argument that seems odd, renewable resources such as whales, pine forests, bison are the ones that tend to run out.
Humans are the only creatures that use fossil fuels. Because of this, we are not competing or stealing resources from other animals. When the energy source is hydro, wind, timber or crops, you are directly competing for resources with other creatures. The use of bio-energy, whether in the form of timber or ethanol competes with wildlife for land, or wood or food.
Simon’s argument is based on history. In the past, we relied on the biosphere (crops and wood), then we discovered that there was something under the ground that actually works better, and doesn’t rob from the surface of the planet and the creatures that inhabit it.
That is the industrial revolution.
Simon’s view is dynamic, and not static. The economy, culture, and prices cause the substitution of resources.
While it was argued several years ago that malaria would drastically increase as the world got warmer, it actually has disappeared from North America, Russia, and Europe and gone down in South America, Asia, and Africa. This downtick is not because mosquitos dislike warmer weather. This is due to people moving inside, controlling standing water, and the use of chemicals and malaria medications. Design, engineering, and creativity are the forces of change.
Human beings are dynamic, not static. We adapt, that’s what we do.
Simon was also critical of the environmental movement and the scientific community. He understood that they are competitive free markets in which there is intense competition for donations, grants, and subsidies. The so-called Green movement generates billions of dollars annually, basically by scaring people. If they said that climate change is a very slow, gentle process that takes hundreds of years to affect anything, I doubt the donations would be as generous.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s October 2018 report says that we need to cut global carbon emissions in half in ten years to have any hope of staving off a climate crisis that would existentially threaten human society. Seriously? And this is based on what?
In July, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez introduced a resolution asking Congress to declare that global warming is an emergency demanding a massive mobilization of resources to protect the U.S. economy, society and national security.
This, of course, has nothing to do with climate change. This is about the distribution of wealth, power, and enhanced government control. The IPCC report declared that preventing runaway global warming will require “far-reaching transitions in energy, land … and industrial systems” for which there is “no documented historic precedent.” Oxford University climate scientist and report author Myles Allen explained, “It’s telling us we need to … turn the world economy on a dime.” The IPCC says that to make this turn happen, there needs to be a carefully planned and democratically administered emergency program for ecological reconstruction. None of this is reconcilable with capitalism’s imperatives of profit maximization and growth, as well as private ownership of the means of production. In other words: The system must change to beat climate change.
When hearing climate change mentioned, what they really mean is a transition to socialism. People like Sanders and AOC, and 70% of the Democratic party are using fear about climate change as a means destabilize the economy and to force what they dementedly call social justice. However, they never offer any real data or historical precedents to back up their wailing.
Simon understood just how dangerous eco-pessimism is. There is an idea that the risk from increasing carbon dioxide calls for cutting emissions by 90 percent or we’re all going to die. But, cutting emissions by 90% might do more harm to the poor and the rain forest than anything the emissions themselves might do.
The idea that we can decarbonize the economy without severe ecological and economic harm, that we can shut down world trade without starving the poor, that we can grow organic crops for seven billion people without destroying the rain forest is a very dangerous proposition.
Simon understood how miserable this world still is for so many, and how much better we could make it. We need to stop being so fearful, need to keep inventing and developing new and more powerful technologies that can actually do what we need to keep getting better.
Organic tomatoes are not going to feed the world, genetically modified crops will. Wind and solar will never produce enough power, small nuclear will.
Simon believed the greenest thing we can do is innovate. The most sustainable thing we can do is change and adapt.
We need not fear the climate, only fear itself.