Thursday, August 7, 2014

A history of climate panics

Article: A brief history of climate panic and crisis… both warming and cooling

A review of the past 120 years of climate panic.

Note: neither I nor "Watts" deny that some warming has occurred. Rather, he points out the panics and notes that some of the "panicists" are doing so for political reasons.  

Non-random reminiscence:
When I was in college and in order to cover "spread requirements," I took a course called, "Conservation of Natural Resources."

By coincidence, I had also picked up a book, published in the early 1900's, by the same title.

The professor required a book report as part of the curriculum. I asked and received approval to do a report on the book, with a view of analyzing how the predictions had turned out.

Every single prediction failed (with one exception). We were supposed to run out of all fossil fuels (except coal) long before the 1970's. We were supposed to have a major crisis in agriculture. We were supposed to run out of metals and ores and minerals. The list ran on and on.

Why the failure?

I am not certain what the logical fallacy is called, but I will call it the "if this trend continues..." fallacy.

Most trends to do not continue. At some point, something happens to change it. In the case of the book's predictions, there were two factors at work to cause the failures.

1) More of the resource was found.

2) We switched from one resource to another.

An example of the first was new vast oil fields were found in the US and in the Middle East.

An example of the second, though not in the book, was the prediction, made in the 1970's, that we would soon run out of copper. Instead of running out of copper, we replaced copper in telephone wires and cables with glass. Glass is made from sand. We will never run out of sand. And the copper in the wire was recycled.

Climate and the "if this trend continues...." fallacy
The problem of the climate panics is that they were mostly the result of the "if this trend continues..." logical fallacy. Temperatures would drop for a few years, and the climate panicists would announce The Coming Global Ice Age.  Warm a few years, and the panicists would be shouting about global warming.

There is a nifty graphic correlating panics with temperature change.

Over 50 references are cited in the timeline, many of them from the New York Times.

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