In his discussion of the Four Corners program on Australia’s environment, Ken Parish suggests that they weren’t hard enough on the Club of Rome and says of the environmental scares they raised “Each of them has been shown by the experience of the last 30 years to be grossly exaggerated, if not completely misconceived. See Bjorn Lomborg’s excellent book The Skeptical Environmentalist and earlier work by people like Julian Simon.”
The late Julian Simon was a good illustration of the “stopped clock” model of punditry. He routinely denied all claims about environmental hazards, and was thereby right pretty often and wrong pretty often. His admirers, like Lomborg, select the points on which he was right and ignore the fact that he denied the dangers of ozone depletion atmospheric lead, radon, asbestos etc etc. Lomborg is basically an updated version of Simon, conceding the points where Simon has been proved wrong (but without admitting error), then presenting the most optimistic possible view on all other issues as if it were scientific fact.
The relevant chapter of Simon’s book is here. Some of the sillier claims:
Radon. Eventually, too little radon found dangerous, rather than too much.
Lead ingestion by children lowers IQ. Study by Herbert Needleman led to the federal ban on leaded gasoline. Study entirely repudiated in 1994. No mention of again allowing leaded gasoline has been made, however.
Ozone hole. No connection found between thinner ozone layer and skin cancer.
As I noted, you can equally well select from Simon a list of correct claims that supposed hazards are really harmless. A stopped clock is right twice a day, but that doesn’t make it useful.
Another ‘sceptic’ to whom all of the above is applicable is Steven Milloy, whose site is aptly named “Junk Science”. Conversely, my comments on Milloy are applicable to Simon and Lomborg. And this is as good a time as any to mention an equally aptly named Australian imitator of Milloy, Bizarre Science.
Of course, these guys have their mirror-images on the Green side of the debate. For example, these guys apparently never met a chemical that wasn’t toxic, although they recommend lactobacillus fermented foods, taking advantage of one of humanity’s favourite genetically modified organisms, the product of millennia of selective breeding.