The Science is Settled!

“Scientists have solid experimental and theoretical evidence to support…the following predictions: In a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution…by 1985 air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half….”
• Life Magazine, January 1970

Other prediction fails from the first Earth Day here.


  1. mx:

    Ever seen Beijing on a day with an AQI over 700? It's not exactly such a ridiculous prediction then. You're also ignoring all the actions we took, at great expense, to prevent such pollution.

  2. Eric Hammer:

    It is still pretty ridiculous. I don't recall anyone wearing gas masks in the 80's era cities (even in Asia) and certainly the amount of sunlight reaching the earth hasn't dropped by one half. The only way that isn't a ridiculous prediction is to say something along the lines that "some urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks in some particular cities within 40 years." Even then, you would pretty much have to append "in communist countries." Does Russia or even India have similar problems? Chinese cities are the only ones I can think of, although I would accept that there are a number of other SE Asian cities with similar problems.

  3. TruthisaPeskyThing:

    A few of the predictions started with a qualifier "if present trends continue." One may be tempted to give those predictions a pass because the then-current trends did not continue. However, to blithely give those predictions a pass is being too generous. Present trends will hardly ever continue. Developments in competition, technology, prices, supply alternatives, consumer preferences and such will always assure that that present trends will continue.
    More of the predictions had something like this statement: "it is too late . . . . we are headed for disaster." Those clearly were wrong.
    In regards to global warming predictions, I do not believe that I could give any prediction a pass due to changes in trends. Nothing has been done to stop the present trend in CO2 emissions. (Oh, a few insignificant items, but many of them actually have increased emissions.)

  4. mx:

    "It’s not just the Taj Mahal—pollution is ruining many other iconic monuments in India." India sometimes has worse air pollution than parts of China.

  5. Eric Hammer:

    So India sometimes has worse air pollution than parts of China. I can believe that. Still, it puts the prediction off by a few decades and the fact that only a subset of urban dwellers, not even the majority, need to wear masks. And then, only sometimes.

    To put it another way, what other predictions made about events within 10 years and effecting everyone living in a city would not seem ridiculously incorrect if 40 years later it was only true of a few cities, which are considered rather extreme cases? If someone were to claim "By 2030 every urbanite will commute to and from work on electric driver-less buses," and it turned out that by 2060 only 10 cities world wide had commuters using driver-less buses, I should think we could call that prediction ridiculous.
    Particularly if some cities in 2016 already have driver-less buses and were getting rid of them as being inconvenient, as was already happening with air pollution in the 1970's.

  6. SamWah:

    I know a young man who lives in Beijing. He says the pollution never rises above 250--by order of the Party.

  7. Artemis:

    That's a convenient model. Predict disaster and if disaster doesn't happen then it's because of the things done "to prevent such." Heads you win, tails they lose.

    However your snappy comment ignore many salient facts. For example, much of the pollution that this quote refers to was not cut until long after 1985. For instance, Atlanta did not have any sort of auto emissions until long after that. In fact most of the country still does not have the sort of emissions controls that were the target of this agenda.