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Halloween Hangover: Ehrlich, Holdren, Hansen Unretracted

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Robert Bradley Jr.

“If I were a gambler, I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000.”

– Paul Ehrlich, quoted in Julian Simon, The Ultimate Resource 2, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996), p. 35.

“As University of California physicist John Holdren has said, it is possible that carbon-dioxide climate-induced famines could kill as many as a billion people before the year 2020.”

–  Paul Ehrlich, The Machinery of Nature, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1986, p. 274.

In the name of science, Paul Ehrlich, John Holdren, and James Hansen (et al.) have made doom-and-gloom predictions about business-as-usual in an attempt to shock humanity into immediate legislative action and lifestyle changes.

It did not work. The elapsed predictions have failed to come to pass. Little wonder that new installments of climate alarmism, such as Juliet Eilperin’s ”25% of Wild Mammal Species Face Extinction: Global Assessment Paints ‘Bleak Picture,’ Scientists Say, and Figure of Those at Risk Could Be Higher” in the Washington Post (October 7), don’t register with voters.

Worsening their predicament, the perpetrators will not renounce their specious predictions. They remain the smartest guys in the room–versus all of us commoners, we the hundreds of millions of market-failure-ites.

Here are the Big Three: 1) the dean of modern alarmism, Paul Ehrlich; 2) Al Gore’s influential climate scientist James Hansen; and 3) Obama’s “dream ‘green’ team” member John Holdren.

Let’s start with Dr. Holdren.

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Holdren’s Billion Deaths

It was Ehrlich who outed his protege on what is perhaps the most outlandish prediction of forthcoming doom of all: one billion potential deaths by 2020. That is about ten years and one in seven of us. Are you scared?

At his confirmation hearings as Obama’s science advisor, Holdren did not disown this prediction–in fact he defended it three times.

Background: Paul Ehrlich fathered the neo-Malthusian movement with his 1968 bestseller, The Population Bomb, and John Holdren was an instant convert. In 1971, mentor-and-disciple wrote:

“We are not, of course, optimistic about our chances of success. Some form of ecocatastrophe, if not thermonuclear war, seems almost certain to overtake us before the end of the century. (The inability to forecast exactly which one – whether plague, famine, the poisoning of the oceans, drastic climatic change, or some disaster entirely unforeseen – is hardly grounds for complacency.)”

–  John Holdren and Paul Ehrlich, ‘What We Must Do, and the Cost of Failure’, in Holdren and Ehrlich, Global Ecology, p. 279

And Dr. Doom senior and junior have been at it ever since, as chronicled in a series of posts at MasterResource.

James Hansen: Six Years to Too Late

In the face of believed-to-be certain doom, NASA scientist James Hansen said in mid-2006:

“We have at most ten years—not ten years to decide upon action, but ten years to alter fundamentally the trajectory of global greenhouse emissions.”

– James Hansen, “The Threat to the Planet,” New York Review of Books, July 13, 2006.

It is known that a fundamental shift away from fossil fuels is not going to happen domestically on internationally. So can we give up the futile climate crusade, Dr. Hansen, based on your belief? Can we replace mitigation with adaptation and think about unleashing that incredible bread machine called Capitalism to best address real and imagined challenges to come?

A North Carolina Left environmental group, NC WARN, embraces Hansen’s prediction in end-of-the-world terms:

NASA’s James Hansen and the head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, R.K. Pachauri, warn that global emissions must start downward by 2015 or the climate crisis will move beyond humanity’s control.

Such inspired Ken Green to note: “Desperation is setting in among climate alarmists who by their own math can see that the window is rapidly closing on ’saving the planet’.” Again, with the window closing, can we ‘get real’ and try freedom over statism?

Paul Ehrlich: The World Ended Yesterday (oops!)

Where does one begin with Paul Ehrlich, the arch enemy and intellectual loser to the late Julian Simon? MasterResource has extensively examined Ehrlich’s oeuvre , but here are just two of the more outlandish of his predictions.

“The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s the world will undergo famines–hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now.”

– Paul Ehrlich, The Population Bomb, (New York: Ballentine Books, 1968),  p. 13.

“We can be reasonably sure . . . that within the next quarter of a century [by 2000] mankind will be looking elsewhere than in oil wells for its main source of energy.”

– Paul Ehrlich and Anne Ehrlich, The End of Affluence (Rivercity, Mass.: Rivercity Press, 1974, 1975), p. 49.

And then there was Ehrlich’s prediction from 1970 that Julian Simon jumped all over to get Sir Paul to enter into his ill-fated bet on the future of mineral resource prices as a measure of scarcity: “If I were a gambler, I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000″ (cited above).


So Halloween is every day with the fear mongers. But the sunshine of reality intervenes time and again to demonstrate that Julian Simon is right and the neo-Malthusians wrong. Big Government know-it-all’s–the coercionists–rant and rave even today about how the public ignores the forewarned peril. But humility and mid-course corrections are called for. Only then will the Howlin’ Wolfs (with apologies to Chester Burnett) receive the respect that they long for.

Appendix: Daniel Greenberg’s Halloweenish Encounter with Paul Ehrlich, et al. as told by Roger Pielke Jr.

Daniel Greenberg Meets the Climate Scientists

Daniel Greenberg, the widely respected journalist and author who focuses on science policy and politics, was invited by Nature to review my book, The Climate Fix.  Little did he know that review would bring him up close and personal with the activist wing of the climate science community.  After writing a positive review of my book, Greenberg found himself under attack by Michael Mann, Paul Ehrlich and Stefan Rahmstorf on the pages on Nature.
What followed was an email exchange that provides some insight into the mindset of the activist wing of the climate science community.  Greenberg shared this exchange with me with the following message, published here with his permission:

Roger, Re my stirring experience of jousting with Mann, Ehrlich, and Rahmstorf: What a scurrilous bunch. My sympathy to you and anyone else who has to deal with them. They’re gravediggers of science. Nature will soon publish my riposte and, I think, a disclaimer of any ties to me by the Marshall Institute. Below, my further exchanges with the low-life trio. Best regards, Dan

Here is Greenberg’s email to Michael Mann that concludes the exchange, reproduced with his permission:

Dear Professors Mann, Ehrlich, and Rahmstorf,

Your correspondence concerning my review of Roger Pielke’s book “Climate Fix” has provided me with a deeper understanding of the widespread public skepticism toward climate science. In your hands, apple pie and motherhood would come under public suspicion. Have you considered taking a remedial reading course? Can you comprehend the difference between a book reviewer’s own beliefs and the reviewer’s presentation of the beliefs expressed by the author of the book under review? Apparently not. Furthermore, your insinuation of an undisclosed relationship between me and a conservative think tank is preposterous. In 2006, I participated in a panel discussion sponsored by the Marshall Institute—as I have done with numerous other organizations, including the Brookings Institution, RAND, AAAS, and various academic societies and universities. Common practice for journalists. Nor did I, as you allege, write a report, or anything, for the Marshall Institute. The panel’s words were transcribed and published by the Institute. I wrote nothing for them. You guys are the devil’s gift to the Tea Party and other climate-change wackos.

Sincerely, Dan Greenberg

If Michael Mann thinks that he has been treated unfairly by my decision not to publish his side of the exchange, I will be happy to post up his emails with his permission.  Somehow I doubt that he will be as forthcoming as Greenberg.  The repeated character assassination and behind-the-scenes attacks of a small segment of the climate science community gives the entire field a black eye, and it continues unabated.  Greenberg is right, these guys could make apple pie and motherhood come under public suspicion.

This article was posted: Wednesday, November 3, 2010 at 4:52 am

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