When economists pretend they know science

I don’t know how I stumbled on this piece of garbage written by someone called Walter E Williams but here it is in full….

Let’s examine a few statements reflecting a vision thought to be beyond question. “The world that we live in is beautiful but fragile.” “The 3rd rock from the sun is a fragile oasis.” Here are a couple of Earth Day quotes: “Remember that Earth needs to be saved every single day.” “Remember the importance of taking care of our planet. It’s the only home we have!”

Such statements, along with apocalyptic predictions, are stock in trade for environmental extremists and non-extremists alike. Worse yet is the fact that this fragile-earth indoctrination is fed to our youth from kindergarten through college. Let’s examine just how fragile the earth is.

The 1883 eruption of the Krakatoa volcano, in present-day Indonesia, had the force of 200 megatons of TNT. That’s the equivalent of 13,300 15-kiloton atomic bombs, the kind that destroyed Hiroshima in 1945. Preceding that eruption was the 1815 Tambora eruption, also in present-day Indonesia, which holds the record as the largest known volcanic eruption. It spewed so much debris into the atmosphere, blocking sunlight, that 1816 became known as the “Year Without a Summer” or “Summer That Never Was.”

It led to crop failures and livestock death in much of the Northern Hemisphere and caused the worst famine of the 19th century. The A.D. 535 Krakatoa eruption had such force that it blotted out much of the light and heat of the sun for 18 months and is said to have led to the Dark Ages. Geophysicists estimate that just three volcanic eruptions, Indonesia (1883), Alaska (1912) and Iceland (1947), spewed more carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere than all of mankind’s activities in our entire history.

How has our fragile earth handled floods? China is probably the world capital of gigantic floods. The 1887 Yellow River flood cost between 900,000 and 2 million lives. China’s 1931 flood was worse, yielding an estimated death toll between 1 million and 4 million. But China doesn’t have a monopoly on floods. Between 1219 and 1530, the Netherlands experienced floods costing about 250,000 lives.

What about the impact of earthquakes on our fragile earth? There’s Chile’s 1960 Valdivia earthquake, coming in at 9.5 on the Richter scale, a force equivalent to 1,000 atomic bombs going off at the same time. The deadly 1556 earthquake in China’s Shaanxi province devastated an area of 520 miles. There’s the more recent December 2004 magnitude-9.1 earthquake in the Indian Ocean that caused the deadly Boxing Day tsunami, and a deadly March 2011 magnitude-9.0 earthquake struck eastern Japan.

Our fragile earth faces outer space terror. Two billion years ago, an asteroid hit earth, creating the Vredefort crater in South Africa. It has a radius of 118 miles, making it the world’s largest impact crater. In Ontario, there’s the Sudbury Basin, resulting from a meteor strike 1.8 billion years ago, which has an 81-mile diameter, making it the second-largest impact structure on earth. Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay crater is a bit smaller, about 53 miles wide. Then there’s the famous but puny Meteor Crater in Arizona, which is not even a mile wide.

I’ve pointed out only a tiny portion of the cataclysmic events that have struck the earth — ignoring whole categories, such as tornadoes, hurricanes, lightning strikes, fires, blizzards, landslides and avalanches. Despite these cataclysmic events, the earth survived. My question is: Which of these powers of nature can be matched by mankind? For example, can mankind duplicate the polluting effects of the 1815 Tambora volcanic eruption or the asteroid impact that wiped out dinosaurs? It is the height of arrogance to think that mankind can make significant parametric changes in the earth or can match nature’s destructive forces.

Occasionally, environmentalists spill the beans and reveal their true agenda. Barry Commoner said, “Capitalism is the earth’s number one enemy.” Amherst College professor Leo Marx said, “On ecological grounds, the case for world government is beyond argument.”

With the decline of the USSR, communism has lost considerable respectability and is now repackaged as environmentalism and progressivism.

Allow me to paraphrase….

The Earth has survived catastrophic natural events like volcanoes and volcanoes are a big deal and therefore man can’t possibly compete with volcanoes…oh and environmentalists are all marxists wanting to implement a one world government.

So, who is Walter E Williams? According to his bio attached to the article, he is “a professor of economics at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., and a member of the Board of Advisors for the Media Research Center’s Free Market Project.” A look at other articles he has written for CNS News reveals that apart from being a free market capitalist, he is also a 9/11 conspiracy nut, is opposed to universal healthcare, social security and thinks the abhorent views that the government shouldn’t care for the vulnerable uttered by some politician in 1794 are relevant in today’s society. He was also touted as a possible presidential nominee for the ever-whacky Republicans but opted instead to back Ron Paul……(queue the crickets)…….ummm yep.

