The moving targets of the climate change movement

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Given that President Biden and many of his prominent supporters are constantly stirring up alarm about what they describe as “the existential threat of climate change,” it is perhaps useful to consider some snapshots that reveal the history of this apparently imperishable menace. 

The New York Times reported in 1969 the extinction of human life within 20 years, “unless we are extremely lucky.” In 1970, James P. Lodge, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, predicted a new ice age by 2000, a prognosis that was confirmed by S. I. Rasool at NASA the following year. In 1972, Brown University warned then-President Nixon in an open letter about the mortal peril of global cooling, and this was confirmed by The Guardian in 1974, citing the evidence of space satellites. 

In the same year, Time Magazine reported that global temperatures had declined 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit in the previous 35 years, an allegation that has not been sustained by subsequent evidence or analysis. (To the limited extent it can be measured, it has risen 1 centigrade degree since 1880.) Two scientists reported in 1974 on the “great peril to life” posed by ozone depletion, and the New York Times in 1976 returned to the deadly theme of cooling, citing climatologist Stephen Schneider of the University of Wisconsin.

The doomsayers were certainly not confined to the United States. In 1988, Agence France Presse declared that the Maldive Islands would be completely underwater by 2018. The level of the Indian Ocean where the Maldives are has not changed appreciably in the intervening years. In 1989, the United Nations declared the rising seas will “obliterate nations” by 2000. Also in 1989, Jim Hansen, the prominent scientist who had lectured Congress the year before on the deadly consequences of the greenhouse effect, reportedly predicted that New York City’s West Side Highway would be underwater by 2019.

In the subsequent decade, a bifurcation developed between the terrors of the freeze and the furnace. The London Independent declared, “Snowfalls are a thing of the past. Our children will not know what snow is.” But four years later The Guardian declared that the Pentagon had advised former President Bush that “in 20 years, Britain will be Siberian.” However, in 2008 Hansen told The Associated Press: “We’re toast. In five to 10 years, the Arctic will be ice-free.” The same year, Al Gore made the same prediction but confined it to five years — an ice-free Arctic by 2013. The following year, Britain’s Prince Charles declared that there were just eight years remaining “to save the world. The price of capitalism is too high.” (He has never had to bear any of that price.) This was too complacent for then-British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who said in 2009: “We have fewer than 50 days to save our planet from catastrophe.”

In 2013, The Guardian, Britain’s most inflexibly leftist national media outlet, not only predicted the disappearance of Arctic ice within two years but helpfully provided the explanation: “The release of a 50 gigaton of methane pulse,” an event so olfactorily intimidating that it constitutes an authentic horror story. The following year, then-French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, after a meeting with America’s very own John Kerry, now resurrected by President Biden as his climate chief, declared: “We have 500 days to avoid climate chaos.” Approximately 2,500 days have passed since then, and Kerry has extended his own warning to nine years until unspecified climatic rampages finally bring this tantalizing drama to an end with the destruction of all life.

Last month, Glacier National Park in Montana said it would be changing signs posted more than a decade earlier that warned that its glaciers would disappear by 2020. The signs were based on “the best available predictions at the time.”

Two years ago, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said, “The world will end in 12 years,” comparing the impending doom to her generation’s World War II, and lashing out at her critics: “And your biggest issue is how are we going to pay for it?” Last month, renowned climatologist and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) declared, “It’s long past time for the Senate to take a leading role in combating the existential threat of our time: climate.”

The chilling and burning question is why any of this nonsense receives any attention at all. The answer is another one of these contemporary ramshackle alliances such as the Democratic Party itself — in this case between old Marxists attacking capitalism from another and more pristine angle than communist dogmatism, and legions of faddists and poseurs making an emotional gesture toward the splendor of nature and the banality of grubby capitalism (however enthusiastically they may wallow in it personally), and the old and amiable legions of birdwatchers, butterfly collectors, guardians of duck wetlands, and other authentic ecological concerns.

Of course, we must see to the environment and strike the right balance between preventing pollution and inflicting exorbitant economic damage on ourselves. This can be done by rational analysis, but only governments can govern and they cannot govern competently by allowing themselves to be blown this way and that like a sailing punt before the hurricane of pseudo-ecological hot and cold air.  

Conrad Black is an essayist, former newspaper publisher, and author of ten books, including three on Presidents Franklin Roosevelt, Richard Nixon and Donald Trump. Follow him on Twitter @ConradMBlack.

Tags Al Gore Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Chuck Schumer Climate change climate change deniers Donald Trump Global cooling Joe Biden John Kerry

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