When Halley's Comet's hardly perceptible tail swept by a bit closer to Earth than usual in 1910 the calamity peddlers didn't allow the anomalous event to pass without taking advantage. They leapt onto the public forum raising the alarm and marketing pills to fleece a somewhat naive populace. It all culminated in yet another embarrassing episode in the chronicle of human gullibility, from a rash of suicides around the world to, in Oklahoma, a plan to sacrifice a virgin in order to ward off the impending doom, thankfully quashed by police.
Unsurprisingly, those whipping up fantasy terrors from space failed to foresee the incomparable twin catastrophes then on the very near horizon which descended upon the planet in short order — the nightmare of World War I (1914-18) causing 40 million deaths, and the great influenza pandemic at the close of the war adding another 50 million fatalities.
Panic-mongering, nonetheless, is ancient, pervasive and very often deadly. But of all the credulous visions, oracles, prophesies, inquisitions and hunches, the end-of-the-world trope is one of the most mortifying to the intelligence of the 18,000 generations of Homo sapiens having survived anything and everything thrown at it on 4.5 billion year-old Earth, making it an absurdity on its very face.
Yet far from this sort of foolishness having been cast aside by sophisticated modern societies, the last century has been an era of almost constant doomsaying, with the few voices attempting to call attention to the real dangers crippling the entire planet at present — viral epidemics — drowned out amid a cacophony of nonsense.
Instead, global famine, "peak oil" crises, population bombs, coming ice ages, ozone holes, Y2K and more were shouted incessantly at the world. When deadlines passed for all these disasters, those hawking the doom and gloom simply moved on to the next end-days scenario, and the next and the next.
The current climate alarmism is unprecedented though as it demonizes the very carbon dioxide we and all animalia exhale.
This essence of life, without which all carbon-based lifeforms would cease to exist, downgraded now to the upside-down category of "carbon pollution," is supposedly the means to yet another specious apocalypse. Moreover, this bizarre three decade-long assault on common sense is also very unlike former panics since the purveyors of past dreads at least ceased selling fear when nothing transpired.
When the Y2K prognosticators, for example, were proved wrong as the world didn't come to an end on January 1, 2000, they simply disappeared en masse. There was some semblance of the scientific method in even that awkward history as the 21st century dawned; nothing happened and the matter was unceremoniously dismissed.
Indeed, that's how science works, insisting that precise predictions and observations be made and then comparing the results to determine what sort of truth any hypothesis holds. That is the hallmark of science since the 1500s, the foundation of modernity. Without this methodology anyone can simply imagine, predict, guess or hypothesize anything.
The world before the scientific method was therefore filled with witches, miasmas, doctors who cured with leeches and bleeding, innocence or guilt determined by trials of fire and combat. It's simply staggering that any modern human would submit to the slightest return to any part of those unpleasant chapters in history.
Yet that is very much where climate catastrophism resides since its previous failed attempts to predict anything accurately have gone off the rails. In 1989 the United Nations issued a "tipping point," sternly demanding that the world immediately adopt its "global warming" dictates or else in 10 years time "entire nations could be wiped off the face of the Earth by coastal flooding and crop failures." This dire folly was published in thousands of newspapers across the world, run on the Associated Press' wires, June 29, 1989.
But that isn't the only "tipping point" that has come and gone. Ten years later the deadline for doom was reset, giving humankind until 2009 to start paying carbon taxes or face oblivion. Just last year when the last ultimatum fizzled once again the end-of-the-world clock was recalibrated for yet another go-round.
This isn't science but instead more the tactics of offbeat cults wishing to convince that something preposterous is certain to happen, always approaching, just around the corner, but like a mirage never actually arriving.
And the risk in all this is that obsessions with nebulous doomsday scenarios sap civilization's focus, resources, will, time, trouble and energy to prepare for those terrible onslaughts that must occur and will catch such a society off-guard.
The current worldwide COVID-19 viral crisis is a salient lesson for climate scientists to rein in the hyperbole and get their discipline in order. Their surrender to addled extremism is both shameful and perilous.
David Nabhan is a science writer, the author of "Earthquake Prediction: Dawn of the New Seismology" (2017) and three previous books on earthquakes. Nabhan is also a science fiction writer ("Pilots of Borealis," 2015) and the author of many scores of newspaper and magazine op-eds. Nabhan has been featured on television and talk radio all over the world. His website is www.earthquakepredictors.com. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.