Earlier this month, one of the largest youth-led demonstrations took place around the globe. Those young people in New York then convened a Youth Climate Summit on the weekend preceding the Climate Week that followed at the United Nations.
If you were paying attention, you likely heard what sounded like two different messages. But actually, each one was tailored for the appropriate audience. We used to hear that we only have a few years or a decade before doom and gloom. Now we are hearing many environmentalists talking about what will happen in 50 years or 100 years.
The problem with doom and gloom predictions is they can be tested. A few months ago, I wrote a commentary that listed many of the failed predictions by Paul Ehrlich, George Wald and others. The problem with making a prediction that millions will starve to death by 1980 is you discovered that millions didn’t starve to death. The Competitive Enterprise Institute recently posted dozens and dozens of failed environmental predictions that never occurred. That’s why you are hearing leaders now talking about what will happen 50 to 100 years from now. You can’t disprove that.
Why are we simultaneously hearing young people in the streets (and even in Congress) claiming that we only have 10-12 years left? That is simple. They don’t have any history of failed environmental predictions. And, it is worth adding that they don’t really know much about history. They are less likely to be as skeptical as the adults.
Some of us remember when we were told the greatest threat was global cooling because we were putting particulates in the atmosphere. Then we heard that the threat was global warming because we were putting CO2 in the atmosphere. The current threat has morphed into climate change and now a climate crisis. The policy recommendations for each are the same, even though the strategy and time-line have changed.