The History and Ignorance of “Sky Is Falling” Theories
with Special Emphasis on Anthropogenic Global Warming

Part 1 - Historical Perspective

In almost every case these theories from the “population bomb” to “human-caused, catastrophic global warming” (AGW) are propagated initially by scientists hungry for credibility and funding that will enable them to live the lifestyle they believe is their due. This includes: funding for their worthless research, a comfortable living situation, royalty advances for the fear-generating books they write, high-paid speaking engagements, plus the adoration of followers who are either intellectually challenged or see these scientists as an aid to achieving their own agendas. I will describe this latter group of followers more completely later in the paper when I discuss the AGW perfect storm “scientific consensus.”

Human-caused “sky is falling” theories have existed for as long as we have been on this planet. Whenever human beings experienced anything unusual, whether it was a devastating weather phenomena, or a solar eclipse; there were always those false prophets screaming that humanity had angered the gods and declaring themselves humanity’s only hope for redemption. Only they could appease the gods and bring peace and tranquility back into their followers’ lives. There were many ways of appeasing the gods but human sacrifice was one of the favorites, for example:

Human sacrifice was a shared religious practice among ancient Mesoamericans and Peruvians. According to their beliefs, the gods provided for mankind only if they themselves were placated. … Its purpose was … to maintain a balance of the cosmos and appease the gods who presided over it.

This attitude of appeasing the gods can be seen in other activities like the burning at the stake of those who dared to go against the scientific consensus that the earth was at the center of the universe. Even today religious fanatics, who are convinced that humanity is destroying the earth, gladly destroy the lives and reputations of those scientists who dare to suggest that the processes that drive climate change are way beyond human interference or control. This is nearly as bad as burning them at the stake. To a scientist who has spent his whole life in the pursuit of truth, losing his reputation, being branded a heretic (denier), his credibility destroyed, along with any funding to carry on his work, is a fate worse than death. It even gets worse, some actually want scientists that do not agree that AGW is a factual disaster for the human race, to be arrested and imprisoned for up to 20 years.

I was introduced to the “sky is falling” community of scientists with the publishing of The Population Bomb by Stanford University professor, Paul R. Ehrlich in 1968. In the book Ehrlich postulated that humans would suffer mass starvation in the 1970s and 80s due to over population. As a technological optimist, this seemed asinine to me; that humanity would allow this to happen made no sense whatsoever. However, his book, which sold over 2 million copies, created the belief that humanity was the problem and that we would suffer the consequences of our actions against Mother Earth, if we didn’t change our ways.

I, of course, was proved right, the entire concept was asinine. (Only the hopelessly ignorant would have been taken in by this idiocy.) However, not only was he off in his prediction, but we are literally feeding the world better today than we were in 1968. For example, there was 42 percent decrease in world hunger between 1990 and 2014.

Regardless, Ehrlich still stands by his prediction of the collapse of civilization due to over population, basically stating that he just had the timing wrong. And there are plenty of people who still support him and his position.

Essentially, if you are a true scientist who is only after the actual processes that drive climate change, you’re reputation, credibility, and funding can be stripped from you; your scientific life ended. But, if you’re a fraud scientist whose research has proven to be a complete and total disaster, you can hold on to both your reputation and funding. An example of the crazy world we live in.

This reminds me of Marshall Applegate (one of many who have predicted the end of the earth). Applewhite, leader of the Heaven's Gate cult, claimed that a spacecraft was trailing the Comet Hale-Bopp and argued that suicide was ‘the only way to evacuate this Earth’ so that the cult members' souls could board the supposed craft and be taken to another ‘level of existence above human.’ Applewhite and 38 of his followers committed mass suicide. (There’s no way for us to know for sure whether they made it or not.)

In the same way, those that follow “sky is falling” false prophets like Ehrlich are not only committing intellectual suicide but they are also putting the world in danger. Fear of a human-caused, worldwide catastrophe does no one any good and leads others to take actions that can be detrimental to us, in fact, detrimental to the entire human race.

