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When the beach patrol raises the alarm that a shark has been sighted we know what to do, but how should we respond to an alarm that is based on predictions of what will happen 100 years from now and the person raising the alarm tells us we must make great sacrifices now to avoid the predicted catastrophe? To answer this question, we forecast effects and outcomes of the current global warming alarm using a structured analysis of analogous situations. To do this, we searched the literature and asked experts to identify phenomena that were similar to the alarm currently being raised over dangerous manmade global warming. We obtained 71 proposed analogies. Of these, 26 met our criteria that the alarm be: (1) based on forecasts of human catastrophe arising from effects of human activity on the physical environment, (2) endorsed by experts, politicians and the media, and (3) that were accompanied by calls for strong action. None of the 26 alarms were based on scientific forecasting procedures. None of the alarming forecasts were accurate. Governments took action in 23 of the analogous situations and those actions proved to be harmful in 20. The government programs remained in place after the predicted disasters failed to materialize. The global warming alarm movement appears to be the latest manifestation of a common social phenomenon: false alarms based on unscientific forecasts of human-caused environmental disasters. We predict that the alarm over forecasts of dangerous manmade global warming will, like previous similar alarms, result in harm.
DDT, decision making, evidence-based forecasts, global cooling, lobby groups, popular movements, precautionary principle, public policy, scenarios
Green, K. C., & Armstrong, J. S. (2011). The Global Warming Alarm: Forecasts from the Structured Analogies Method. Retrieved from https://repository.upenn.edu/marketing_papers/319
Date Posted: 15 June 2018