The Next Big Thing among Eco-Apocalyptics?

Several months ago, the Wall Street Journal's Bret Stephens offered up a column noting the inexorable collapse of the climate campaign and wondering what new eco-apocalyptic scare would be ginned up to replace it; he offered a steak or gourmet burger lunch to the reader who submitted the best idea. I suggested shifts in the earth's magnetic field; Bret e-mailed back to say that several people had suggested this idea. (I'm not sure whether he ever declared a winner and served up the burger.)

The idea has been percolating among earth scientists for quite a while now. This NASA story from 2003, for example, shows how much the magnetic north pole has moved over the last 150 years. Looks like the idea is starting to catch on with the media, which means the popular imagination won't be long in catching up. Maybe it already has: The first Hollywood movies about asteroids came out in the late 1990s, after astronomers began warning of their potential danger, and we've already had a couple of movies, such as The Core, that relate to the root cause of magnetic shift--changes in the hot molten-iron core of the earth. Trouble is, a complete collapse or sudden shift in the earth's polarity might spell "game over" for life on planet earth (though this is in dispute).

This story suggests that changes in the earth's magnetic fields are causing, or will cause, an increase in "super storms." The initial problem for the eco-apocalytpics here is that it offers an alternative explanation for climate change. But that's not a bug--it's a feature. All the eco-apocalyptics need is some semi-plausible way to allege human causation for the erratic magnetic fields. Surely before long we'll hear some Gore-like figure claim that the world's growing electricity grid, along with all our artificial metal buildings, airplane flights, and so forth, are "confusing" the planet. It's even better than greenhouse gases. It will require us to shut down virtually the whole of advanced civilization and return to the 17th century--the Unabomber would love it--because even windmills and solar panels won't save us.

Steven F. Hayward is a F. K. Weyerhaeuser Fellow in Environmental Studies at AEI.

Photo Credit: iStockphoto/evirgen

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine
About the Author

 

Steven F.
Hayward
  • Steven F. Hayward was previously the F.K. Weyerhaeuser Fellow at AEI. He is the author of the Almanac of Environmental Trends, and the author of many books on environmental topics. He has written biographies of Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan and of Winston Churchill, and the upcoming book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Presidents. He contributed to AEI's Energy and Environment Outlook series. 

What's new on AEI

AEI Election Watch 2014: What will happen and why it matters
image A nation divided by marriage
image Teaching reform
image Socialist party pushing $20 minimum wage defends $13-an-hour job listing
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 20
    MON
  • 21
    TUE
  • 22
    WED
  • 23
    THU
  • 24
    FRI
Monday, October 20, 2014 | 2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Warfare beneath the waves: The undersea domain in Asia

We welcome you to join us for a panel discussion of the undersea military competition occurring in Asia and what it means for the United States and its allies.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014 | 8:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.
AEI Election Watch 2014: What will happen and why it matters

AEI’s Election Watch is back! Please join us for two sessions of the longest-running election program in Washington, DC. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014 | 1:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.
What now for the Common Core?

We welcome you to join us at AEI for a discussion of what’s next for the Common Core.

Event Registration is Closed
Thursday, October 23, 2014 | 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
Brazil’s presidential election: Real challenges, real choices

Please join AEI for a discussion examining each candidate’s platform and prospects for victory and the impact that a possible shift toward free-market policies in Brazil might have on South America as a whole.

Event Registration is Closed
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.