Apocalyptic idiocies

This comes from the advertising notice for the latest Spectator which is an interesting summary of where we now are. For myself, I remain the deepest kind of sceptic, having cut my teeth on predictions of famine, resource depletion and ecological disasters for over fifty years, not a single one of which has ever turned out to be remotely true. Both of The Spectator authors unfortunately accept there may be something to this global warming creed. Seems a weak position from which to start but maybe when in the grip of such delusion, that is the only available course.

The hype around Monday’s IPCC global warming report was the usual alarmist nonsense. The real story lay in the small print. In our cover piece this week, Matt Ridley has done the digging and found that the authors of the UN climate consensus have now accepted what Nigel Lawson has argued for years: that we may not be able to do much about the planet warming, but we can adapt to it. The apocalyptic scenarios need never emerge, as long as we take the right action.

Meanwhile, Bjørn Lomborg exposes the true green scandal. When Rowan Williams talks about climate change, his assumption is that it hurts the poorest hardest. There’s much truth in that, says Bjørn, but what the alarmists don’t realise (or don’t want to accept) is that green policies inflict far more harm on the poor than the global warming they are trying to avert. Access to cheap and plentiful electricity is one of the most effective ways to escape poverty; green energy is neither cheap nor plentiful.

But for more of this apocalyptic doomsaying, let me take you to a book written exactly a century ago, and to its introduction dated 21 March 1914. Reading the economics of the past is beneficial for a hundred reasons (see my Defending the History of Economic Thought) but one of the most important is that it takes you out of the time in which you live and allows you to look at things in a wholly different way. This is from the preface of a book titled, The Nation’s Wealth which was written by L.G. Chiozza Money:

That the conditions of British wealth are static is a common and dangerous assumption. That assumption is challenged in this volume. The British national economy is revealed as a thing of uncertain equilibrium, the future of which it may be beyond the power of the British people to determine. From a careful examination of the facts of the case, the conclusion emerges that as modern British wealth depends upon a peculiarly good supply of coal, and as the duration of the Coal Age is uncertain, it is the supreme duty to regard the present as a preparation, during which it is necessary to train our people, and so to mould our social and industrial institutions, that the nation may be fortified for that scientific future as to which, while are many uncertainties, there is one absolute certainty – that Coal will pass. [My bolding]

Those absolute certainties! Six months later, his world would be plunged into a different kind of disequilibrium but in the meantime the absolute certainty was that coal would run out and soon. A century later, coal has not run out, there is something like 500 years’ worth of the stuff in easy reach, never mind all of the other forms of carbon-based energy. The effort is therefore being made to rid us of carbon-based energy through another kind of apocalyptic vision, one about as accurate as the one held by L.G. Money a century ago.

So if there is one absolute certainty it is this: these same apocalyptic the-end-is-nigh types will be forecasting the end a hundred years from now just as they will be there two hundred years from now and so on ad nauseam ad infinitum.

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15 Responses to Apocalyptic idiocies

  1. johanna

    The Economist had a piece along similar lines. It was pathetic. There were numerous paragraphs about how all the apocalyptic predictions (droughts, floods, disease, ocean acidification etc) were correct, but that the IPCC had bravely bitten the bullet about ameliorating the effects.

    I remember when The Economist was “the light on the hill” :) for concise and accurate prose, and unsentimental analysis. Then they drank the Kool-Aid on climate change and other issues as well.

    Thank goodness for the internet, or I’d be reading nothing but novels these days.

  2. cohenite

    The psychology of the alarmists and the doomers throughout the ages is interesting. Are there 2 types of human: a positive one and a negative one who is preoccupied with imminent apocalypse?

    Personally I don’t think alarmists are apocalyptic; I think they are motivated by vanity, misanthropy and power.

    You would have thought by now humanity would have settlements on the Moon and Mars and with the money wasted on AGW we could have done. It is as though the alarmists want humanity to fester on this planet and not go into space. They are not only killjoys but mean little bastards.

  3. JohnA

    Well, if we are going to talk religion, then I will present my hypothesis thuswise:

    Ever since the Christian faith has been on the back foot (say a couple of hundred years roughly from the risee of the theory of gradualism [contra catastrophism] and then Darwin’s thesis contra creation) there has been a steady decline in the level of hope for the future and optimism about life in general, along with a loss of motivation and purpose for life.

    Every other religion/philosophy clings to a fatalistic helplessness in the face of overwhelming forces of malevolent and unpredictable nature or evil humanity.

    No grand paradigm (political, religious or philosophical) that has emerged since has been able to substitute for the positive outlook of the Christian faith – even when that was little more than a social convention in the first half of the 20th century.

