by Chris Talgo
On January 1, CBS News’ “60 Minutes” rang in the new year by airing a segment in which several scientists, including Dr. Paul Ehrlich, predicted that we are on the cusp of a sixth mass extinction event and that “the next few decades will be the end of the kind of civilization we’re used to.”
Suffice to say, Ehrlich does not have a stellar track record when it comes to making predictions about impending planetary doom. For those unaware of Ehrlich, in 1968 he authored The Population Bomb, in which he wrote, “The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970’s the world will undergo famines – hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death…nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate.”
Obviously, Ehrlich was dead wrong about his doomsday prediction in the 1970s. However, that has not stopped him from constantly ringing the apocalypse alarm bell. Indeed, for more than half a century Ehrlich has been producing ridiculous claims of mass starvation, ecological Armageddon, and a host of other wacky prophecies, all of which none have come to pass.
Nonetheless, despite his abysmal history of failed predictions, Ehrlich was front-and-center on “60 Minutes,” engaging in his most outrageous claims to date.
For example, according to Ehrlich, “humanity is not sustainable. To maintain our lifestyle (yours and mine, basically) for the entire planet, you’d need five more Earths. Not clear where they’re gonna come from.”
Actually, that is completely untrue. As Michael Schellenberger notes, “The assertion that ‘five more Earths’ are needed to sustain humanity comes from something called the Ecological Footprint calculation. I debunked it 10 years ago with a group of other analysts and scientists, including the Chief Scientist for The Nature Conservancy, in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, PLOS Biology.”
During the segment, Ehrlich’s Stanford colleague, Tony Barnosky, also made several shocking predictions about a looming mass extinction event that he claims will wipe out life as we know it.
According to Barnosky, “There are five times in Earth’s history where we had mass extinctions. And by mass extinctions, I mean at least 75%, three quarters of the known species disappearing from the face of the Earth. Now we’re witnessing what a lot of people are calling the sixth mass extinction where the same thing could happen on our watch.”
He added, “The data are rock solid. I don’t think you’ll find a scientist that will say we’re not in an extinction crisis.”
Once again, lets separate fact from fiction.
Per Environmental Progress (EP), “The IUCN has estimated that 0.8 percent of the 112,432 plant, animal, and insect species within its data have gone extinct since 1500. That’s a rate of fewer than two species lost every year, for an annual extinction rate of 0.001 percent.”
Moreover, as EP points out: “Many environmentalists and conservationists claim that fossil fuels and economic development are responsible for the decline in population numbers. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth.”
“In fact, denying developing countries access to fossil fuels and economic growth is among the largest threats to wild animals. Making charcoal and burning biomass are top drivers of tropical deforestation, and is still the primary source of energy in Sub-Saharan Africa,” explains EP.
So, as Ehrlich and friends continue to beat the world-is-going-to-end unless we curb population growth, disavow fossil fuels, and reduce consumption of material goods, they could not be more misguided.
Human innovation has overcome the vast majority of the problems we’ve encountered to date. People like Ehrlich and Barnosky are anti-human, in that they view humans as the source of problems. In reality, humans are ultimate problem solvers, and if history has taught us anything, it is that the capacity for humans to conquer unforeseen difficulties is literally limitless.
Chris Talgo ([email protected]) is editorial director at The Heartland Institute.
Originally published by The Center Square. Republished with permission.
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