Peddlers of the Green New Deal know that the only way for their radical agenda to become reality is if Americans buy into the wildest claims of climate extremists.
It’s clear that some of the most enthusiastic supporters of this radical agenda are young people.
This was on full display in the now viral video of a meeting between Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and a group of children from the Sunrise Movement.
Perhaps children and young Americans are more likely to buy into the extreme environmentalist doomsaying due to the fact that they weren’t around for the laughably wrong predictions of the past that never came true.
Panics over looming environmental and climate apocalypse have been with us for a long time. Thomas Malthus famously predicted in his 1798 book “An Essay on the Principle of Population” that population growth would overtake food supply and mass starvation would result unless population controls were implemented.
Of course, his predictions were utterly wrong, since free enterprise greatly increased the food supply as the population increased.
The modern environmentalist movement has picked up a Malthusian ethos of its own and, when combined with the politics of climate change, has produced numerous egregiously wrong predictions about global trends.
Here are five of the biggest misses:
1. Population Bomb to Cause Global Famine by 2000
The first Earth Day, in 1970, was filled with hyperbole and exaggerations about mankind’s future. Much of the craziness was unearthed in a remarkable expose in 2000 by Reason contributor Ronald Bailey.
One of the most common ideas, in a throwback to Malthus, was that the global food supply simply couldn’t keep up with population growth.
Peter Gunter, a professor at North Texas State University—now named the University of North Texas—wrote about how mass starvation was in the world’s near-term future. Gunter spoke in language that should be all too familiar to those who have paid attention to the debate over climate change in modern times:
“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.”
Ah, yes, all the scientists agree that the world will end by the year 2000.
Of course, this didn’t come to pass. In fact, a remarkable reduction in poverty has occurred around the globe since 1970. A chart published by Human Progress demonstrated just how dramatically global hunger has decreased in the past few decades.
2. Air Pollution Will Be So Bad That City Dwellers Will Have to Wear Gas Masks
Another grand prediction at Earth Day 1970 (it was full of doozies) was that the air pollution problem common to many American cities would continue to get exponentially worse without widespread government control of the American way of life.
One particularly extreme claim came from the January 1970 edition of Life magazine, as quoted by Bailey:
“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 [and] by 1985 air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half.”
Again, such remarkable accuracy from these all-knowing scientists.
This didn’t happen, in part due to federal, state, and local restrictions on emissions. But it had much more to do with the general societal response to the problem.
Wealthier, more prosperous societies simply have more means and more of an inclination to make trade-offs to enjoy cleaner air. Free societies such as the United States found ways to reduce pollutants as a means to improve quality of life.
It’s very different in countries like, say, China, where pollution in some cities is unbearable due to the developing nature of the country combined with the authoritarian nature of government, which is more preoccupied with growth in gross domestic product than the comfort and well-being of individual citizens.
The fact is, free societies began solving this problem long ago, and our cities have become much better, not worse.
3. Entire Nations Could Be Wiped Out by 1999
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, D-N.Y., a self-avowed socialist, recently claimed that the world would end in 12 years if we don’t radically transform our economy to combat climate change.
The decadelong window of pronounced doom seems to be a favorite among climate alarmists.
A recently resurfaced report from the Associated Press shows how an almost identical, but more precise, prediction was once made by a high-ranking United Nations official in 1989.
AP reported: “A senior U.N. environmental official says entire nations could be wiped off the face of the Earth by rising sea levels if the global warming trend is not reversed by the year 2000.”
Noel Brown, director of the New York office of the U.N. Environment Program, claimed in 1989 that human beings had a mere 10 years to stop the effects of global warming.
Brown said: “Ecological refugees will become a major concern, and what’s worse is you may find that people can move to drier ground, but the soils and the natural resources may not support life. Africa doesn’t have to worry about land, but would you want to live in the Sahara?”
Brown pronounced doom for Canada and the United States, where the entire East Coast would be flooded and conditions would be like the 1930s Dust Bowl.
But fear not, Brown did offer hope to humanity: He also predicted that the Soviet Union might produce “bumper crops” during this time.
4. Ice Caps Will Melt Away
Predictions about the polar ice caps melting have been common. Dramatic pictures of polar bears floating on tiny icebergs have been some of the iconic images of the climate change movement.
Former Vice President Al Gore said at a conference in 2009 that a scientist predicted a “75 percent chance that the entire polar ice cap during some of the summer months could be completely ice free within five to seven years.”
In 2014, the ice caps were still there. In fact, it’s 2019 and the ice caps are still there.
Gore wasn’t the only one to make such bold prognostications about the future of Arctic ice.
In his book “A Farewell to Ice,” Peter Wadhams, a professor of ocean physics at Cambridge University, predicted that polar ice in the Arctic would be gone by mid-decade.
Not only have the ice caps survived these predictions of doom, but they have occasionally grown in size. Between 2012 and 2016, Arctic ice increased from an average of 2.2 million square miles to 3.3 million square miles, according to The Telegraph.
5. The Coming Ice Age
In 1958, Betty Friedan, one of the leading thinkers of radical, modern feminism, wrote an article in Harper’s magazine describing the “coming ice age.”
It seems the mixing of climate science and radical left-wing politics is nothing new.
Friedan based her article on the work of two scientists, geophysicist Maurice Ewing, director of Columbia University’s Lamont Geological Observatory, and geologist-meteorologist William Donn.
She explained how these scientists foresaw American port cities being drowned by rising oceans, and how a giant glacier would cover Europe and North America. The scientists described conditions by which the earth would dramatically warm and then cool, sending us into another ice age.
These scientists were more cautious in their predictions than others, but this didn’t stop Friedan from speculating that, based on their calculations about the rate of warming, a layman could conclude that “the Arctic Ocean will be open and the Ice Age [will] begin in another twenty years.”
As Iain Calder wrote in Newsmax, this was just part of a tide of predictions about how a looming ice age soon was going to plunge the world into a deep freeze. Calder wrote:
“Between 1973 and 1977 the great Time magazine had a number of blaring Page One covers like: ‘The Cooling of America,’ ‘The Big Freeze’ and ‘How to Survive the Coming Ice Age’ (with a subhead: ‘Things You Can Do to Make a Difference.’)”
Needless to say, despite the chilly winter, the ice caps are still with us and the new ice age hasn’t come.
If there’s a lesson to be learned from all of these predictions, it’s not that scientists are always wrong or that we shouldn’t be good stewards of the environment. Instead, we should treat extreme predictions with skepticism, especially if they mean upending our way of life.
We should be particularly suspicious of schemes such as the Green New Deal, which would entirely derail the American economy and place it under the power of government.
One way or another, free societies will do a better job of adapting to any change in climate than the Venezuelas of the world, where the folly of man causes starvation and not natural disaster.
Editor's Note: This piece was originally published by The Daily Signal.