The “Climate Clock” looms ten stories above Manhattan’s Union Square so all passersby can track the precise moment the world passes its supposed tipping-point toward irreversible, apocalyptic environmental demise. This clock has that moment of doom pegged at a little more than seven years from today. One of the men who created the clock, artist Gan Golan, said his motivation for the project was the birth of his daughter two years ago:
What we did in the next few years would determine the world my daughter would live in, that all of us would live in, and I felt that timeline needed to be understood by everyone, everywhere.
As a result, Golan and a friend constructed a massive digital alarm clock on the side of a building in one of the busiest places in the world to track just how little time we have. Last year, they even made a smaller climate clock for Swedish teenage environmental activist Greta Thunberg; one she could hold in her hand during her famed appearance at the United Nations Climate Action Summit.
“This is arguably the most important number in the world,” the team explained to The New York Times, adding, “You can’t argue with science, you just have to reckon with it.” And that is where the problem lies with the environmental doom and gloom — you can absolutely argue with science. That is precisely what the scientific method is: the careful, relentless discipline of skepticism and discovery. It’s testing and questioning what others claim is beyond debate.
Nine leading climate scientists from Germany, France, Finland, and Ireland have, indeed, questioned whether anyone can reliably determine how much time remains between now and an irreversible trajectory toward environmental ruin.
Drawing from 36 different meta-analyses on the question, involving more than 4,600 individual studies spanning the last 45 years, their findings were recently published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution. They conclude that the empirical data doesn’t allow scientists to establish ecological thresholds or tipping points. As natural bio-systems are dynamic, ever-evolving, and adapting over the long-term, determining longevity timeframes is currently impossible.
These scholars write that frankly, “we lack systematic quantitative evidence as to whether empirical data allow definitions of such thresholds” and “our results thus question the pervasive presence of threshold concepts” in environmental politics and policy. Their findings also reinforced the contention that “global change biology needs to abandon the general expectation that system properties allow defining thresholds as a way to manage nature under global change.”
Professor José M. Montoya, one of the nine authors and an ecologist at the Theoretical and Experimental Ecology Station in France, told the French National Center for Scientific Research “many ecologists have long had this intuition” that setting reliable, empirically situated tipping-points “was difficult to verify until now for lack of sufficient computing power to carry out a wide-ranging analysis.” But that has now changed.
So no, there is no reliable science behind the new seven-years-to-the-point-of-no-return countdown of the Climate Clock in Union Square, nor for Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s infamous “The world is going to end in 12 years if we don’t act now” scare, or Thunberg’s just-10-years-til-inevitable-doom drum pounding. Such claims simply do not — and cannot — be firmly grounded in any scientific knowledge we currently possess.
Evidence for this conclusion, however, goes beyond the aforementioned conclusive new study. 2020 saw the publication of two extremely important books from leading, mainstream environmental-climate scholars on what science says about the earth’s future.
The first is Michael Shellenberger, a Time magazine “Hero of the environment” who explains in his book “Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All” that nearly every piece of scare data presented by the likes of AOC, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Thunberg is not only incorrect but tells a story that is the opposite of the scientific truth. Not only is the world not going to end due to climate change, but in many important ways, the environment is getting markedly better.
As Shellenberger explains, environmental improvements are coming from technology and industry, not the do-goodism of Greenpeace and other activists. Certainly no conservative, Shellenberger wrote “Apocalypse Never” precisely because he was “getting fed up with the exaggeration, alarmism, and extremism that are the enemy of a positive, humanistic, and rational environmentalism.” Shellenberger is both pro-people and pro-technology, explaining counter-intuitively that the scientific “evidence is overwhelming that our high-energy civilization is better for people and nature than the low-energy civilization that climate alarmists would return us to.”
Another major environmentalist voice challenging hysteria is Bjorn Lomborg of the Copenhagen Consensus Center think tank, listed by the UK’s liberal Guardian newspaper as one of the 50 people who could save the planet. In his book “False Alarm,” he explains how “climate change panic” is not only unfounded, it’s also wasting trillions of dollars globally, hurting the poor, and failing to fix the very problems it warns us about. Lomborg explains:
‘The rhetoric on climate change has become more extreme and less moored to the actual science’ at the very time that ‘climate scientists have painstakingly increased knowledge about climate change, and we have more — and more reliable — data than ever before.’
So, what science genuinely telling us? “Science shows us that fears of a climate apocalypse are unfounded.” Lomborg explains, admitting that while “global warming is real … it is not the end of the world.” “It is a manageable problem” he adds. He is dismayed that we live in a world “where almost half the population believes climate change will extinguish humanity” and do so under the mistaken assumption that science concludes this. It doesn’t, and he is vexed this mantra parades under the banner of enlightenment.
It’s imperative we properly steward this beautiful planet God has gifted to us. It was the second command He gave to humanity, after the charge to populate it with generation after generation of new people. But hysteria is not what is called for in this work. Shellenberger, Lomborg, and these nine other international ecologists tell us there is no empirical basis for the apocalyptic prognostications so needlessly disturbing the dreams of the world’s young people.