Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Sky is Falling? No, That's Snow

So I thought about celebrating Earth Day yesterday, but I couldn't see much of the earth since it was covered in snow. As I write we are finishing up our third major winter storm of the month, which would be unremarkable except that, well, it's almost May.

So what does that have to do with Earth Day? Well, the invaluable Walter Russell Mead reminds us of some of the predictions that were offered when Earth Day was first observed in 1970:
By 1995, “…somewhere between 75 and 85 percent of all the species of living animals will be extinct.” Sen. Gaylord Nelson, quoting Dr. S. Dillon Ripley, Look magazine, April 1970.

“It is already too late to avoid mass starvation,” Earth Day organizer Denis Hayes, The Living Wilderness, Spring 1970.

“By the year 2000…the entire world, with the exception of Western Europe, North America and Australia, will be in famine,” Peter Gunter, North Texas State University, The Living Wilderness, Spring 1970.
Must have missed all that. Still, given the way the endless Minnesota winter has progressed, this prediction seems pretty close to prescient:
The world will be “…eleven degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age,” Kenneth Watt, speaking at Swarthmore University, April 19, 1970 [...]
The plows just came through and deposited a few more inches of ice age on my driveway, so I'm buying what this Watt fellow is selling.

Forecasting the weather even five days in the future is an awfully tricky business, so to a certain extent you need to give the Nostradami of 1970 a little slack. At the same time, it's also a good idea to give our current crop of Cassandras a little skepticism as well.

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