Reports of the demise of the Earth grossly exaggerated

Commentary, Environment, Elizabeth Nickson

At least there are no exploding children. The green movement’s latest unseemly manipulation of kids casts Downtown Abbey’s butler as Santa Claus in a dripping ice bunker, saying he has had to cancel Christmas because the North Pole is melting – please send money. The culprit, this time, is Greenpeace, an outfit in Canada which had its charitable status yanked in 1998[i], because its actions “served no public purpose”.

Whatever the season is, the preferred target of the collapse crowd is a young eager mind. Into which they inject terror. Never mind that it is snowing in Cairo and Israel, there has never been so much ice in Antarctica and that 2,000 cold records were set in North America this past week.

Instead, the debate at the forefront of environmental discussion is Peak Planet, or post-scarcity and the abundance economy. We are close. Human knowledge and inventiveness have so far outpaced the Suzukis of our world that they are not only irrelevant, but broadly destructive of the public good.

Let’s remember that both Malthus, who in 1798 predicted a never-ending cycle of famine, squalor and disease, and Paul Erhlich who in 1968 claimed that by 1985 “hundreds of millions are going to starve to death” were not only wrong, they were hugely, unassailably wrong.

All by itself, the planet is healing from the burst of industrialization that created the prosperity we enjoy today. Population explosion? In North America, Europe, China and Japan, the birthrate is now at or below replacement and even in sub-Saharan Africa fertility rates have dropped to near four children per woman. As countries develop, women have fewer children. Demographer Joel Cohen of Columbia University predicts that “many of us may live to see population peak in the middle of this century”. The UN agrees. [iii]

In the developed world, we are now “peak-stuff”. Even before the ’08 crash, people were consuming substantially less than the 90′s. In the UK[iii], Europe[iv], Canada and the U.S., people are driving less[v] and using less water[vi], and theorists now believe that beyond a certain level of economic development people simply stop consuming so much.

In the developing world, resource use has become more efficient. New Scientist reports that in 2008 Jesse Ausubel and Paul Waggoner of Rockefeller University drew on data covering 1980 to 2006 to argue that there had been “declining intensities of impact, from energy use and carbon emissions to food consumption and fertilizer use, globally and in countries ranging from the U.S., France, China, to India, Brazil and Indonesia”[vii]. They referred to the trend as economic “dematerialization”.

Here is more fact-based good news: shale gas is doing more to halt CO2 emissions than all the billions spent on climate science[viii]. Even the New York Times[ix] admits there has been no warming for 17 years. It can be argued that this summer was the coldest summer on record at the North Pole[ix]. We recorded the highest August Arctic ice extent since 2006[x] and record high August Antarctic ice[xi]. There have been no major hurricane strikes for eight years (Sandy was a tropical storm when it hit New Jersey[xii]). It was the slowest tornado season on record[xiii], second lowest fire season in two decades[xiv], and four of the five snowiest winters in the northern hemisphere have occurred since 2008[xv].

In Canada, ambient concentrations of sulphur dioxide decreased by 57 per cent between 1996 and 2009. Ambient levels of nitrogen dioxide and volatile organic compounds (VOC) dropped too[xvi]. According to the internationally respected Environmental Performance Index (EPI), Canada is a world leader in terms of water quality[xvii]. Our forest cover is not in decline, our soil is not eroding, nor desertifying, an 80 per cent improvement from decades ago.[xviii].

The environmental movement and its allies have become abusive, and not just to children. Tell your kids this Christmas that the haters are dead wrong and their future has never looked better. Because that is the truth.