Let's Review 50 Years of Dire Climate Forecasts and What Actually Happened

Mish

Here are 21 headlines from various news sources regarding dire climate predictions over the last 50 years. Many of the predictions are outrageously funny.

Climate Forecast Headline Predictions

  1. 1967 Salt Lake Tribune: Dire Famine Forecast by 1975, Already Too Late
  2. 1969 NYT: "Unless we are extremely lucky, everyone will disappear in a cloud of blue steam in 20 years. The situation will get worse unless we change our behavior."
  3. 1970 Boston Globe: Scientist Predicts New Ice Age by 21st Century said James P. Lodge, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. 
  4. 1971 Washington Post: Disastrous New Ice Age Coming says S.I. Rasool at NASA. 
  5. 1972 Brown University Letter to President Nixon: Warning on Global Cooling 
  6. 1974 The Guardian: Space Satellites Show Ice Age Coming Fast
  7. 1974 Time Magazine: Another Ice Age "Telling signs everywhere.  Since the 1940s mean global temperatures have dropped 2.7 degrees F."
  8. 1974 "Ozone Depletion a Great Peril to Life" University of Michigan Scientist
  9. 1976 NYT The Cooling: University of Wisconsin climatologist Stephen Schneider laments about the "deaf ear his warnings received."
  10. 1988 Agence France Press: Maldives will be Completely Under Water in 30 Years. 
  11. 1989 Associated Press: UN Official Says Rising Seas to 'Obliterate Nations' by 2000.
  12. 1989 Salon: New York City’s West Side Highway underwater by 2019 said Jim Hansen the scientist who lectured Congress in 1988 about the greenhouse effect.
  13. 2000 The Independent: "Snowfalls are a thing of the past. Our children will not know what snow is," says senior climate researcher.
  14. 2004 The Guardian:  The Pentagon Tells Bush Climate Change Will Destroy Us. "Britain will be Siberian in less than 20 years," the Pentagon told Bush.
  15. 2008 Associate Press: NASA Scientist says "We're Toast. In 5-10 years the Arctic will be Ice Free"
  16. 2008 Al Gore: Al Gore warns of ice-free Arctic by 2013.
  17. 2009 The Independent: Prince Charles says Just 96 Months to Save the World. "The price of capitalism is too high."
  18. 2009 The Independent: Gordon Brown says "We have fewer than 50 days  to save our planet from catastrophe."
  19.  2013 The Guardian: The Arctic will be Ice Free in Two Years. "The release of a 50 gigaton of methane pulse" will destabilize the planet.
  20. 2013 The Guardian: US Navy Predicts Ice Free Arctic by 2016. "The US Navy's department of Oceanography uses complex modeling to makes its forecast more accurate than others.
  21. 2014 John Kerry: "We have 500 days to Avoid Climate Chaos" discussed Sec of State John Kerry and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabious at a joint meeting.

The above items are thanks to 50 Years of Failed Eco-pocalyptic Predictions.

The article has actual news clips and links to everyone of the above stories.

What Happened to the Glaciers?

On January 17, 2020 Montana Public Radio reported Scientists Predicted Glacier Park's Glaciers Would Be Gone By Now. What Happened?

Last week, Glacier National Park announced that it will be changing signs warning that its signature glaciers would disappear by 2020. The park says the signs, put in more than a decade ago, were based on the best available predictions at the time.

In terms of the predictions, the latest that I've seen actually comes from a group of Swiss researchers. So I would have to look at their results in more detail than is possible from looking at the paper they published to be able to say definitively when all the glaciers are are hosed and no longer present, but certainly by 2100.

New Predictions and Stories 

Ocasio-Cortez called the fight to mitigate the effects of climate change her generation's "World War II." 

"Millennials and Gen Z and all these folks that come after us are looking up, and we're like, 'The world is going to end in 12 years if we don't address climate change, and your biggest issue is how are we gonna pay for it?' " she said.

OAC then blasted the GOP for taking her doomsday prediction literally. 

We have had 50 years of this kind of BS and yes, many people do take it literally.

On February 7 2020, she unleashed her Stunningly Absurd "New Green Deal" that suggests she was serious.

