Thursday, April 27, 2017

Paul Erlich, False Prophet Of Doom

Paul Erlich (Born 1932)

On This Earth Day, Remember How Often Environmental Alarmists Are Wrong

Today [April 22] is the 47th annual Earth Day. On this day, it is worth reflecting on how completely, totally wrong environmental alarmists often are. Few things tell us more about the environmental movement—where it’s been and, more importantly, where it is now—than its dismal track record in the predictive department.

Case in point: Paul Ehrlich, who is as close to a rock star as you’re apt to find among environmentalists. Ehrlich is most famous for his 1968 book “The Population Bomb,” in which he famously predicted that, during the 1970s and 1980s, humanity would suffer mass famine and starvation due to overpopulation. “At this late date,” Ehrlich wrote, “nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate."

Spoiler alert: Ehrlich was wrong—so wrong, in fact, that not only did his doomsday predictions fail to materialize, but the exact opposite happened. Readers who were alive during the 1970s and 80s will recall that there was plenty to eat, there was no mass die-off, everything worked out fine, and humanity’s lot continued to improve as it had throughout the rest of the 20th century.

This kind of humiliating embarrassment would be enough to cow even the proudest of men—unless that man is an environmentalist, of course. Incredibly, as NewsBuster’s Tim Graham pointed out this week, Ehrlich was still making his doomsday predictions in 1989—well after the point when it was clear his previous predictions had been utter failures. Ehrlich claimed that, during the 1990s, “We’re going to see massive extinction;” he theorized that rising ocean waters meant “we could expect to lose all of Florida, Washington D.C., and the Los Angeles basin.”

Another spoiler: none of this happened. I visited Florida several times in the 1990s; it was not underwater. I visited Los Angeles shortly after the turn of the century; it, too, was fully above ground. Washington D.C., alas, remains as un-inundated as ever.

For Paul Ehrlich, unfortunately, twice-humiliated does not mean twice- or even once-chastened. Just a few years ago he was predicting that human beings would have to resort to cannibalism to cope with the coming famine. He also claims that “The Population Bomb” was “much too optimistic;” this was a book, mind you, that predicted hundreds of millions of deaths that ended up not happening.

You might imagine that such unprofessional behavior and a miserable track record would render a man unfit for professional scientific society, and that he would be looked upon by his colleagues (if he had any) as “that guy who keeps predicting the end of the world and who keeps being wrong.” Not so: Ehrlich is a well-esteemed professor at Stanford, as well as the president of that university’s Center for Conservation Biology.

A man continually makes outlandishly fake predictions and beclowns himself on the global scientific stage: in what socio-scientific subculture could such a man find any purchase? The answer: environmentalism.

This Earth Day, consider reflecting on the bizarre dichotomy of (a) Paul Ehrlich’s mortifying history of predictive failures regarding the environment, and (b) his continued relevance in the field of environmental studies. Reflect on what that tells you about the environmental movement as a whole, particularly its hysterical climate change wing. And then consider the possibility that you can safely ignore the hysterics and simply live your life without worrying that Tampa, Florida is going to be washed away sometime over the next few decades.

Happy Earth Day!

From The Federalist (April 22, 2017)


  1. Correct. Paul had predicted by 1985 there would be food shortages and famine in the United States. Such was his prominence he won a MacArthur grant, a "genius" award.

    1. Didn't know you could win a "Genius" award for being spectacularly wrong about everything. Or maybe it was a "Genius" award for self-promotion.