The world was first introduced to the concept that humanity could cause great harm to the environment and the creatures that exist on the planet with the publication of Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring in 1962. Her book stayed on the best seller list for 31 months and has since sold millions of copies. In addition, in 2006 her book was listed as one of the 25 best science books of all time by Discovery Magazine. Finally, she is given credit by many as being the inspiration for the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency.

The book represented a watershed moment, the catalyst that raised public awareness and concern for the environment and the dangers of runaway pollution. Although she remains one of the heroes of the environmentalist movement for her impact on the public’s consciousness, her major achievement was making DDT the villain that was destroying animal life around the world. This, in spite of The National Academy of Science concluding in 1965 (3 years after the publication of her book) that DDT had prevented 500 million deaths in the previous 20 years.

In 1966 we got our first view of the earth as a planet residing in the immensity of space with the first photos of the earth sent back by the Apollo astronauts. This view of the world was exactly what was needed to take our responsibilities toward the planet/environment seriously. The National Academy of Sciences study was forgotten. When the environmentalist movement focuses on a subject, science and scientific research are pushed aside, and a vision of the world being destroyed by humanity moves front and center.

It should be noted that the final result, according to scientific research, is that millions of lives have been lost mostly in poor tropical countries because DDT was not there to eliminate the mosquitos that carried malaria and the louse which carries typhus. In addition, Carson, who had no scientific training, was completely wrong; DDT has effectively no toxicity to animal life. Tens of millions have died because of her extraordinary claims about DDT and the environmentalist’s willingness to jump on the “bad DDT” bandwagon.

This great need to be active in saving the earth from humanity’s lack of concern for the environment, a need that was supported by the success of both Silent Spring and The Population Bomb, was solidified by the creation of Earth Day, held for the very first time in 1970 and still being held every April 22, and celebrated in over 193 countries. Initially held to encourage and demonstrate for environmental protection, the focus today is on the dangers of fossil fuels and the “fact” of AGW (human-caused global warming). To emphasize this commitment, the 2016 landmark Paris Agreement on climate change was held on Earth Day. But, I’m getting ahead of myself; the global warming issue was preceded by many others.

With the tremendous interest in how humanity was destroying the planet, the 70s spawned many other predictions by pseudo-scientists who jumped on the funding bandwagon and tried to make a name for themselves in the environmental movement. Here are 17 examples:

