Friday, June 25, 2004

Lying about Limits to Growth

We continue to see off-hand comments by industrialists, environmentalists, and journalists, to the effect that the MIT report commissioned by the Club of Rome, The Limits to Growth, Meadows et al, 1972, can be ignored because its predictions have already proved to be completely wrong.

The Limits to Growth (LTG) was published in 1972. It predicted that the pursuit of economic growth, unless abandoned, would produce a catastrophic world wide economic failure and population decrease, probably by 2070. It made no other predictions! In particular it did not predict that oil would be exhausted by 1992, or any other date. The earliest economic collapse occurring in the numerous runs of the computer model described in LTG was 2039. Any repudiation of LTG on the basis that its predictions have failed must remain false until 2070 at least.

It is fascinating, and not a little irritating, that many environmentalists who believe essentially what LTG propounded, are among those who repeat baseless repudiations of it. How can this be? There is probably an interesting article waiting to be written to explain this social phenomenon. In any event, for those who might want to revisit this question, but do not have time to read LTG, here's an excellent retrospective precis written in 2003. It also points out that none of LTG's predictions have yet proved false: What was there in the famous "Report to the Club of Rome" ?, Jean-Marc Jancovici, December 2003, http://www.manicore.com/anglais/documentation_a/club_rome_a.html

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