In the weather blogging business, global disasters are a prime subject. It wasn’t always that way. Most weather “disasters” were local events, such as a tornado, hurricane, or flood. Disaster went big-time with the advent of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) theory. Now local weather disasters are typically heralded as a sign of a portending apocalyptic world-wide climate disaster.
Using too many fossil fuels is pegged as the core reason for the AGW disaster and thus another disaster often comes into focus on this page – Peak Oil. Energy shortages used to be local phenomena. If modes of energy became exhausted, local populations would switch to something else or find ways to make it through. Now that the economy has gone world-wide, “energy disasters” are projected to go world-wide.
Peak Oil is one of those disaster theories. The premise is (or was) that the earth is running out of oil and that we will all be living like our ancestors did in the stone age, very soon. Anyway, that is the theme you would have found in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Peak Oil did not happen in the late 1990s, as it was originally forecast. Many other predictions were made year after year, and those have not come to pass either (see my interview with Dr. Hirsch). Now at least one person supportive of Peak Oil theory says ‘ when Peak Oil occurs is beside the point‘. I would say it does matter and it is a “point” to be made, because policy prescriptions would be much different if the forecasts were accurate. Almost 15 years of failed Peak Oil disaster predictions matter. Personally, I wouldn’t mind if fossil fuels were a little harder to get as it would speed the adoption of cleaner alternatives. But then again, I have enough income to pay for modern conveniences made possible by fossil fuels. Other do not, which makes life more difficult when oil prices rise.
In any case, diagnosing the flaws/changes of Peak Oil theory and foreseeing the consequences of more expensive fossil fuels is fairly easy. What about other disaster predictions? I have often mentioned that one of the reasons why some people do not put much stock in AGW theory is because they have heard so many environmental disaster predictions through the years that they become hardened to they warnings – the crying wolf effect.
Remember the acid rain scare? The ozone hole? Neither of these ended up to be as big of a problem as was forecast by doom-and-gloomers. These problems were supposed to almost destroy the world. I don’t exaggerate, I lived through these problems and predictions. Over at Wired, Matt Ridley details how these environmental problems were overblown. It is also a great article about Peak Oil, various apocalyptic disease predictions, and AGW. All of this does not mean we should mock all talk about Armageddon. As wrong and as baseless as Paul Ehrlich’s predictions turned out to be , he still made people think more about issues such as overpopulation.
Have a fine Tuesday! Meteorologist Justin Loew