Environmentalism Jumps the Shark

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Environmentalism Jumps the Shark

As the Trends editors forecast more than a decade ago, hard economic times and a growing body of evidence have undermined the influence of the apocalyptic environmental movement.  Today, economically suicidal solutions involving rapid abandonment of fossil fuels have largely been taken off the table.  Even in Europe, green subsidies are being rolled back and self-imposed targets are being re-evaluated.

Facing this reality, advocacy within the movement has “jumped the shark.”  Case in point: the July 9, 2017 issue of New York Magazine, carried a lead article titled, “The Uninhabitable Earth,” by David Wallace-Wells. 

It represents the latest in a long line of increasingly “over the top” prophecies of impending planetary climate doom.  And these threats can allegedly only be addressed by radical action in the form of eliminating the use of fossil fuels in order to save the planet.

Many of these ideas go back at least as far as Paul Ehrlich and the Club of Rome, 50 years ago. However, the current arguments can all be traced to Al Gore’s book and movie “An Inconvenient Truth.”  In his 2006 review of Gore’s book, James Hansen, former director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, warned, “We have, at most, 10 years—not 10 years to decide upon action, but 10 years to alter fundamentally the trajectory of global greenhouse emissions … We have reached a critical tipping point.  It will soon be impossible to avoid climate change with far-ranging undesirable consequences.”

In 2009, Hansen revised his prediction of doom for the worse, writing, “The dangerous threshold of greenhouse gases is actually lower than what we told you a few years ago. Sorry about that mistake. If the world does not make a dramatic shift in energy policies over the next few years, we may well pass the point of no return.”  Hansen’s tipping point dates have already passed twice.

Also in 2009, Gordon Brown, who was then the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, informed countries attempting to negotiate steep, binding greenhouse-gas emissions reductions at a United Nations-sponsored climate conference in Copenhagen, “There are now fewer than 50 days to set the course of the next 50 years and more. If we do not reach a deal at this time, let us be in no doubt: Once the damage from unchecked emissions growth is done, no retrospective global agreement in some future period can undo that choice...

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