As we get deeper into primary season for the 2020 election, many Democratic candidates have put a lot of focus on the environment. Notably, slipping candidate Beto O’Rourke tried to grab some attention away from former Vice President Joe Biden by not only doubling-down on his ten-years-left-to-act routine, but also promising to spend $5 trillion to save the environment during that decade.
We’ve posted several articles about the environment, the Green New Deal, and the scare tactics used by the left and their (political) scientist cronies in the climate change movement. I’m sure we’ll post many more. But right now I want to focus on the importance of the “10 years” that gets invoked about, well, every ten or so years. It’s a magical number chosen for very specific psychological reasons that have nothing to do with climate models or actual science.
But to understand why it’s been this way for four decades, we actually have to go back five decades.
Around the time of the first Earth Day, scientists were starting to come out ringing alarm bells about the environment. It may be hard for some to believe, but around 50 years ago nobody really knew what a “treehugger” was. They didn’t know much about carbon emissions and thought the ozone layer was something from the Twilight Zone. But awareness was just getting started, as were the predictions.
One of the first notable ones came from Harvard biologist George Wald. He recognized changes in the way many animals were acting and shifting from their habitats and estimated that “civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind.”
This was startling. The first Earth Day was organized and unveiled to the world in 1970. The day after the first Earth Day, the New York Times editorial warned, “Man must stop pollution and conserve his resources, not merely to enhance existence but to save the race from intolerable deterioration and possible extinction.”
The word was starting to spread and it was very effective at getting people to ask questions, but few people acted. Even before there was a stigma against being a “treehugger,” there was a sense of bewilderment that eventually became complacency. Why?
As the growing progressive movement in politics started paying attention and eventually latching onto the global warming movement, they noted two things. The message was a winner if handled right and the people behind the message weren’t handling it right at all. So, they commandeered it. In less than a decade, the hippies and LSD-scientists who started the movement were pushed aside, replaced by “serious” scientists with a serious agenda.
Within this agenda was the need to start thinking in terms of urgency without overplaying their hand. 15-30 years just wasn’t urgent enough. Many of the people who could contribute to such a cause may not have expected to be alive by the time the ocean levels rose to add beachfront property to Arizona. They needed it to be sooner. But, they couldn’t make it too quick, either. If they set it at five years, for example, many people would either not believe it or think it would be impossible to make changes in that short of time.
Thus, the 10-year climate model (and it’s sophisticated sister, the 12-year climate model) was born.
Ten years is short enough to get people motivated and long enough to make people forget about the claim when it didn’t come to pass. Ten (or twelve) years is perfect to drive a narrative.
Several minor 10-year predictions started popping up during President Jimmy Carter’s term, reinforced by the practical need to overcome outrageous gas prices at the time. A few more popped up throughout the 1980s, but a sense of skepticism started sneaking into the public psyche in America. Perhaps it was a focus on the USSR. Maybe it was just President Ronald Reagan’s ability to generate hope. Either way, the 1980s were more of a battleground period during which people could debate the importance of the issue rather than worrying about predictions.
But in 1989, the first major worldwide win for the movement came through the United Nations and the Associated Press:
Here’s an interesting piece of news for those who question whether climate change is going to essentially destroy the planet. It was confirmed that a senior United Nations climate official predicted “entire nations could be wiped off the face of the Earth by rising sea levels if the global warming trend is not reversed” within a decade.
That report was published in 1989 by the Associated Press.
This was powerful. Before we were going to get a chance to party like it’s 1999, the world was going to burn under the fury of global warning. Thankfully, this didn’t happen and Prince’s epic song continues to be a tribute to the past.
Once Y2K proved to be a dud of a worldwide catastrophe, the left of the day started latching onto more decade-long doom and gloom predictions, culminating in the infamous Al Gore predictions of the mid-00s. Ten years, and we’re done.
Just. Ten. Years.
A decade and a half later, there’s a new prediction latched onto by the left. You probably already know the punchline. Yes, according to a growing number of leftists and Democratic lawmakers, we have either ten or twelve years to correct this or… wait for it… we’ll be beyond the point of no return.
“Act now! And donate to Democrats you guys!”
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a full-blown climate change denier. I’m not convinced it’s man-reversible, but even if I was sure I wouldn’t freak out too much. You see, we’re already on our way. Technology is heading in a direction that is going to make fossil fuel burning obsolete. It isn’t because of doomsday predictions that this is a good thing. It’s because logic tells us the fuels on this planet cannot last forever. Real science tells us we need potable water and clean air. Our wallets tell us gas is expensive and nobody likes filling up a gas guzzler. But perhaps most importantly, renewable energy plus carbon-friendly nuclear energy will be better once they become more efficient and less expensive. That doesn’t take a Green New Deal or Beto’s plan to come true. It’s already happening. The technology will get there without DC’s help because it makes sense.
In fact, it’ll probably get there faster if DC just stays out of the energy science picture altogether.
Why is it always “10 years to doom”? Because it’s a psychological trigger. It enables them to say, “give us power so we can take a lot more of your money to save you,” while suspending disbelief in their ludicrous sales pitch.