  1. Upgrade all existing buildings in the US
  2. 100% clean power
  3. Support family farms
  4. Universal access to healthy food
  5. Zero-emission vehicle infrastructure
  6. Remove greenhouse gasses form the atmosphere
  7. Eliminate unfair competition
  8. Affordable access to electricity
  9. Create high-quality union jobs that pay prevailing wages
  10. Guaranteeing a job with a family sustaining wage, adequate family and medical leave, paid vacations, and retirement security to all people of the United States

More $90 Trillion Solutions

In 2015, Business Insider noted A Plan Is Floating Around Davos To Spend $90 Trillion Redesigning All The Cities So They Don't Need Cars

The $90 trillion proposal came from former US vice president Al Gore, former president of Mexico Felipe Calderon, and their colleagues on The Global Commission on the Economy and Climate. 

Where is the CO2 Coming From?

Annual CO2 Emissions2

CO2 Stats

  • Please note that the US reduced its carbon footprint from 6.13 billion tons in 2007 to 5.28 billion tons in 2019.
  • Meanwhile, China increased its footprint from 6.86 billion tons in 2019 to 10.17 billion tons in 2019.
  • In the same timeframe, global output rose from 31.29 billion tons to 36.44 billion tons.
  • In 2007, the US accounted for 19.6% of the total global carbon footprint.
  • In 2019, the US accounted for only 14.5% of the total global footprint.

Key Questions

  1. How much money are we willing to spend to reduce our 14.5% and falling percentage of carbon emissions?
  2. What would it cost to cut that by half in 10 years?
  3. Assuming we could cut that in half in 10 years, what would it do to total carbon output?
  4. By what force do we get China, India, and all the developing economies in the Mideast and Africa to reduce their carbon output?
  5. Assuming we achieve number 4 peacefully by some sort of economic buyout like cap-and-trade what is the cost to the US?
  6. What about inflation?
  7. Sure, China is producing goods for the US and EU but do we want that to stop? When? Why? How? Cost?
  8. Does not China, India, Africa, etc., have the right to improve their standards of living?
  9. What do the above points imply about the US standard of living?
  10. How the hell do we pay for this?

Looking ahead over the next 100 years, the US is a minor part of the carbon problem.

Bonus Geopolitical Q&A

Q: What happened when Merkel went along with the Greens and did away with nuclear?
A: Germany imports more coal-based energy from neighboring states and is more dependent on Russia for natural gas.

Q: Is wind and solar ever going to make a serious dent in China's growing energy demands.
A: No

Q: What happened in France when Macron pushed through a gas tax to support the Green movement?
A: How quick we forget the Yellow-Vest Revolt that went on for months.

I have yet see AOC, John Kerry, any Mish reader, or anyone else address any of the above questions in detail.

Final Questions to All Those Demanding Government Do Something

What the hell are you doing?

The #1 thing someone can proactively do eliminate their carbon footprint is to stop breathing.

Since that seems a bit impractical, the #2 thing someone can do is not have kids.

Instead, most demand the government do something. What?

Until someone can put a realistic price on this while addressing my questions, forgive me for not agreeing that a total rise in the ocean of 3 inches in the last 20 years is the existential threat of our time.

Politicians Will Not Solve the Problem

Clean Energy

I am a big fan of natural gas and believe it is clean energy. The byproduct of burning natural gas is carbon dioxide and water.

Neither is a pollutant in any way shape or form. Plants even need carbon dioxide to survive.

Coal is another matter.

Burning coal releases SO2 and NOx pollutants that cause Acid Rain, huge respiratory problems and will devastate forests.

If the atmosphere is polluted with sulfur dioxide (SO2) or nitrogen oxides (NOx), rain becomes oxidized by ozone (O3) or hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) to form H2SO4 or HNO3 before falling to the ground. They are known respectively as sulfuric and nitric acid.

Acid rain will dissolve panty hose on the spot.

There is a huge difference between burning coal and burning natural gas.

Anti-Coal, Pro-Natural Gas

For environmental reasons, I am anti-coal but very much in favor of Natural Gas. And that has been my position forever. 

