Another Earth Day has passed, so this is a good time to look back at predictions made on the original Earth Day about environmental disasters that were about to hit the planet, says the Washington Policy Center (WPC).
Most Earth Day predictions turned out to be stunningly wrong. In 1970, environmentalists said there would soon be a new ice age and massive deaths from air pollution. The New York Times foresaw the extinction of the human race. Widely-quoted biologist Paul Ehrlich predicted worldwide starvation by 1975.
More predictions of impending disaster:
“…civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind,” biologist George Wald, Harvard University, April 19, 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.
Because of increased dust, cloud cover and water vapor “…the planet will cool, the water vapor will fall and freeze, and a new Ice Age will be born,” Newsweek magazine, January 26, 1970.
The world will be “…11 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.
“By 1985, air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half…” Life magazine, January 1970.
Source: Press Release, “Earth Day 2008: Predictions of Environmental Disaster Were Wrong,” Washington Policy Center, April 22, 2008.
Is our climate changing? The succession of temperate summers and open winters through several years, culminating last winter in the almost total failure of the ice crop throughout the valley of the Hudson, makes the question pertinent. The older inhabitants tell us that the Winters are not as cold now as when they were young, and we have all observed a marked diminution of the average cold even in this last decade. – New York Times June 23, 1890
The Oceanographic observations have, however, been even more interesting. Ice conditions were exceptional. In fact, so little ice has never been noted. The expedition all but established a record….Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society – January 1905
[Note by CWC: Amundsen was the first to successfully navigate the entire northwest passage – in 1905.]
“Fifth ice age is on the way…..Human race will have to fight for its existence against cold.” – Los Angles Times October 23, 1912
The Arctic ocean is warming up, icebergs are growing scarcer and in some places the seals are finding the water too hot…. Reports from fishermen, seal hunters and explorers, he declared, all point to a radical change in climate conditions and hitherto unheard-of temperatures in the Arctic zone… Great masses of ice have been replaced by moraines of earth and stones, the report continued, while at many points well known glaciers have entirely disappeared. Very few seals and no white fish are found in the eastern Arctic, while vast shoals of herring and smelts, which have never before ventured so far north, are being encountered in the old seal fishing grounds. – Washington Post 11/2/1922
Scientist says Arctic ice will wipe out Canada, Professor Gregory of Yale University stated that “another world ice-epoch is due.” He was the American representative to the Pan-Pacific Science Congress and warned that North America would disappear as far south as the Great Lakes, and huge parts of Asia and Europe would be “wiped out.” – Chicago Tribune August 9, 1923
The discoveries of changes in the sun’s heat and southward advance of glaciers in recent years have given rise to the conjectures of the possible advent of a new ice age – Time Magazine 9/10/1923
America in longest warm spell since 1776; temperature line records a 25 year rise – New York Times 3/27/1933
“Gaffers who claim that winters were harder when they were boys are quite right…weather men have no doubt that the world at least for the time being is growing warmer.” – Time Magazine Jan. 2 1939
A mysterious warming of the climate is slowly manifesting itself in the Arctic, engendering a “serious international problem,” – May 30, 1947
Greenland’s polar climate has moderated so consistently that communities of hunters have evolved into fishing villages. Sea mammals, vanishing from the west coast, have been replaced by codfish and other fish species in the area’s southern waters. – August 29, 1954
After a week of discussions on the causes of climate change, an assembly of specialists from several continents seems to have reached unanimous agreement on only one point: it is getting colder. – New York Times – January 30, 1961
Like an outrigger canoe riding before a huge comber, the earth with its inhabitants is caught on the downslope of an immense climatic wave that is plunging us toward another Ice Age. – Los Angeles Times December 23, 1962
