Anti-development eco-alarmists fail to realize that poverty, not prosperity, poses the ultimate environmental threat. This fixed pie, zero-sum game mindset views unsustainable population growth, natural resource depletion and environmental havoc as inevitable consequences of democratic free market industrial societies.

Their solution is to put governments and committees in control of inventorying, rationing, and allocating all assets of sustenance and production on behalf of a greater good —  determined and ordained by experts.

But they are wrong. The biggest problem isn’t that the Earth has too many rich people, or too many people altogether. Rather, is that there are so many poor tragic victims of largely U.N.-orchestrated, climate-crisis premised anti-carbon energy starvation policies.

Thomas Malthus

Thomas Malthus

Such thinking can be traced back to the influential writings of Thomas Malthus in eighteenth century London who predicted that disaster would occur as a geometric population increase outstripped a “fixity of land.” But even in his time, while England’s population was growing, the food supply was growing even more rapidly.

Studies were soon beginning to indicate an inverse relationship between wealth and population change, where wealthier regions had lower growth rates. Then with the birth of the European Industrial Revolution, living conditions for many improved dramatically, if not by standards approaching those we enjoy today

Population alarmism faded by 1850, only to be replaced by a new concern whether there would be enough coal to continually fuel English industry and global economic prominence. In his book The Coal Question published in 1865, William Stanley (W.S.) Jevons argued that cheap supplies and excessive consumption of coal presented the painful fact that, “In increasing depth and difficulty of coal mining we shall meet the vague, but inevitable boundary that will stop our progress.”

Jevon’s gloomy Britain forecast was based upon an estimated coal demand that turned out to be off by a factor of about fifty times by 1965.

Why? Well largely because he overestimated the importance of coal relative to petroleum.

Then the 1885 the state geologist of Pennsylvania warned that the “amazing exhibition of oil” was only a “temporary and vanishing phenomenon”. Even John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil partner John Archbold sold off some of his shares at a discount fearing that reserves would run out.

U.S. Director of Mines Van H. Manning predicted, “Within the next two to five years, the oil fields will reach their maximum production, and from that time on we will face an ever-increasing decline.”

Shell Oil geologist M. King Hubbert famously warned in 1956 that U.S. oil and natural gas production would likely peak between 1965 and 1970, then decline thereafter.

He was partly right — it did peak in the 1970s and sank for decades. In 1969 he added new global forecasts whereby 80 percent of those resources would be depleted in about a century.

Quite understandably, Hubert’s forecasts failed to anticipate advances that would come to occur in the form of improved resource detection instruments that have revealed huge deposits along with advanced extraction technologies such as horizontal drilling and fracking that are enabling previously unreachable reserves to be tapped.

Known recoverable oil in North America now exceeds the amount the entire world has used in the past 150 years — enough to meet U.S. needs for the next 250 years. At current consumption rates, recoverable natural gas reserves in North America will last for another 175 years.

Our coal reserves could power the U.S. over the next 500 years.

Then in the 1980s the mother of all scares came along. Sure, those fossil fuels turned out to be much more plentiful than expected, but using them dangerously overheats the planet.  Entirely premised upon theoretical and ultimately unrealized climate model predictions of soaring global temperatures, the U.N. rapidly established a Framework Convention on Climate Change along with an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to prove this constituted a man-caused calamity.

The past 18 years of flat global temperatures despite rising atmospheric CO2 levels suggests otherwise.

History teaches us that Malthus was wrong — very wrong.

The zero-sum game philosophy carried forward by modern-day doctrinarian disciples ignores enormous benefits that free market enterprise and prosperity have brought to our lives, to our country, and to our planet.

Where economies have flourished, so have innovations that have brought better conservation methods, greater food supplies and improved sanitary conditions.

Life expectancies have more than doubled since times when raw sewage was heaped upon the streets of grand Greek and Roman empires and plagues and famines devastated rural populations. Malthusians who perceive economic growth destructive to the environment overlook the fact that that such development yields innovations and prosperity essential to support more resourceful, cleaner and healthier lifestyles.

No, we can’t turn back the clock to live in a better pre-industrial time.

There never was one.


  • Larry Bell

    CFACT Advisor Larry Bell heads the graduate program in space architecture at the University of Houston. He founded and directs the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture. He is also the author of "Climate of Corruption: Politics and Power Behind the Global Warming Hoax."