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Discredited Stanford biologist clings to alarmist overpopulation claims

ANALYSIS: Stanford University’s Paul Ehrlich continues to think the world is going to end due to too many people

Stanford University emeritus Professor Paul Ehrlich continues to claim the world is heading toward mass extinction due to overpopulation and too few resources, despite this 1968 claim being thoroughly disproven.

Ehrlich appeared on a recent episode of “60 Minutes” to push this idea, which he first put forward in his book “The Population Bomb.” In 1969, he also claimed that England would not exist by the year 2000.

“Too many people, too much consumption and growth mania,” the professor told Scott Pelley for a segment on “mass extinction.”

“You seem to be saying that humanity is not sustainable?” Pelley asked.

“Oh, humanity is not sustainable. To maintain our lifestyle (yours and mine, basically) for the entire planet, you’d need five more Earths,” he said. “Not clear where they’re gonna come from.”

“I was alarmed. I am still alarmed. All of my colleagues are alarmed,” the Stanford professor (pictured) said, when Pelley noted he had been called an “alarmist.” Pelley noted that Ehrlich was “wrong” when he claimed in “Population Bomb” that there would be mass famines from the growth in the human population.

“But he also wrote in ’68 that heat from greenhouse gases would melt polar ice and humanity would overwhelm the wild,” the CBS News report stated. “Today, humans have taken over 70% of the planet’s land and 70% of the freshwater.”

Experts in population, medicine and resource use weighed in to criticize Ehrlich’s continued alarmism.

“Sadly, the journalists @60Minutes largely ignored the fact that professor *Ehrlich* was monumentally wrong in his predictions of widespread famine in 1970s, made in his 1968 book The Population Bomb,” Jeffrey Flier, former dean of Harvard Medical School, wrote in response to the segment. “That his new predictions of doom led this story is quite remarkable.”

Sociologist, energy use researcher and former Time magazine “Hero of the Environment” winner Michael Shellenberger also debunked Ehrlich in a Substack post.

He wrote:

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.

We broke down the six measures that comprise the Ecological Footprint and found that five of the six, including food and forestry, were either in balance or surplus. The only thing out of balance was humankind’s carbon emissions.

“Ehrlich should never have been given any credibility,” Alex Epstein, an author and commentator on fossil fuel use wrote on Twitter. “ His background was the *study of butterflies*, yet his work on resource economics was heralded by the media while genius resource economists such as Julian Simon and MA Adelman were ignored.”

Simon was an economist who famously won a bet against Ehrlich when he correctly predicted the price of five metals would decrease over a decade, in opposition to the Stanford biologist’s claim of resource scarcity.

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IMAGES: 60 Minutes/YouTube; Paul Ehrlich/Amazon

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Matt has previously worked at Students for Life of America, Students for Life Action and Turning Point USA. While in college, he wrote for The College Fix as well as his college newspaper, The Loyola Phoenix. He holds a B.A. from Loyola University-Chicago and an M.A. from the University of Nebraska-Omaha. He lives in northwest Indiana with his family.