Over the past two weekends in Washington, D.C., the so-called March for Science and the People’s Climate March—both rooted largely in panic over “climate change”—served as reminders that, while the climate changes, human nature never really does.
In the 17th century, witches in Europe were burned for their alleged role in the (natural) climate change that caused crop failures. Today, it’s skeptics like me who are threatening the climate. We are likened to Nazi sympathizers and smeared as “deniers” in the manner of Holocaust deniers.
Yesterday and today, environmental hysterics see apocalypse on every horizon—be it fiery or frigid.
As far back as the 1800s, “experts” have howled about the ecological calamity that was just around the corner. An 1895 New York Times article entitled, “Geologists Think the World May Be Frozen Up Again” envisioned an Earth encased in “perennial frost and snow.”
In 1932, the Times warned: “NEXT GREAT DELUGE FORECAST BY SCIENCE / Melting Polar Ice Caps to Raise the Level of Seas and Flood the Continent.” The following year, leaders in Syria blamed Western influences for climate change, so they banned the yoyo. Really.
Then it was back to global cooling. Betty Friedan, the future feminist icon, wrote a 1958 Harper’s article, “The Coming Ice Age,” subtitled, “How a rising of the ocean waters may flood most of our port cities within the foreseeable future—and why it will be followed by the growth of a vast glacier which may eventually cover much of Europe and North America.”
Then warming. In 1969, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the respected academic and future U.S. Senator, warned the Nixon White House that rising carbon dioxide levels could increase the average temperature, and that “This in turn could raise the level of the sea by 10 feet. Goodbye New York. Goodbye Washington, for that matter.” This would happen by the year 2000.
Then cooling: “Scientist predicts a new ice age by 21st century,” said the Boston Globe (1970). “Ice Age, worse food crisis seen,” declared the Chicago Tribune (1974). “Pollution Could Spur Ice Age, NASA Says,” reported the Beaver Country Times (1974). “Oil Spill Could Cause New Ice Age,” asserted the Milwaukee Journal (1975).
Time magazine in 1974:
“Climatological Cassandras are becoming increasingly apprehensive, for the weather aberrations they are studying may be the harbinger of another ice age. Telltale signs are everywhere—from the unexpected persistence and thickness of pack ice in the waters around Iceland to the southward migration of a warmth-loving creature like the armadillo from the Midwest.”
These ever-vigilant, ever-credulous sentinels are nothing if not dogged in their attempts to stave off the end of the world. One thing, however, is constant: the need for dramatic action to address climate change, from the burning of witches in the 17th century to the entry-into-force Paris Climate Treaty last November.
The witch-burning brigades are also keen to denounce anyone who is skeptical of their claims. I recently published a study (available at ClimateDollars.org) of one widely cited study by sociologist Robert Brulle in which he essentially labeled Global Warming skeptics a giant conspiracy to mislead the public.
The biggest problem with alarmist claims, however, isn’t the repeated falsehoods and false prophecies. No, the greatest damage is the way “addressing climate change” has become the latest euphemism for denying billions of people access to affordable energy—with victims ranging from working-class Americans to the world’s poorest in sub-Saharan Africa. And while the vulnerable suffer, wealth and power is transferred to the likes of biofuel processors and the bureaucrats of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the European Union.
Real people pay a real price when policies are based on ignorance of history and a half-understanding of science, on irrational fear and sensationalism, and on the latest kookery from the media and political class that stands to benefit when people freak out.
As Robert Frost wrote, “Some say the world will end in fire, Some say in ice.” For the panic-mongers, either scenario will do—as long as the public is terrorized.
Dr. Steven J. Allen (J.D., Ph.D.) is vice president and chief investigative officer of the Capital Research Center in Washington, D.C.