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John Maddox on AGW

Via a reader, these comments on global warming from John Maddox, the legendary editor of Nature. They're taken from his 1972 book, The Doomsday Syndrome, which cast a sceptical eye over some apocalyptic predictions.

I wonder what he would have made of the way his journal operates nowadays?


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Reader Comments (15)

John Woodcocks 'Consideration' of Maddox's work might be worth a peruse as well as it gives a precis of the content.

Link here:

Those who have a Jstor ID may be able to fill us in on the rest.

Apr 25, 2010 at 8:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterBill Sticker

Domesday. sp?

[BH adds: Thanks. Fixed now. I think that's how they used to spell it when I was at school...]

Apr 25, 2010 at 8:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoddy Campbell

This whole AGW/Doomsday syndrome increasingly seems an artifact of the post-WWII Boomer generation. Having enjoyed Western peace and prosperity unprecedented since the middle Roman Empire, Boomers notoriously pollute everything they touch. "Post-normal science" (sic) as applied to climate alarmism is but the latest symptom of a deep-set socio-cultural malaise: Having never had to struggle, Boomers take the nihilist position that nothing is worth struggling for.

Pop-cult aside, entitlement mentality sounds a knell for advancement in many spheres-- absent character, integrity, expertise defaults to charlatanism justifying means by ends, recklessly disregarding consequences in pursuit of some serially reckless cause du jour. Climate Cultism is but one aspect of this broad post-Enlightenment debility, enabling Luddite sociopaths such as Paul Ehrlich, John Holdren, and their ilk to threaten free-market entrepreneurial industrial/technological civilization at its very root.

Apr 25, 2010 at 10:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Blake

I remember reading "The Titanic Effect" in 1975:

"...the real point of this book is that industrial collapse, now unmistakably on the horizon,..".

And in 2006 the UK's left-leaning Guardian newspaper predicted that bananas would be extinct any day now

'The fear is the disease will get into some big plantations, then we will be in trouble,' added Vezina. 'Once the fungus gets in the soil, it cannot be got rid of.'

The impending crisis is akin to the Irish potato famine, say biologists.
...current banana crisis... unsustainable... experts ... scientists are desperately seeking ...attempts may be doomed to failure... wiped out at an alarming rate... destroyed...

In short, time is running out for the Cavendish. We may not be able to go bananas for much longer.

Yes - we have no bananas. Except that we do. The banana-apocalypse never happened.

Apr 25, 2010 at 11:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Hughes

The only Maddox I know is:

Maddox is against:
children, senior citizens, women's rights activists, vegetarians, environmentalists, hippies, celebrities, personalities, George W. Bush, Mac users, goths and jocks.

Apr 25, 2010 at 11:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterShub Niggurath

In a review in The Times (26 June 1972), Maddox’s book was subject to a withering attack from Paul Ehrlich (still riding the wave of The Population Bomb) and John Holdren (now head of President Obama’s Office of Science and Technology). According to Ehrlich and Holdren:

“The most serious of Maddox's many demographic errors is his invocation of a ‘demographic transition’ as the cure for population growth in Asia, Africa and Latin America. He expects that birth rates there will drop as they did in developed countries following the industrial revolution. Since most underdeveloped countries are unlikely to have an industrial revolution, this seems somewhat optimistic at best. But even if those nations should follow that course, starting immediately, their population growth would continue for well over a century - perhaps producing by the year 2100 a world population of twenty thousand million. And that population would probably still be increasing by more than 100 million a year since there is every sign demographic transitions do not lead to stationary populations but to populations growing at 0.5 to 1 per cent a year.”

Ehrlich and Maddox were comprehensively wrong. Demographic transitions have, can and will lead to declining populations in many countries. Global annual population growth has never reached 100 million and there is no sign that it ever will. The annual growth in the global population never reached 100 million and is now declining. But the most astonishing feature of the scientists’ review was their scornful dismissal of Maddox’s level-headed analysis.

Apr 26, 2010 at 1:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterIan Castles

Ian: a great post, but in a slip of your typing, I am sure you meant Holdren not Maddox when you said "Ehrlich and Maddox were comprehensively wrong", as of course Maddox was right about the demographic transition. And, tho' I sez it meself, so was I when I debunked (Review of Social Economy, 1968) the then fashionable economist Stephen Enke's equally apocalyptic view of population growth, which envisaged the USAF bombarding Asia and Africa with condoms, as indeed World Bank, UNDP, AusAid et al et al still do today, as if that is all that is needed to secure the demographic transition, rather than economic growth.

Apr 26, 2010 at 4:36 AM | Unregistered CommenterTim Curtin

Many thanks for the correction Tim: of course I meant to say that Ehrlich and HOLDREN were comprehensively wrong.

Apr 26, 2010 at 5:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterIan Castles

Apropos to this post, I have a series of 4 posts at MasterResource ( on Neo-Malthusians. The series -- Population, Consumption, Carbon Emissions, and Human Well-Being in the Age of Industrialization -- has four parts:

Part I — Revisiting the Julian Simon-Paul Ehrlich Bet
Part II — A Reality Check of the Neo-Malthusian Worldview
Part III — Have Higher US Population, Consumption, and Newer Technologies Reduced Well-Being?

Part IV, the last one, yet to be posted, will look at the root causes as to why empirical trends have failed to follow a path consistent with the Neo-Malthusian worldview.

Apr 26, 2010 at 7:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterIndur M. Goklany

Golly gosh John Blake, what an ignorant and sweeping misgeneralisation of Boomers!

BTW, Steve McIntyre is a Boomer.

Apr 26, 2010 at 7:18 AM | Unregistered CommenterE O'Connor

Thanks to Jack Hughes for his mention of "The Titanic Effect" book.

If any other books or articles of the time (1965 - 1980) come to the mind of any readers here, I for one would be grateful to hear of them!

Fiction as well as fact.

Apr 26, 2010 at 7:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterMike

"The Twenty Ninth Day - Accommodating human needs and numbers" - Lester R Brown
"Mankind at the Turning Point (The Second Report of the Club of Rome" - Mihajlo Mesarovic and Eduard Pestel.

I assume you know the Club's first Report, "The Limits to Growth".

Apr 26, 2010 at 10:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterE O'Connor

Just ordered a copy of this for a great price.
I am pretty sure I read this back in the day which helped me see through the lies of Paul Ehrlich and his ilk. There is another book on a similar vein written as a historical review of failed apocalypse predictions and movements which I read way back as well, but for the life of me cannot recall the name of.
The irony that people have chosen to put losers like Holdren in positions of power is a real loss not only for Americans but for people around the world.

Apr 26, 2010 at 1:48 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

Mr/Mrs E O'Connor -

Many thanks. I will look those up. Appreciated.

Apr 26, 2010 at 2:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike

John Maddox was a Welsh luminary who did not get the credit he richly deserved when he trumped the malthusian Paul Ehrlich in the 1970s. It is to the eternal discredit of all the mainstream political parties in the UK that they have allowed this genie out of its bottle once again. I laughed at the debate this afternoon of the so called Climate Change ministers ( Ministry for Funny Walks) as they battled it out. The irony of it all was that Ed "Adenoidal" Miliband was the most logical, after all he actually has an oversight of the problems. The utterances of the Green party were authoriatarian and I'm afraid unelectable. Long live the memory of John Maddox we need more of his ilk.

Apr 26, 2010 at 11:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterTrefor Jones

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