I am totally fine with eliminating coal for environmental reasons but to expect China to be 100% wind and solar is nonsense. 

There is no reason for Germany to abandon nuclear power and the results have been anything but green.

Libertarian Philosophy

Many of my readers blame me and Libertarians in general. They understand neither.

As noted above I am anti-coal. Why? It pollutes with SO2 and NOx causing acid, respiratory illnesses, and it kills fish.  

I have seen too many environmental cleanups. I have never commented on this before but my degree at the University of Illinois was in Environmental Engineering.

I have bashed China's air and water pollution consistently for decades. I have bashed Germany's diesel industry consistently too. 

Doing nothing about actual poison and doing nothing about CO2 are two very different things. 

There is nothing Libertarian about letting companies pollute then walk away in bankruptcy. 

One clever reader researched my coal and water pollution stance and noted I said the same things in 2006. Indeed I did. 

My position has been consistent.

Don't Accept 100% of the Climate Change Story and You Get Labeled a Racist

There we numerous global cooling warnings in the 60s and 70s and that is what we were taught in school. I did not believe the hype then, and I do not believe the hype now.

Point any of this out and guess what happens: You Get Labeled a Racist, as I did.

I am grateful that 50 years of sensational headline now look laughable, but they keep coming and coming.

Why should anyone take these models seriously? 

No Wonder People Don't Believe the Hype

How many times did we hear the arctic ice would all be gone by now? That Miami if not all of Florida would be underwater? 

Flashback 2010: The glaciers will all disappear by 2020. Now the best estimate is another 80 years. 

Flashback 1989: UN Official Says Rising Seas to 'Obliterate Nations' by 2000. What a hoot.

Flashback 2009: Gordon Brown UK Chancellor of the Exchequer says "We have fewer than 50 days to save our planet from catastrophe." Hmm. Have 50 days passed? 

Flashback 1969: "Everyone will disappear in a cloud of blue steam in 20 years. The situation will get worse unless we change our behavior."

That's my favorite.

A Word About Predictions and Urgency

Believe in man-made climate change all you want. There is some truth to it although the models have not been remotely accurate to say the least.

After 50 years of nonsense hype, it's no wonder anyone with a modicum of common sense is more than a bit skeptical of these dire predictions and the alleged urgency to do something immediately about them.

If after all these now laughable headlines, you still have faith in the predictions, why? 

And if you don't believe the predictions, then do you still want to spend $90 trillion to solve the alleged problem?

Mish

Comments (204)
No. 1-45
oee
oee

you are cherry picking as always. However, the trend is a friend for the climate scientists. Shell Oil Corporation scientists predicted the range of temperatures for the decade for 2010's in the 1970's. the hottest decade that has been measured was the last one. the warmest in recorded history.
the scientists have been largely correct.

AJJ
AJJ

https://www.climate.gov/news-features/understanding-climate/climate-change-global-sea-level#:~:text=Global%20mean%20sea%20level%20has,two%20and%20a%20half%20decades.

My simple question...based on the data, sea level was already rising before the introduction of the Model T...so, what makes you think that it will stop rising if we end all use of ICE's? How much are you willing to sacrifice to try the experiment?

Anon1970
Anon1970

In November 1980, Congressman Al Ullman, head of the House Ways and Means Committee, lost his job merely for proposing a national value added tax. No, I don't want to spend $90 trillion on AOC's Green New Deal.

Frilton Miedman
Frilton Miedman

Not entirely sure why it's so important to relitigate the topic, consensus has it global warming is real.

That aside, there is debate as to whether, or how much, CO has to do with it.

Who cares?

To me, the decider is price of energy and jobs (here vs Saudi Arabia), wind turbines are cheaper than NG, solar technology is advancing rapidly, home with solar roofs are reaping cost benefits.

For the countless billions oil companies spent over the decades to lobby and fund campaigns, the untold trillions we've spent on wars in the mid east to control oil - it baffles me why splitting hairs or parsing the issue is an imperative.

I'm sick of our oil dependence, screw the climate debate.

