Welcome to the 6th mass extinction (which you caused, of course)

The planet is dying. Or at least the animals on it are. That’s the conclusion of “a team of scientist” as reported in the San Francisco Gate. This is some dire news to be sure. With all the animals gone, we’re going to be in a lot of trouble, and it’s really all your fault.

Mammals, birds and reptiles are disappearing from the planet so rapidly that a team of scientists concluded Friday that Earth is in the midst of a sixth mass extinction, one so dire that it could threaten the existence of humanity.

The scientific study, published Friday in the journal Science Advances, determined that animals are going extinct at a rate 100 times faster than normal if nature was on its regular course.

The joint study by scientists from the UC Berkeley, Stanford University and other research institutions said humans are polluting the ecosystem, destroying habitat and killing off species at a rate so rapid that the demise of animals like elephants, tigers, rhinoceros and others could occur within three human lifetimes.

“In real terms, we’re in trouble,” said Paul Ehrlich, a Stanford professor and president of the Center for Conservation Biology who co-authored the study. “This is another indicator that we are sawing off the limbs that we are sitting on.”

You’ll note that a chief member of of that “team of scientists” was Paul Ehrlich, a professor at Stanford. Fairly impressive credentials to be sure, so we should probably give him a listen. Unless, of course, he had some sort of history of not being terribly good at prognostication. Let’s just say, for instance, that he had been spectacularly wrong on some of his previous predictions. Is it possible?

Over at National Review, Wesley Smith takes us for a brief trip down memory lane, to a time when Paul Erlich was writing a wildly popular book (at least wildly popular among the green warriors) titled The Population Bomb. Ehrlich was issuing some dire warnings then as well.

So, let’s take a look at some of his predictions, made in 1968:

1) “The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s 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,” he said. He predicted four billion deaths, including 65 million Americans…

What actually happened: Since Ehrlich wrote, the population has more than doubled to seven billion – but the amount of food per head has gone up by more than 25 per cent. Of course there are famines, but the death rate has gone down. I don’t think a significant number of Americans have starved.

3) “By the year 2000 the United Kingdom will be simply a small group of impoverished islands, inhabited by some 70 million hungry people … If I were a gambler, I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000.”

What actually happened: I’m not hungry. I just ate. Are you hungry? Were you hungry in 2000, especially? Does England exist?

Let’s be clear… the climate is changing as we’ve said many times here. And some species are going extinct. Considering that many of these examples are taking place because seven billion people take up a lot of room, one wonders what Ehrlich proposes to counter that? Of course, there are other animal populations which are adjusting in the other direction and their populations are exploding. The number of alligators in the American southeast has gotten to the point where people are barricading themselves in their homes. Up here in the northeast, despite two brutally harsh winters in a row, the population of whitetail deer has gone through the roof. I chased two out of my yard in the middle of the suburbs recently and they are wrecking cars right and left.

The climate changes. The animal populations shift in response. As I understand it, the number of species fell off a cliff during each ice age. It’s definitely something to keep an eye on, but I’m not sure if Ehrlich is our go to guy on this one. Unless, of course, England is gone. Has anyone checked recently?