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Applying structured analogies to the global warming alarm movement

A project directed by This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

A copy of the current draft working paper from this project, titled "The global warming alarm: Forecasts from the structured analogies method," is available here (updated 31 March , 2011).

The structured analogies procedure we used for this study was as follows:

  1. Identify possible analogies by searching the literature and by asking experts with different viewpoints to nominate analogies to the target situation: alarm over dangerous manmade global warming.
  2. Screen the possible analogies to ensure they meet the stated criteria and that the outcomes are known.
  3. Code the relevant characteristics of the analogous situations.
  4. Forecast target situation outcomes by using a predetermined mechanical rule to select the outcomes of the analogies.

Here is how we posed the question to the experts:

“The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and other organizations and individuals have warned that unless manmade emissions of carbon dioxide are reduced substantially, temperatures will increase and people and the natural world will suffer serious harm. Some people believe it is already too late to avoid some of that harm.
Have there been other situations that involved widespread alarm over predictions of serious harm that could only be averted at considerable cost? We are particularly interested in alarms endorsed by experts and accepted as serious by relevant authorities.”

We screened the proposed analogies to find those for which the outcomes were known and that met the criteria of similarity to the global warming alarm. Our criteria for similarity were that the situations must have involved alarms that were:

  1. based on forecasts of material human catastrophe arising from effects of human activity on the physical environment,
  2. endorsed by scientists, politicians, and media, and
  3. accompanied by calls for strong action

In the table below is the list of analogies after we screened the proposed analogies using the above criteria. To date, we have prepared descriptions for seven of them and posted descriptions by others for two of them. Links to the descriptions are provided in the table.

After we had compiled our list, we found that Julian L. Simon had compiled a similar list in his book The Ultimate Resource 2 under the chapter title of "Bad environmental and resource scares". We have reproduced that material here on this site with the kind permission of the Simon family. In the light of Julian Simon's list, we are looking at expanding our list of analogies to the global warming scare.

Analogies to the alarm over dangerous manmade global warming

Analogy

Year

1

Population growth and famine (Malthus)

1798

2

Timber famine economic threat

1865

3

Uncontrolled reproduction and degeneration (Eugenics)

1883

4

Lead in petrol and brain and organ damage

1928

5

Soil erosion agricultural production threat

1934

6

Asbestos and lung disease

1939

7

Fluoride in drinking water health effects

1945

8

DDT and cancer

1962

9

Population growth and famine (Ehrlich)

1968

10

Global cooling; through to 1975

1970

11

Supersonic airliners, the ozone hole, and skin cancer, etc.

1970

12

Environmental tobacco smoke health effects

1971

13

Population growth and famine (Meadows)

1972

14

Industrial production and acid rain

1974

15

Organophosphate pesticide poisoning

1976

16

Electrical wiring and cancer, etc.

1979

17

CFCs, the ozone hole, and skin cancer, etc.

1985

18

Listeria in cheese

1985

19

Radon in homes and lung cancer

1985

20

Salmonella in eggs

1988

21

Environmental toxins and breast cancer

1990

22

Mad cow disease (BSE)

1996

23

Dioxin in Belgian poultry

1999

24

Mercury in fish effect on nervous system development, 1; 2

2004

25

Mercury in childhood inoculations and autism

2005

26

Cell phone towers and cancer, etc.

2008

 


The following table lists analogies that were proposed, but that did not meet our criteria.

Proposed analogies that did not meet our criteria

 

The following table shows our coding of analogies.


The Global Warming Analogies Forecasting Project is a study in progress. We seek peer review, especially with evidence that would challenge our findings or conclusions. Please send us your This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .