This week I had posted on my Facebook page the image seen below.
I could not ask for a better example of the danger facing readers of Facebook. It is a great piece of rhetoric. None of the first five statements are wrong, that is all were made and all were based on some kind of science. All are also not really accurate. The last and final statement is also incorrect, both in it’s assertion that nothing happened and the assertion that there is some relationship with taxes. Let’s look at each statement in turn and see what is being done.
Yes, in the early 1960’s there were projections that all ‘known’ oil reserves would be exhausted. An, yes it was in fact true. All of the oil reserves known before 1960’s are exHausted by the early 1970’s. The key thing is that they were talking about all known oil reserves and it assumes no new sources of oil would be found and that no new oil extraction technologies would be developed. Finally I have not been able to find a single knowledgeable person in the 1960’s who accepted this idea. Indeed, in the early 70’s I heard this being said as a justification for more oil exploration. (BTW: I was working with my Dad’s oil exploration company at the time.)
In the 1970’s there were people sayings and papers being published predicting a coming ice age. Unfortunately a great many more people saying and papers were being published talking about the global warming. One of the problems with science is you can always find people exposing theories that go against the accepted view. What is worse, sometimes these people are right. That is why science has ‘pier’ reviews of all papers and every theory is, or should be, carefully and completely look at.
In the 1980’s, just like now, acidic rain, or acid rain, is being talked about and some people are making dire predictions. (See above about theories) The difference between now and then is that then it was sulfur oxides not carbon oxides that was the worry. The burning of coal burns some sulfur creating two oxides. Both sulfur dioxide (SO2) and sulfur trioxide (SO3). The first makes the weak acid Sulfurous acid (H2SO3) and the other Sulfuric acid (H2SO4). It was soon seen that it was sulfurous acid that was being made, but sulfuric acid was present in significant amounts. In any case the changing of the pH of the rain would and does have a significant effect on crops. (Please note that there are a great many compounds created by burning hydrocarbons such as CO, CO2, NO2, and NO3 to name a few.) Al that said, we did do something, we developed technology to ‘scrub’ (precipitate) the sulfur oxides out of the smoke of coal (and any other high sulfur content hydrocarbons).
In the 1990s, actually even before, the depletion of the Ozone Lay was becoming a concern. The connection with the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)and the depletion was soon shown in many scientific papers, an yes, there were papers challenging this (see about). The chemical reaction(s) between CFCs has been shown in the lab many times. This is not odd as ozone is quite reactive chemical. Once the world stoped using chlorofluorocarbons the ozone lay has been recovering (it’s still not back to where is was when it was first discovered but it is not getting weaker.)
Finally, yes there are ‘doom’ sayers out there who have published paper’s projecting the total melting of the two icecaps by 2010. Once again these papers were outliers, often based on either poor data and/or poor analysis. The vast majority of the work done is talking about the loss of the two ice caps with in 50-100 years BUT this is all based on incomplete data.
So what does this show us? First that it is true that the statements were made. Next all were incorrect. Most just citing outlier science and two forgetting to note that action was taken to prevent it from happening. It is the last and final statement that is wrong on all counts. That ‘None of this Happened’ is a true statement but implies all were taken seriously and that nothing was done. The second part is more insidious, it implies a connection between the earlier statements and taxes. With out any demonstration of causality. It is a classic use of correlation without causality. Using this same reasoning we should ban ice cream as it has been shown for over a century now that when there is a rise in the sale of ice cream there is a corresponding rise in Homicides. (This last is based on the classic example used in intro to statistics on correlation and causality.)
So beware, what ever the side you are on, of postings like this one. I would recommend if you see something like this that are tempted to say “Yes! Exactly right!” To take a step back and ask your self “What are they Selling?”