I’m not quite old enough to remember the “global cooling” scare of the 1970s and the media’s drumbeat of the coming ice age that would end mankind. But I have been told many times the end is near by doomsday prophets who have frightened people into green orthodoxy better than any cult leader.
As an 8-year-old kid I was particularly jarred by an episode of the TV show “Diff’rent Strokes” in which acid rain caused Kimberley’s hair to turn green. I lived in New York City just like the TV character, I believed my rain was poison.
Throughout high school I was told that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and aerosols were tearing a hole in the ozone layer, and that it could never be repaired. Deadly UV rays would give us all cancer because I used spray deodorant. I switched to roll-on.
Then came the mother of all doomsday scenarios: global warming. It blew away other environmental issues like candles on a cake. Deadly heat and floods. Ice caps melting. Polar bears dying. Alligators and sharks invading. TV shows. Movies. Books.
Former Vice President Al Gore warned we were all going to die from global warming.
Thirty years ago this week, the United Nations issued a global warming report that I distinctly remember. It predicted worldwide disaster.
According to the report, the Great Plains of America would return to the Dust Bowl. The oceans would rise by several feet, causing low-lying countries like the Maldive Islands and Bangladesh to be underwater.
The report said North Africa would bake into wastelands. Rainforests would be gone, as would much animal life. And it was all because of fossil fuels. American greed. Us. Me. Switching deodorant did nothing to stop it.
Tough lessons for a 15-year-old high school sophomore.
And here we are 30 years later, and I look back at that 1989 report, I think only this: What happened?
The predictions in the report were not just a bit “off” – like my calculations in my high school math class, my understanding of Shakespeare, or my failed attempt to high jump. The U.N. report was flat-out wrong. It was 100 percent, complete opposite, 180-degree wrong.