Dossier

A publication providing succinct biographical sketches of environmental scientists, economists, "experts," and activists released by The National Center for Public Policy Research.



 

Environmental Scientist: Dr. Paul Ehrlich

Dr. Paul Ehrlich is a Stanford University biologist and author of the best-selling book The Population Bomb. Since the release of this book in 1968, Ehrlich has been one of the most frequently cited "experts" on environmental issues by the media, despite the fact that his predictions on the fate of the planet, more often than not, have been wrong. In The Population Bomb, Ehrlich predicted that hundreds of millions of people would die of starvation during the 1970s because the earth's inhabitants would multiply at a faster rate than world's ability to supply food. Six years later, in The End of Affluence, a book he co-authored with his wife Anne, Ehrlich increased his death toll estimate suggesting that a billion or more could die from starvation by the mid-1980s. By 1985, Ehrlich predicted, the world would enter a genuine era of scarcity. Ehrlich's predicted famines never materialized. Indeed, the death toll from famines steadily declined over the twenty-five year period. Though world population has grown by more 50% since 1968, food production has grown at an even faster rate due to technological advances.

Perhaps Ehrlich's best known blunder is a 1980 bet he made with University of Maryland economist Julian Simon. Dr. Simon, who believes that human ingenuity holds the answers to population growth problems, asserted that if Ehrlich were correct and the world truly was heading toward an era of scarcity, then the price of various commodities would rise over time. Simon predicted that prices would fall instead and challenged Ehrlich to pick any commodity and any future date to illustrate his point. Ehrlich accepted the challenge: In October 1980, he purchased $1,000 worth of five metals ($200 each) -- tin, tungsten, copper, nickel and chrome. Ehrlich bet that if the combined value of all five metals he purchased was higher in 1990, Simon would have to pay him the difference. If the prices turned out to be lower, Ehrlich would pay Simon the difference. Ten years later, Ehrlich sent Simon a check for $576 -- all five metals had fallen in price.

Selected Ehrlich Quotes

"Actually, the problem in the world is that there is much too many rich people..." - Quoted by the Associated Press, April 6, 1990

"Giving society cheap, abundant energy would be the equivalent of giving an idiot child a machine gun." - Quoted by R. Emmett Tyrrell in The American Spectator, September 6, 1992

"We've already had too much economic growth in the United States. Economic growth in rich countries like ours is the disease, not the cure." - Quoted by Dixy Lee Ray in her book Trashing the Planet (1990)

"The battle to feed humanity is over. In the 1970s, the world will undergo famines. Hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. Population control is the only answer." - Ehrlich in his book, The Population Bomb (1968), predicting widespread famine that never materialized
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Version Date: August 19, 1993





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