CBS “60 Minutes” sacrifices its credibility in selling apocalyptic pseudoscience
On CBS “60 Minutes” last night, scientists claimed that humans are causing a “sixth mass extinction” and that we would need the equivalent of five planet earths for all humans to live at current Western levels.
“No, humanity is not sustainable to maintain our lifestyle — yours and mine,” claimed Stanford University biologist Paul Ehrlich. “Basically, for the entire planet, you’d need five more Earths. It’s not clear where they’re gonna come from.”
Both claims are wrong and have been repeatedly debunked in the peer-reviewed scientific literature.
That claim 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.
But reducing carbon emissions requires neither that rich nations become poor nor that poor nations remain poor. Rather, it simply requires that we move toward energy sources that produce fewer carbon emissions, namely natural gas and nuclear.
To its credit, CBS notes how wrong Ehrlich has been over the years. “The alarm Erlich sounded in 1968 warned that overpopulation would trigger widespread famine,” noted CBS News’ Scott Pelley. “He was wrong about that. The Green Revolution fed the world.”
But Pelley goes on to claim that Ehrlich is right about humans causing a “sixth mass extinction.” He’s not. He’s wrong about that, too.