Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Doomsday Once More

Ronald Baily ("What Doom Will Look Like This Time Around") offers an interesting review of "One with Nineveh" by Paul and Anne Ehrlich. This time, they warn about the dire consequences of global warming.

Baily notes: "In the Ehrlich's simplistic summary, environmental Impact equals Population x Affluence x Technology, the notorious I = PAT identity. Impact is, of course, always negative. One notes that the three factors aren't merely added togther, their allegedly deleterious effects are multiplied."

I confess that I started some of the Ehrlich books but could not finish any of them. So, I may be (may be)missing something, but Paul Ehrlich's doomsday forecast track record is well known. He has even lost real money, betting against the late Julian Simon. Simon later wrote that the idea of cash bets was a sign of his own exasperation. Poor Julian has passed on and would probably be exasperated all over again. Doomsday tomes are likely to be with us for some time because there is a tremendous demand for them. Why?

I can only speculate:

1. Some people have a puritanical nature and expect that they will have to pay for their material comforts.
2. Others may be uncomfortable with (or suspicious of) the fruits of market successes but are attracted to Kyoto-style economic planning.
3. With the demise of socialism, many may have intellectual capital on hand which they would rather use than discard.

Perhaps it's all inevitable human nature.

Saddest is the occasional comment from a reputable scientist to the effect that hyperbole is OK when the stakes are so large. So, where's the science?