Col. Bernt Balchen, polar explorer and flier, is circulating a paper among polar specialists proposing that the Arctic pack ice is thinning and that the ocean at the North Pole may become an open sea within a decade or two. – New York Times – February 20, 1969
The United States and the Soviet Union are mounting large-scale investigations to determine why the Arctic climate is becoming more frigid, why parts of the Arctic sea ice have recently become ominously thicker and whether the extent of that ice cover contributes to the onset of ice ages. – New York Times – July 18, 1970
The battle to feed humanity is over. In the 1970s, the world will undergo famines. Hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. — Paul Ehrlich – The Population Bomb (1968)
Get a good grip on your long johns, cold weather haters—the worst may be yet to come. That’s the long-long-range weather forecast being given out by “climatologists.” the people who study very long-term world weather trends…. Washington Post January 11, 1970
In ten years all important animal life in the sea will be extinct. Large areas of coastline will have to be evacuated because of the stench of dead fish. — Paul Ehrlich, Earth Day (1970)
“Civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind. We are in an environmental crisis which threatens the survival of this nation, and of the world as a suitable place of human habitation,” – Barry Commoner Washington University Earth Day 1970
Convection in the Antarctic Ice Sheet Leading to a Surge of the Ice Sheet and Possibly to a New Ice Age. – Science 1970
“In the next 50 years fine dust that humans discharge into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuel will screen out so much of the sun’s rays that the Earth’s average temperature could fall by six degrees. Sustained emissions over five to 10 years, could be sufficient to trigger an ice age.” – Washington Post – July 9, 1971
New Ice Age Coming-—It’s Already Getting Colder. Some midsummer day, perhaps not too far in the future, a hard, killing frost will sweep down on the wheat fields of Saskatchewan, the Dakotas and the Russian steppes…..Los Angles Times Oct 24, 1971
“There is very important climatic change (Global Cooling) going on right now, and it’s not merely something of academic interest. It is something that, if it continues, will affect the whole human occupation of the earth – like a billion people starving. The effects are already showing up in a rather drastic way.” – Fortune Magazine February 1974
“Climatological Cassandras are becoming increasingly apprehensive, for the weather aberrations they are studying may be the harbinger of another ice age” – Time Magazine June 24, 1974
A number of climatologists, whose job it is to keep an eye on long-term weather changes, have lately been predicting deterioration of the benign climate to which we have grown accustomed….Various climatologists issued a statement that “the facts of the present climate change are such that the most optimistic experts would assign near certainty to major crop failure in a decade,” If policy makers do not account for this oncoming doom, “mass deaths by starvation and probably in anarchy and violence” will result. New York Times – December 29, 1974
Regardless of long term trends, such as the return of an Ice Age, unsettled weather conditions now appear more likely than those of the abnormally favorable period which ended in 1972. – Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society – October 10, 1975
A RECENT flurry of papers has provided further evidence for the belief that the Earth is cooling. There now seems little doubt that changes over the past few years are more than a minor statistical fluctuation – Nature – March 6, 1975
Scientists, these seemingly disparate incidents represent the advance signs of fundamental changes in the world’s weather. The central fact is that after three quarters of a century of extraordinarily mild conditions, the earth’s climate seems to be cooling down. Meteorologists disagree about the cause and extent of the cooling trend, as well as over its specific impact on local weather conditions. But they are almost unanimous in the view that the trend will reduce agricultural productivity for the rest of the century. – The Cooling World Newsweek, April 28, 1975
“Scientist ponder why World’s Climate is changing; a major cooling is considered to be inevitable – New York Times May 21, 1975
This cooling has already killed hundreds of thousands of people. If it continues and no strong action is taken, it will cause world famine, world chaos and world war, and this could all come about before the year 2000. — Lowell Ponte “The Cooling”, 1976
An international team of specialists has concluded from eight indexes of climate that there is no end in sight to the cooling trend of the last 30 years, at least in the Northern Hemisphere. – New York Times – January 5, 1978
