One of the framed pictures in my office is a photograph I took at Glacier National Park when I was a teenager. I have always wanted to go back and photograph this beautiful place with a much better camera.
I also wanted to go back so that I could take a picture of the signs that the park service put up predicting that all of the glaciers would be gone by 2020 due to climate change. In case you don’t know, there are still glaciers at Glacier National Park. Yes, some have shrunk but they certainly have not disappeared as predicted.
Kyle Smith used this as one example of the problem with making specific predictions. Saying that sometime in this century we will have an environmental disaster is much safer than saying it will happen in the next 10 years. He also provides some background to the story of glaciers in this park.
The US Geological Survey has been keeping track of the “Retreat of Glaciers in Glacier National Park” for some time. The scientists noted that the mean annual temperature has increased, so the glaciers will be gone someday “in the next few decades.” So that had Smith starting to look at past predictions.
For example, a 1923 Associated Press report said glaciers would “almost disappear” in 25 years. That means they should have been gone by 1948. But there is a 1936 article that predicted that the glaciers would “vanish within 25 years.” So they should have been gone by 1961. And there is a 1952 AP report that explains that “naturalists” said the glaciers would be gone in 50 years. So we should have had no glaciers by 2002.
By now, I think you can get the idea. All of these past predictions were wrong, but that did not stop others from making other predictions. Some day the glaciers may all be gone, but they haven’t left yet.