I don't think anyone's debating global warming is real, just the extent, so if the worrying Liberals are incentivized to promote technology that yields us cheaper energy, hell yeah, why not.

Sechel
Sechel

Is climate science the only science you disagree with or are the scientific method? I'm simply not persuaded by the "no it isn't" logic. But it was a great Monty Python skit.

amigator
amigator

Good Stuff. At one time there were swamps in New Mexico... There have been no swamps way before man burnt his first bit of coal. The climate is always changing.

This is a big Tax package the politicians can smell it and it's perfect the climate is always changing so will the Taxes.

goldguy
goldguy

Mish, great post, one of your best.

CEOoftheSOFA
CEOoftheSOFA

We actually are entering another ice age. The warm, interglacial periods last for 11,500 years and, of course, it's now 11,500 years since the last ice age ended, give or take a few centuries. The Arctic is currently at the same temperature that it was at for the start of the last ice age. The current average water vapor content of the atmosphere isn't yet high enough yet to start an ice sheet. The only thing we will notice for the next several centuries is an increase in rain. In several thousand years, Georgia will have the current climate of Ohio, and New York City could be under a mile of ice like it was during the last ice age.

Anda
Anda

Suprisingly peaceful considering in 1935 population was around 2bn... makes you wonder what happens if people lose it at some point in the future though :(

yanee
yanee

The ozone thing... we figured it out and fixed it. Well, mostly.

CO2 also kills fish by dissolving into the ocean, becoming carbonic acid and bleaching corals. Lower level organisms need corals to survive, they die, then the next rung of the food chain dies... then the next... etc.

You're making decent points, there is lots of hype but the actual data says things aren't going great. I suggest looking into CO2's effects on the ocean and the general ecosystem. Your article is mostly claiming pundits are liars and politicians are corrupt. I 100% agree.

CJWLKR
CJWLKR

I think NNTaleb has the correct perspective here:

Realist
Realist

Wow Mish. You can't let this go. You are in a hole, and you just keep digging. You do realize that you are not quoting scientific papers right? You are referencing stories by reporters, who sensationalized and misinterpreted actual scientific reports in order to write an interesting story. That's not science. As always, I am happy to discuss the science with you. I will repeat what I recently posted in your earlier post on global warming.

Hi Mish. I would be happy to discuss this topic with you. I keep offering. You keep ignoring my offers. Why? I won’t call you a racist.

My only goal is to discuss the science, as I keep repeating. I am not here to talk about AOC, Biden, Kerry, the green deal etc. Just the science.

I am not advocating for anything, other than understanding the science. Once you understand the science, you are free to do whatever you want with that knowledge.

I will start here. Feel free to respond.

The sun is the key energy source in our solar system. It provides enough energy to warm our planet to around -18C.

Given the amount of energy the sun provides, our planet should be a much colder place. Thank goodness it isn't that cold. Fortunately, our planet also has a thin atmosphere around it that can trap and distribute some of the energy received from the sun. Because of that atmosphere, our planet currently has an average surface temperature of 15C. How much energy our atmosphere traps depends on several factors, but primarily greenhouse gasses, such as CO2. Scientists can see from the geologic records over many millions of years, that higher levels of CO2 are associated with warmer global temperatures, and lower levels of CO2 are associated with colder global temperatures.

For example, 500 million years ago, there was almost no CO2 in the atmosphere, and the earth was completely frozen over. This period is referred to as snowball earth. So, we certainly don’t want to get rid of all the CO2.

And 55 million years ago, CO2 levels were 1700 ppm and our planet was a hothouse. There was no ice anywhere, turtles and palm trees at the north pole, and the equator regions were too hot for most life. Sea levels were 200m higher. Florida was under water, as were all other current coastal regions. We don’t want CO2 levels to get that high again.

Fortunately, we are in a relatively sweet spot for CO2 and temperature right now.
So why are scientists sounding an alarm about global warming?

Because the current trend is one of increasing CO2 levels and increasing temperatures. It is easy to dismiss these increases, because they don’t seem very significant. One hundred years ago, CO2 levels were around 280 ppm and the average global temperature was about 14C. Today CO2 levels are around 415 ppm and the average global temperature is 15C. Which doesn’t seem like much, does it?

