False prophet Paul Ehrlich still at it

Attributing recent species extinctions to global warming has one large problem: Even the IPCC says that we have had less than one degree Celsius average temperature rise since the beginning of the 20th century. Saying that such a tiny warming has had any effect on anything is absurd. All animals encounter much larger temperature variations than that in the course of a single day, for instance. So it is clear that the extinctions and population reductions mentioned below were NOT caused by global warming. Much of the drop in amphibian populations was caused by fungi

It’s an uncomfortable thought: Human activity causing the extinction of thousands of species, and the only way to slow or prevent that phenomenon is to have smaller families and forego some of the conveniences of modern life, from eating beef to driving cars, according to Stanford University scientists Paul Ehrlich and Robert Pringle.

This extinction—the sixth in the 4-billion-year history of the Earth—"could be much more catastrophic than previous ones," says Ehrlich, author of the controversial Population Bomb, which predicted that hundreds of millions of people would starve to death in the 1970s. That fate was forestalled by the green revolution in Asian agriculture, in which new strains of cereal crops plus enhanced use of fertilizer and irrigation allowed farmers to grow enough food to feed a burgeoning population. But this is a new threat: "Anything in the vicinity of the previous ones," Ehrlich says, such as the mass extinction at the end of the Cretaceous that killed half of all species, including the dinosaurs, "would wreck civilization."

Right now, at least 2,000 frogs, salamanders and other amphibians are in danger of going extinct, according to a survey by biologists David Wake and Vance Vredenburg, writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA. Coastal seas and estuaries have lost as much as 91 percent of certain species, such as oysters, according to another survey. And nearly 50 percent of all temperate grasslands and forests have disappeared.

But through it all the species responsible for this change—through overuse, pollution and other impacts—has continued to thrive and multiply, reaching roughly 6.7 billion in population and counting.

"The fate of biological diversity for the next 10 million years will almost certainly be determined during the next 50 to 100 years by the activities of a single species," write Ehrlich and Pringle in their proposal for addressing the biodiversity crisis. Adds Pringle: "The world's remaining wild areas and the species in them are being pulverized, and that's a multi-layered tragedy."

That’s why Ehrlich and Pringle call for educating women, which has slowed or stopped population growth in the developed countries of Europe. "Education and employment—for women especially—along with access to contraception and safe abortions are the most important components," they write. Adds Ehrlich: "The most basic response is to get going on stopping population growth and starting a decline. Second is doing something about consumption. If you don't do anything about those, then you are in trouble in all the others: more people, means more greenhouse gases, which means more rapid climate change."


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