All that aside, as an economist you would think he would be able to count, yes? Well he can’t. He tries to paint a picture that volcanic eruptions were very bad and the Earth survived. His measurement of choice? Atomic bombs. Good choice. The Krakatoa eruption of 1883, according to Williams was the equivalent of “13,300 15 kiloton bombs, the kind that destroyed Hiroshima in 1945.” According to Williams, there were also larger eruptions that affected the Earth’s climate. So, how big were these other eruptions? Were they twice as big? Three times as big? Let’s just play around with some numbers here and pretend that they were 100 times as big. That would make each of them about 1,330 000 Hiroshima bombs in size. I don’t think they were that big but even so, according to Williams, they had an effect on the Earth’s climate. So why doesn’t he think that human’s can have an effect on the climate, when since 1998, we have managed to facilitate the accumulation of more than 2 billion Hiroshima bombs? Let me put that into perspective…


Perhaps he is inferring that it is the CO2 and SO2 that affects climate. Given that these two effectively work against each other and have different effects, one can only wonder why Williams chose to mention them in the same sentence and context? Perhaps he is  confused? Perhaps he is relying on the uninformed reader swallowing his garbage without thought? Anyway, CO2 traps heat by reradiating long wave radiation from the Earth. SO2 blocks shortwave radiation from the sum reaching the Earth in the first place. Anyway, a good primer on volcanic eruptions and climate can be found here.

Williams says, “Geophysicists estimate that just three volcanic eruptions, Indonesia (1883), Alaska (1912) and Iceland (1947), spewed more carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere than all of mankind’s activities in our entire history.” Is this actually true? If so, one would expect to see large jumps in global CO2 levels whenever there is a large eruption. Williams also  mentions the Tambora eruption of 1815 as being the “largest known volcanic eruption”. Well, that’s not actually true. In fact, the Toba volcano eruption in Sumatra, some 74000 years ago was 3500 times greater than the Tambora eruption. Surely, that eruption would leave a significant blip in global CO2 levels? Ummm, no.


He then goes on to talk about floods and earthquakes. Williams is of course referring to natural events, which when compared to anthropogenic contributions to climate change, pale into insignificance.


So, to sum up, we have yet another ideologue, an economist who can’tcount, with strong attachments to conservative politicians, using his authority from unrelated fields, to push a whacky political agenda, dressed up as sceince, onto uninformed people, with the hope of persuading enough of them to shit in their own nest. I’m sick of these stupid pricks but can live safe in the knowledge that future historians will not be kind to them. The ignorant idealogues of this world, like Walter E Williams will be remembered as idiots.



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8 responses to “When economists pretend they know science

  1. Great post. It’s interesting to see a contrarian use the Hiroshima analogy themselves but to their own disadvantage it seems in this case.

    • Indeed. The scary thing is that this guy is a uni professor who has impressionable young people to preach to. He is a paranoid conspiracy theorist with more than a few kangaroos loose in the top paddock. In one of his rants he uses a Fox poll as evidence for something to do with healthcare. Of course the only thing a Fox poll provides is evidence that Fox viewers are batshit crazy and misinformed about just about everything.

  2. Glenn Tamblyn

    UKISS, would you be interested in hosting the Skeptical Science widget associated with the 4 Hiroshima’s website you linked to?

    • If it works on WordPress, yep.

      • Glenn Tamblyn

        UKISS, Thanks

        Follow this link. http://skepticalscience.net/widgets/

        It will generate a widget for you for different start years and for different platforms. WordPress is one of them.

      • Glenn Tamblyn

        [Edit] There are WordPress and wordpress.com options.
        Some comments from Bob Lacetana who wrote the widget

        WordPress.com will not allow iframes or javascript, i.e. two things that are critical for any real, interactive widget.

        So all a wordpress.com blog can do (and we do have a few of them) is to host an image of the widget (which is updated automatically, several times a day, to show more recent numbers) which in turn links to 4hiroshimas.com (which has an active widget).

        A “self-hosted” wordpress blog doesn’t have that restraint. WordPress can do it, It’s just wordpress.com that won’t allow it — for fear of phishing and other attacks that no one else is afraid of.

        Hope that helps.

  3. Reblogged this on Shit's Gotta Stop and commented:
    An important and beautifully elucidated response to false economics and biased non-science.
    Reblogged, with thanks, from http://uknowispeaksense.wordpress.com/

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