After all, there have been far greater changes in CO2 and temperature in the past, right?

So, what’s the big deal? Well, it’s all about the rate of change. When CO2 and temperature levels change naturally, it happens over tens of thousands (or more) years. The geologic record shows that temperatures often change as much as 1C every 10000 years. That pace of change allows nature to adapt to the changes. In fact, prior to the last few hundred years, our planet had cooled about 1C in the previous 10000 years.

But in the last 100 years, mankind has overwhelmed the planet’s natural cycles, by pumping lots of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, including CO2. As a result, we have warmed the planet by 1C in 100 years. The problem with this increase, is that it is happening too fast for the planet to adjust. One example: The rate of species extinctions is now happening at 10000 times the natural rate. I will not list any more issues, because I am sure you are tired of hearing them.

The next problem that scientists are trying to warn us about, is the length of time these greenhouse gasses stay in the atmosphere before they filter out. For CO2 (the main culprit) it can take several decades and up to two centuries for most of it to filter out. Which means that we won’t be reversing any of the problems that are currently happening anytime soon. The problems we are already seeing today, will be with us for a long time, even if we could magically stop all emissions today and in the future. The only way to reduce the next several decades of consequences is to find a cost-effective way to remove greenhouse gasses ourselves.

The next warning is that we are making the problem worse every day, as we continue to emit more greenhouse gasses.

But it gets worse. Our planet has incredible stores of carbon dioxide and methane, currently locked in permafrost and other areas. As we continue to warm our planet, we are beginning to release these stores. The worry is that once these stores begin adding to the levels of greenhouse gases, they will accelerate the warming much faster, which will begin a feedback loop where every year the extra warmth causes the release of more trapped carbon, which causes more warmth, which causes more release etc. This is one of the 3 big tipping points scientists often talk about. Releasing this stored carbon would dwarf what mankind has done so far. This could lead to runaway, unstoppable global warming in this century. However, by the time we figure out whether we have crossed that tipping point, it will already be too late.

I am not here to tell anyone to stop emitting greenhouse gasses. I’m not telling you to stop driving, or stop heating your house, or cooking your food, or to stop breathing. And I’m not going to call you a racist because you don’t understand the science. But I would be happy to keep explaining the science, should you wish to discuss it, because I want to help people understand the science.

Up to this point, humanity has done very little about this problem. I suspect that we will continue to do very little.

As a result, the costs of global warming will continue to increase every year. Much of the cost will be financial. It is going to cost us a lot of money to do nothing. It is going to hurt the economy severely. At some point, the financial costs are going to overwhelm us.

But the biggest cost will be human. There is already a lot of suffering and death, and it is only going to get worse every year.

Okay Mish. That’s a beginning. Feel free to explain the science to me. Tell me what I have wrong. There is so much we can discuss. It’s a big topic.

One-armed Economist
One-armed Economist

For the VAST MAJORITY it's maybe 30 yr's. "50" is a false choice.
'course I'm sure you can call an earth evolutionary change more precisely.

Realist
Realist

You're welcome. My goal is simple. To help people learn the science. What they do with the knowledge is up to them.

The part that bothers me is the level of resistance that many have to understanding the science. It's because their political beliefs prevent them from looking at reality. They are all drinking their particular political cult kool-aid. It's why I am apolitical.

Mish
Mish

Editor

OK - for the sake of argument let's say I accept 100% of what you say. I said similar things in my post.

So now what?

What the flying F do we do about it that makes much of any sense given that I am already to give up coal.

35 Replies

Realist
Realist

Sorry, I was busy replying to others. Busy, busy.

Anyway, thanks for replying. It feels like you've been ignoring me! I was getting a complex!

To answer your question: WE are not going to do much of anything about global warming. I keep saying that. Yet everyone wants me to tell them what to do. I'm not here to tell you what to do. It is because I have a good understanding of the problem, that I know how hard it will be to solve.

I'm just trying to tell people what's happening already and what is coming. I'm just another scientist who is sending out a warning.