  • Harvard biologist George Wald estimated that “civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind.”
  • “We are in an environmental crisis which threatens the survival of this nation, and of the world as a suitable place of human habitation,” wrote Washington University biologist Barry Commoner in the Earth Day issue of the scholarly journal Environment.
  • The day after the first Earth Day, the New York Times editorial page warned, “Man must stop pollution and conserve his resources, not merely to enhance existence but to save the race from intolerable deterioration and possible extinction.”
  • “Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make,” Paul Ehrlich confidently declared in the April 1970 Mademoiselle. “The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years.”
  • Ehrlich sketched out his most alarmist scenario for the 1970 Earth Day issue of The Progressive, assuring readers that between 1980 and 1989, some 4 billion people, including 65 million Americans, would perish in the “Great Die-Off.”
  • “It is already too late to avoid mass starvation,” declared Denis Hayes, the chief organizer for Earth Day, in the Spring 1970 issue of The Living Wilderness.
  • Peter Gunter, a North Texas State University professor, wrote in 1970, “Demographers agree almost unanimously on the following grim timetable: by 1975 widespread famines will begin in India; these will spread by 1990 to include all of India, Pakistan, China and the Near East, Africa. By the year 2000, or conceivably sooner, South and Central America will exist under famine conditions….By the year 2000, thirty years from now, the entire world, with the exception of Western Europe, North America, and Australia, will be in famine.”
  • In January 1970, Life reported, “Scientists have solid experimental and theoretical evidence to support…the following predictions: In a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution…by 1985 air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half….”
  • Ecologist Kenneth Watt told Time that, “At the present rate of nitrogen buildup, it’s only a matter of time before light will be filtered out of the atmosphere and none of our land will be usable.”
  • Barry Commoner predicted that decaying organic pollutants would use up all of the oxygen in America’s rivers, causing freshwater fish to suffocate.
  • Paul Ehrlich chimed in, predicting in his 1970 Earth Day article that “air pollution … is certainly going to take hundreds of thousands of lives in the next few years alone.” Ehrlich sketched a scenario in which 200,000 Americans would die in 1973 during “smog disasters” in New York and Los Angeles.
  • Paul Ehrlich warned in the May 1970 issue of Audubon that DDT and other chlorinated hydrocarbons “may have substantially reduced the life expectancy of people born since 1945.” Ehrlich warned that Americans born since 1946…now had a life expectancy of only 49 years, and he predicted that if current patterns continued this expectancy would reach 42 years by 1980, when it might level out.
  • In 1975, Paul Ehrlich predicted that “since more than nine-tenths of the original tropical rainforests will be removed in most areas within the next 30 years or so, it is expected that half of the organisms in these areas will vanish with it.”
  • Ecologist Kenneth Watt declared, “By the year 2000, if present trends continue, we will be using up crude oil at such a rate…that there won’t be any more crude oil. You’ll drive up to the pump and say, `Fill ‘er up, buddy,’ and he’ll say, `I am very sorry, there isn’t any.'”
  • Harrison Brown, a scientist at the National Academy of Sciences, published a chart in Scientific American that looked at metal reserves and estimated the humanity would totally run out of copper shortly after 2000. Lead, zinc, tin, gold, and silver would be gone before 1990.
  • Sen. Gaylord Nelson wrote in Look (April 1970) that, “Dr. S. Dillon Ripley, secretary of the Smithsonian Institute, believes that in 25 years, somewhere between 75 and 80 percent of all the species of living animals will be extinct.”
  • Kenneth Watt warned about a pending Ice Age in a speech. “The world has been chilling sharply for about twenty years,” he declared. “If present trends continue, the world will be about four degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990, but eleven degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age.”

So, where do we stand in regard to the numerous “sky is falling” predictions made by these pseudo-scientists? There were four major predictions: massive starvation; air pollution will kill hundreds of thousands; crude oil will be used up by the year 2000; and we are in store for another ice also by the year 2000. Looking at each threat individually, here’s where we stand in 2017:

Massive Starvation. While the world still has a problem with millions still undernourished, we have made massive strides and there is no reason this trend won’t continue. However, there are two main issues that could easily cause us to lose ground:

  • Ethanol has gotten a bad name as a waste of a valuable food source. A closer look supports the opposing view that there seems to be plenty of corn being grown to meet all of our needs. Currently (2016) the United States produces 37 percent of the world’s supply of corn and fully 44 percent of the corn we produce is used for food-associated needs. This is a bit more than is being used to produce energy.
  • While ending starvation is an important goal, currently we seem to be doing much more than our share to solve the problem. As a result, we are feeding more people around the world better than ever and, as I said earlier, there’s no reason this trend can’t continue.Actually, the major problems with feeding many of the world’s poor is war and evil governments where the leaders take any funds available for their own use, with no concern for the people that are under their rule. One of the best examples of this is North Korea where famine and starvation are just around the corner. It is estimated that as many as 3 million people starved to death in the late 90s; however, 2011 showed signs of another major food shortage. When a shortage appears, then food stuffs are hidden and the influential use the situation to their own advantage. But, this is only one case; dictatorships around the world run extremely inefficient governments where the people are unable to feed themselves even though they are in areas with excellent environments to be able to feed their own populations. In addition, those in power steal the resources that come to them from nations wanting to help eliminate the problem.
  • Current research on the Sun is suggesting that we may be in for another mini ice age. The relationship between a “quiet Sun” (an absence of sun spots) and global cooling is very strong and as we learn more about the Sun’s life cycles the potential for a drop in the temperature of the planet is becoming more likely. If this hypothesis proves to be true, the impact on the growing season could be devastating. I’m not trying to create a “sky is falling” scenario, but this is something we could prepare for. However, currently, our efforts to stop global warming are in direct opposition to what we would need to do if we end up in another mini ice age. Essentially we would need to put some grain crops in storage, and possibly minimize the use of corn to create ethanol. In addition, we would need to garner all of the energy sources we could so that we could ride out the cooling in relative comfort. As you can easily see, shutting down coal mines and oil/gas fields while shifting prematurely to alternative fuels is exactly what we would not want to do under the cooling scenario.