One of the questions that nags at climatologists asks when and how fast a new ice age might descend. A Belgian scientist suggests this could happen sooner and swifter than you might think. – Christian Science Monitor – Nov 14, 1979
Evidence has been presented and discussed to show a cooling trend over the Northern Hemisphere since around 1940, amounting to over 0.5°C, due primarily to cooling at mid- and high latitudes – Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society – November 1980
A global warming trend could bring heat waves, dust-dry farmland and disease, the experts said… Under this scenario, the resort town of Ocean City, Md., will lose 39 feet of shoreline by 2000 and a total of 85 feet within the next 25 years – San Jose Mercury News – June 11, 1986
‘New York will probably be like Florida 15 years from now,’ – St. Louis Post-Dispatch Sept. 17, 1989
Some predictions for the next decade (1990’s) are not difficult to make… Americans may see the ‘80s migration to the Sun Belt reverse as a global warming trend rekindles interest in cooler climates. – Dallas Morning News December 5th 1989
By 2000, British and American oil will have dimished to a trickle……Ozone depletion and global warming threaten food shortages, but the wealthy North will enjoy a temporary reprieve by buying up the produce of the South. Unrest among the hungry and the ensuing political instability, will be contained by the North’s greater military might. A bleak future indeed, but an inevitable one unless we change the way we live…..At present rates of exploitation there may be no rainforest left in 10 years. If measures are not taken immediately, the greenhouse effect may be unstoppable in 12 to 15 years. – 5000 Days to Save the Planet – Edward Goldsmith 1991
‘’I think we’re in trouble. When you realize how little time we have left – we are now given not 10 years to save the rainforests, but in many cases five years. Madagascar will largely be gone in five years unless something happens. And nothing is happening.’’ – ABC – The Miracle Planet April 22, 1990
The planet could face an “ecological and agricultural catastrophe” by the next decade if global warming trends continue – Carl Sagan – Buffalo News Oct. 15, 1990
Most of the great environmental struggles will be either won or lost in the 1990s and by the next century it will be too late. — Thomas E. Lovejoy, Smithsonian Institution “Real Goods Alternative Energy Sourcebook,” Seventh Edition: February 1993
Today (in 1996) 25 million environmental refugees roam the globe, more than those pushed out for political, economic, or religious reasons. By 2010, this number will grow tenfold to 200 million. – The Heat is On -The High Stakes Battle Over Earth’s Threatened Climate – Ross Gelbspan – 1996
“It appears that we have a very good case for suggesting that the El Ninos are going to become more frequent, and they’re going to become more intense and in a few years, or a decade or so, we’ll go into a permanent El Nino.” – BBC November 7, 1997
In ten years time, most of the low-lying atolls surrounding Tuvalu’s nine islands in the South Pacific Ocean will be submerged under water as global warming rises sea levels, CNN Mar 29, 2001
“Globally, 2002 is likely to be warmer than 2001 – it may even break the record set in 1998. – Daily Mirror August 2, 2002
Next year(2003)may be warmest recorded: Global temperatures in 2003 are expected to exceed those in 1998 – the hottest year to date – The Scotsman December 30, 2002
(The) extra energy, together with a weak El Nino, is expected to make 2005 warmer than 2003 and 2004 and perhaps even warmer than 1998 – Reuters February 11, 2005
NOAA announced its predictions for the 2006 hurricane season, saying it expects an “above normal” year with 13-16 named storms. Of these storms, the agency says it expects four to be hurricanes of category 3 or above, double the yearly average of prior seasons in recorded history. With experts calling the coming hurricane season potentially worse than last year’s, oil prices have jumped 70 cents per barrel in New York and made similar leaps elsewhere. Economists anticipate that demand for oil will rise sharply over the summer, when as many as four major hurricanes could hit the United States. — Seed Magazine 5/19/06
This year (2007) is likely to be the warmest year on record globally, beating the current record set in 1998, – ScienceDaily Jan. 5, 2007
Warm (2007 – 2008) Winter Predicted for United States – NOAA forecasters are calling for above-average temperatures over most of the country – Science Daily Oct. 11, 2007
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