by J. Woudhuysen, Jan 12, 2023 in ClimateChangeDispatch
All forecasters make mistakes. But few forecasters have been as consistently wrong as biologist Paul Ehrlich.
So it was quite surprising to see, on January 1, the once venerable CBS series, 60 Minutes, inviting Ehrlich on the show to give his take on the state of the planet.
Focussing on ‘the vanishing wild’, the interview was essentially a forecast of doom, with Ehrlich warning that Earth is in the midst of a ‘sixth mass extinction’ and that its wildlife is ‘running out of places to live’. [emphasis, links added]
Ehrlich, a Stanford University entomologist, is most infamous for his 1968 doom-mongering tome, The Population Bomb.
In the tradition of Thomas Malthus, the prologue begins with the following warning:
‘The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s and 1980s, hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date, nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate.’
In reality, since The Population Bomb was published, rates of starvation have fallen off a cliff, while the world’s population has doubled.
Ronald Bailey, the science correspondent at Reason magazine, notes that the global crude death rate (deaths per 1,000 people) fell ‘from 12.5 in 1968 to seven in 2019, before ticking up to eight in the pandemic year of 2020’.
Ehrlich has been prolific in promoting mistaken forecasts. With Richard L Harriman, he also wrote How To Be a Survivor: A Plan to Save Spaceship Earth (1971).
Then, with his wife Anne, he issued more lurid warnings in books including Extinction: The Causes and Consequences of the Disappearance of Species (1981) and The Population Explosion (1991).