Air Pollution: In the United States air pollution is really no longer a problem; however, it is a big problem in China and India. Regardless, CO2 is not the problem in either of these countries and forcing them to focus on eliminating CO2 “pollution” is taking them off focus from the real problem. These countries are growing rapidly and many people within those countries are moving above the poverty line, well into the middle class. With this advancement comes desire for material things that need energy to operate, from automobiles to televisions to the Internet and to washing machines. Plus hundreds of millions have to be fed, clothed, and given a warm, dry place to live. All of this takes energy and when this energy is produced inefficiently, air pollution is the result. Again, I am not talking about CO2, I’m talking about actual air pollution that is a real danger to the physical health of the society’s citizens. Bottom line, we know how to have the energy we need without causing air pollution, we’ve done that in the United States. Those countries with a pollution problem need to take it seriously and begin adopting our methods to solve the problem.

There is one other form of air pollution that is not getting any better and may be getting worse, as a result of the policies the United Nations has demanded from member countries. This is the pollution caused when the major source of energy for heating and cooking is bio fuel (wood, cow dung, etc.). Burning bio fuels directly, in the home, is causing hundreds of thousands of deaths around the world. This could easily be solved by providing electricity for heating and cooking to every person on the globe. However, since this can, currently, only be accomplished through the use of fossil fuels, there is no push to provide the energy sources and distribution technologies needed; those dependent on bio fuels will continue to suffer approximately 200,000 deaths a year.

We Are Running Out of Crude Oil: This was supposed to happen by the year 2000, another phenomenal miscalculation. With the discovery of new oil fields around the world and the use of new fracking technologies, it is currently estimated that the world has between 50 and 100 years of fossil fuels left, depending on how much is used. Notice that as we learn more and more about how to obtain the fossil fuels that exist on this planet, we keep finding more and more resources. Back in the 70s it was about 30 years and now it’s up to somewhere between 50 and 100.

Personally, I don’t think we will run out in the foreseeable future; new technologies will develop additional energy sources and ways of storing the energy and this will lower the need for fossil fuels. The major concern in the 70s was that when we ran out of crude oil, civilization would come to a screaming halt. This prediction was as wrong as the predictions of Hillary’s easy electoral win in 2016. The truth, as we need more energy, we find more and better ways of obtaining and distributing it. I can see a future where basic, clean energy needs are considered a right. There’s no reason why not. Energy ultimately comes from the Sun and may, someday, be as free as the air we breathe; hope springs eternal!

New Ice Age: This prediction is extremely interesting to me. Note how quickly we went from considering the possibility of another ice age to the “scientific fact” that humanity is causing catastrophic global warming. Yet, now solar scientists are predicting another period of cooling like was experienced around the time of the forming of America. This is one prediction that may ultimately be proved to be correct; we will just have to wait and see. If it happens, it will happen within our lifetimes. I only hope that, if it does happen, we will be prepared for it and loss of life will be minimized.

You can see that these “sky is falling” predictions tend to be completely wrong in that they completely rule out the earth’s ability to correct itself and humanity’s exceptional ability to adapt in ways that often improve the situation. When we consider that we are about to become a spacefaring race, the resources that are available in the solar system should give us easily another 1000 years of prosperity. Assuming, of course, that we escape a nuclear war, or an ELE (extinction level event). But that discussion will have to wait for another time; we have other fish to fry today.


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Copyright 2017 Brad Fregger