Long before Beto O’Rourke claimed the world only had 10 years left for humans to act against climate change, alarmists had spent decades predicting one doomsday scenario after another, each of which stubbornly failed to materialize. It seems climate armageddon has taken a permanent sabbatical.
Many of those doomsday predictions specifically mentioned the annus horribilus of 2020. Those predictions also failed, some rather spectacularly.
Steve Milloy, a former Trump/Pence EPA transition team member and founder of JunkScience.com, compiled ten climate predictions for 2020 that fell far off the mark.
1. Average global temperature up 3 degrees Celsius
Screenshot of the Oct 2, 1987 edition of the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix
In 1987, the Star-Phoenix in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, quoted James Hansen of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York. His model predicted an average temperature increase of “between one-half and one degree Celsius by the end of the ’90s.”
“And within 15 to 20 years of this, the earth will be warmer than it has been in the past 100,000 years,” Hansen said. According to the Star-Phoenix, his model predicted that “by the year 2020 we will experience an average temperature increase of around three degrees [Celsius], with even greater extremes.”
Milloy cited former NASA climatologist Roy Spencer, whose data suggest global temperatures have risen 0.64 degrees Celsius since 1987. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) shows an increase of about 0.5 degrees Celsius from 1987.
2. Global emissions
In 1978, The Vancouver Sun cited a paper in the journal Science. University of Washington researcher Minze Stuiver predicted that the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere will have doubled by 2020. “We learn that if present trends continue, with economics the only limit on the exploitation of fossil fuels, the CO2 concentration will have doubled by 2020. Forty to 80 years after fuel burning peaks — that will come mid-century — the CO2 concentration will be five to 10 times its present level.”
Yet the CO2 in the atmosphere hasn’t come close to doubling since 1978. According to NOAA, in March 1978 when the Sun published this article, there were 335 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere. In February 2020, NOAA reported 413 parts per million in the atmosphere. That represents an increase of 23 percent, a far cry from doubling the concentration (which would be 670 parts per million).
3. Emissions from India and China
In December 2009, The Springfield News-Leader reported that India and China had pledged to cut emissions by 2020. “The developing world, for the first time, is offering its own actions — not straight reductions, but clean-energy projects and other steps to slow the growth of their emissions.”
“China says it will, by 2020, reduce gases by 40 to 45 percent below ‘business as usual,’ that is, judged against 2005 figures, for energy used versus economic input. India offers a 20 to 25 percent slowdown in emissions growth.”
While these projections were more promises than predictions, they fell wide of the mark. India and China increased their carbon emissions since 2005. According to the World Bank, India emitted 1.2 million kilotons of CO2 in 2005 and 2.4 million kilotons of CO2 in 2018, the last year data is available, a 200 percent increase. China, meanwhile, emitted 5.9 million kilotons in 2005 and 9.9 million kilotons in 2016, a 168 percent increase.
4. No snow on Mount Kilimanjaro
Screenshot of The Vancouver Sun reporting on a scientist’s prediction that the snows of Mount Kilimanjaro will disappear by 2020.
In 2001, The Vancouver Sun reported, “Snows of Kilimanjaro to vanish by 2020.”
“‘At this rate, all of the ice will be gone between 2010 and 2020,’ said Lonnie Thompson, a geologist at Ohio State University. ‘And that is probably a conservative estimate.”
Al Gore’s 2006 documentary An Inconvenient Truth also predicted that there would be no snow on Kilimanjaro in 2020.
Yet in February 2020, The Times of London reported that the “Staying power of Kilimanjaro snow defies Al Gore’s gloomy forecast.”
“The snow has certainly got my clients talking,” Methley Swai, owner of the Just-Kilimanjaro trekking company, told The Times. “Many people have made Kilimanjaro a bucket list priority because of the Al Gore deadline but when they get here they are pleasantly surprised to find lots of snow.”
5. Rising sea levels in the Sunshine State
Miami Herald report predicting sea-level rise of 2 feet in Florida by 2020.
In 1986, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Jim Titus predicted that the sea level around Florida would rise two feet by 2020, The Miami Herald reported.
According to NOAA, the sea level at Virginia Key has risen by about 9 centimeters, which works out to 3.54 inches.
NOAA chart for sea level in Virginia Key, Florida.