    Draw your own conclusions.

  4. Herding Cats

    Speaking of Apocalyptic Shock, I suggest QLD and NSW are in dismay as WA and VIC have just won the Australian Rugby Union U17 and U15 Junior Gold Cups – Hoorah !!

    Watching these young folk working hard with school and practice at a tough sport is great and hopefully it gives them resilience to question the mush that some (ie IPCC) are preaching.

    Cheers HC

  5. Botswana O'Hooligan

    I think it is a shame really (The absolute certainty that we are running out of fossil fuels and staring disaster in the face) because when the Sun turns the Earth into a cinder some zillion years from now the lack of fossil fuels to be ignited by the process will make the event somewhat of a fizzer rather than a nice flash with an accompanying loud bang!

  6. MT Isa Miner

    johanna

    #1255805, posted on April 7, 2014 at 1:07 pm

    The Economist had a piece along similar lines. It was pathetic. There were numerous paragraphs about how all the apocalyptic predictions (droughts, floods, disease, ocean acidification etc) were correct, but that the IPCC had bravely bitten the bullet about ameliorating the effects.

    I remember when The Economist was “the light on the hill” :) for concise and accurate prose, and unsentimental analysis. Then they drank the Kool-Aid on climate change and other issues as well.

    Thank goodness for the internet, or I’d be reading nothing but novels these days.

    yes. except biographies for me.

  7. Bruce of Newcastle

    Even the UK isn’t likely to run out for quite some time. This is from last week:

    Coal Is The New Black Gold Under The North Sea

    Scientists have discovered vast deposits of coal lying under the North Sea, potentially holding enough energy to power Britain for centuries.

    “We think there are between three trillion and 23 trillion tonnes of coal buried under the North Sea,” said Dermot Roddy, formerly professor of energy at Newcastle University. “This is thousands of times greater than all the oil and gas we have taken out so far, which totals around 6bn tonnes. If we could extract just a few per cent of that coal it would be enough to power the UK for decades or centuries.”

    So the total of UK oil AND coal extraction has been 6 billion tonnes. Now they may have 23 trillion tonnes of it.

    Maybe in a dozen millennia or so they might need to start thinking about thorium.

  8. Greg James

    I don’t necessarily read it as him saying that the supply of coal will run out.

    It seems equally as open to read it as him saying that the age of coal will end.

    And it did.

  9. entropy

    “We think there are between three trillion and 23 trillion tonnes of coal buried under the North Sea,

    Queue hysteria about the release of CSG water into the sea. That sea water is a lot more salty than CSG (about 30* on average) won’t get a mention.

  10. Myrddin Seren

    A network designed to detect nuclear test explosions has recorded more asteroid impacts over the past decade than expected, according to a group that’s working on an asteroid-hunting telescope.

    “It shows that asteroid impacts are not rare — but actually three to 10 times more common than we previously thought,” ( CEO ) Lu said in Friday’s news advisory. “The fact that none of these asteroid impacts shown in the video was detected in advance is proof that the only thing preventing a catastrophe from a ‘city-killer’-sized asteroid is blind luck.”

    You may now all return to panicking hysterically about a moderate rise in a harmless gas.

    ( The metaphoric ‘You’ of course – Cats are cool cats and not scared of plant food )

  11. nerblnob

    Clearly the exploding asteroids of the last decade have stopped what would otherwise have been catastrophic global warming. You read it here first.

    Once the dust clears, we’ll all be rooned.

  12. Notafan

    I thought coal was making a comeback? Germany is building new plants, yes?
    In France they seem to spend most of their time sorting rubbish into categories, it’s certainly practised with religious fervour, though in Lyon that was in the daytime only; at night they smashed glass, bottles and windows, ripped out street rubbish bins and poles and generally caused mayhem.
    They can keep their Henny Penny religion. Fool me once, etc

  13. Combine_Dave

    I don’t necessarily read it as him saying that the supply of coal will run out.

    It seems equally as open to read it as him saying that the age of coal will end.

    And it did.

    Excepting outside of the EU. Oh and also Germany.

    I guess coal is back.

  14. nerblnob

    I don’t know if this is getting a run in the Australian media but you need to see it.

  15. tgs

    Ever since the Christian faith has been on the back foot (say a couple of hundred years roughly from the risee of the theory of gradualism [contra catastrophism] and then Darwin’s thesis contra creation) there has been a steady decline in the level of hope for the future and optimism about life in general, along with a loss of motivation and purpose for life.

    Hilarious.

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