I have probably said this 20 times on your blog. Global warming is a global problem that requires global solutions, which requires global cooperation, which we are probably not going to get. Which means the problem is going to keep getting worse. Which means countries are going to be fighting and going to war over food, water, land, migrations, etc.

The costs are going to get worse each and every year. Both financial and human.

The free market cannot solve this problem alone (one area we differ). But the free market needs to be part of the solution. As does government. As does each and every one of us. If you keep government out of the solution (which I know really bothers you), then you have already lost. Because we need governments to recognize the problem and work with each other, with free enterprise and with their citizens in order to make a dent in this.

Again, my goal is to explain what is coming. Because if too many people refuse to even realize that the problem is real, then we are also lost. If enough people know what is coming, there is still a chance that we can mitigate the effects, even if we can't completely prevent it. I also know that I am merely one voice out of many who are trying to send out the warning. One drop in an ocean of need.

I also am aware, that no one will like what I am saying here. Because everyone wants to know what the answer is. The answer is knowledge, understanding, and global cooperation. I am not optimistic. After all, I am a realist.

Thanks again for your reply.

(PS Regarding your stance on coal: it's very reasonable. I am not against coal. But if we are going to use it, we should at least try to make it cleaner. Same goes for all energy sources, including nuclear.)

Mr. Purple
Mr. Purple

I am reminded of Stephen Crane:

A man said to the universe, "Sir, I exist!"

“However,” replied the universe, “The fact has not created in me a sense of obligation.”

It is possible, likely and probably correct that the science is accurate AND humanity is incapable of acting in its collective best interests.

The universe, meanwhile, could not care less. And when it is done with us, something else will take our place.

Mish
Mish

Editor

The political reality of the matter, as best I can tell, it to get attention to the issue nearly everyone (especially politicians but even scientists) hype up the issue. That of course hypes up the cost and increases the skepticism (rightfully so) at the same time.

More modest goals with a lot less hype would probably have worked a lot better.

The attack on natural gas in particular has been crazy. And look at Germany, yikes. Terribly counterproductive nonsense out of Merkel getting rid of nuclear in one of the safest places in the world to burn high Sulphur coal.

I am a far bigger environmentalist than those clowns. And I do consider myself an environmentalist.

I have little tolerance for pollution but don't get me started on our insane recycling programs. Simpler programs with more education would would be far more effective.

nzyank
nzyank

Recognizing the problem is a start. Many of your posts have been dismissive in nature which just contributes to the problem (blame renewables for Texas mess post, and this climate forecast post as examples).
Nobody knows for certain how things will play out. However I don’t think it is in our best interest to belittle the risks. Right now, as a society, we don’t have the capability to coherently debate and make smart educated decisions about the risks. We don’t trust our scientists and don’t trust our government and elected officials. This is in large part due to our polarized politics that uses these issues to galvanize the base. Most are guilty, but some much more so. Change has to start somewhere.
I also think the deep seated libertarian element of the US psyche is largely to blame. This clearly shows up in the Texas mess with the go-it alone, don’t want the federal government involved, small government is better attitude. In the long run as a country, we are weaker for it. I agree with Realist that global issues require global cooperation and leadership. We don’t currently bring much to the table in this regard. But hey, we’ve got basements full of guns…
I’m capitalist at heart, but it needs checks and balances. Capitalism loves anti government anti regulation libertarianism, but is this in people’s long term best interests? My view is libertarians have been played big time.
I’m one of the lucky few that have escaped, but we all have to live on the same ever smaller planet.

Doug78
Doug78

"Global warming is a global problem that requires global solutions, which requires global cooperation"

If we follow your reasoning since global cooperation is the prime mover on this it would require a global government to impose the global solutions to the global problem of Global Warming. It seems you are a follower of the Davos crowd and a believer in the Great Reset. . Am I right or wrong?

Doug78
Doug78

You are a scientist I see and so am I although I left it to go in finance which is chock-full of ex-scientists. My speciality was microbiology. What is yours? Well being an ex-scientist and also having worked in finance I can say that most of these "green" projects will be set up to in ways to allow the big firms to arbitrage them in ways to suck out as much cash to