Climate Catastrophe Predictions
1967: Dire Famine Forecast By 1975. 1969: Everyone Will Disappear In a Cloud Of Blue Steam By 1989. 1970: Ice Age By 2000 1970: America Subject to Water Rationing By 1974 and Food Rationing By 1980. 1971: New Ice Age Coming By 2020 or 2030. 1972: New Ice Age By 2070. 1974: Space Satellites Show New Ice Age Coming Fast. 1974: Another Ice Age? 1974: Ozone Depletion a ‘Great Peril to Life. 1976: Scientific Consensus Planet Cooling, Famines imminent. 1980: Acid Rain Kills Life In Lakes. 1978: No End in Sight to 30-Year Cooling Trend. 1988: Regional Droughts (that never happened) in 1990s. 1988: Temperatures in DC Will Hit Record Highs. 1988: Maldive Islands will Be Underwater by 2018 (Spoiler Alert, they’re not). 1989: Rising Sea Levels will Obliterate Nations if Nothing Done by 2000. 1989: New York City’s West Side Highway Underwater by 2019 (it’s not). 2000: Children Won’t Know what Snow Is. 2002: Famine In 10 Years If We Don’t Give Up Eating Fish, Meat, and Dairy. 2004: Britain will Be Siberia by 2024. 2008: Arctic will Be Ice Free by 2018. 2008: Al Gore Predicts Ice-Free Arctic by 2013. 2009: Climate Genius Prince Charles Says we Have 96 Months to Save World. 2009: UK Prime Minister Says 50 Days to ‘Save The Planet From Catastrophe’. 2009: Climate Genius Al Gore Moves 2013 Prediction of Ice-Free Arctic to 2014. 2013: Arctic Ice-Free by 2015. 2014: Only 500 Days Before ‘Climate Chaos’
“The prediction I can make with the highest confidence is that the most amazing discoveries will be the ones we are not today wise enough to foresee.” - Carl Sagan
To say we live in interesting times might be the understatement of the year, but none the less it remains true. An exogenous shock to the global system, once thought to perhaps have the potential to be the external threat that overcome the divisions that have grown more extreme during the past few years has only served to magnify them. Shocks to global economies brought on by Covid-19 and the policy responses to it have fractured many of the cultural norms that preceded them as well as exposing the fragility of global supply chains, for which we all depend on so much for essentials and frivolities alike. Much has been written and more will be I’m sure about the causes of the polarization that seems to be infecting much of the world today. Urban versus rural, developed versus developing, liberal democracy versus authoritarianism, red versus blue, the dualities continue ad nauseum. As much as there have been warnings for years over the dangers of falling into tribalism, it appears to me at least, that is where we reside today. It colours every discussion and topic, from food choice to education, science to entertainment, nothing has escaped from becoming another divisive issue. And that of course includes climate and energy policies.
Around the time of this back page being published, the worlds ostensibly environmental cognoscenti will be descending into Glasgow Scotland for COP26 (the 26th Conference of the Parties). According to some cursory research, there will be in excess of 30,000 attendees and it’s a bloody big business. With accommodations alone ranging from multiple thousands of dollars a day for the top chateau’s and castles to roughing it in a 6 bedroom bunk bed dorm for $300.00 per night. Add to that all the side meetings, cultural events and activities on top of the plenary sessions, it’s easy to see it’s not an event designed with the budget traveller in mind. Representatives of governments along with their advisors, heads of NGO’s with a retinue of support staff and of course the world’s billionaires and entertainment figures along with their respective entourages in tow will grace sunny Scotland for 12 glorious days to collectively plan to save the world from eminent and catastrophic climate collapse.
This collapse has been prognosticated for years now, going back to Thomas Malthus’ dire predictions of mass starvation using the theory of exponential population growth and arithmetic food supply growth. He was proved wrong at least in part by failing to account for technological developments in food production and advances in global trade. It seems that these apocalyptic warnings are issued on a regular basis (see above for examples) This year’s conference comes at an especially interesting time given what is happening energy wise across Europe, Asia and indeed parts of North America. In all those jurisdictions and I’m sure more, energy prices are skyrocketing, businesses like fertilizer companies are being shutdown because they don’t have the feedstocks necessary for production and citizens are being warned of impending blackouts. Like most complex subjects I don’t believe there is a single reason for this, but among them certainly are some of the challenges energy policy prioritizing renewables at the expense of natural gas and nuclear are contributing to the situation. What it is creating though will be a showdown of sorts between the realities being faced on the ground and the aspirational goals of governments and NGOs to get to Net Zero 2050.
The outcome of COP26 is important for Canada because either our erstwhile leaders will return with some degree of humility after seeing the collision between policy and practice, and work toward realistic, pragmatic solutions to this issue, or come back even more committed to what in my opinion is ultimately a creed of apocalyptic environmentalism, closely aligned with the ideology of anti-capitalism. That’s a deadly combination that will have a devastating impact on the future of this country and will in large part determine, to quote a former Canadian Prime Minister, “ Whether we live together in confidence and cohesion; with more faith and pride in ourselves and less self-doubt and hesitation; strong in the conviction that the destiny of Canada is to unite, not divide; sharing in cooperation, not in separation or in conflict; respecting our past and welcoming our future.”