Environmental 'Doomsday Prophecy' Debunked in New Study
July 7, 2008 - 7:12 PM
Johannesburg (CNSNews.com ) - A "doomsday prophecy" that says mankind needs at least 1.2 more planet Earths to maintain its present standard of living is based on a weak scientific foundation, according to a new study.
The 43-page analytical study, "Assessing the Ecological Footprint: A Look at the [World Wildlife Fund's] Living Planet Report 2002," was released by Bjorn Lomborg's Danish Environmental Assessment Institute, and it was timed to coincide with the Earth summit here.
The report refutes computer models used in the "doomsday prophecy."
Lomborg, the author of The Skeptical Environmentalist, blames his conversion from a committed member of the Green movement to a skeptic on the Green's distortion of eco-science.
An associate of Lomborg, Olivier Rubin, told CNSNews.com that said the World Wildlife Fund's "dire predictions" about the Earth were "generated by excluding technological progress and human creativity from a model that already has inherent mathematical tendency to overshoot and collapse."
But Gordon Shepherd of the World Wildlife Fund defended the Living Planet report, calling Lomborg's analysis "complete nonsense."
The Fund's Living Planet report maintains that the Earth is currently in a "global overdraft" and "the only sustainable solution is to live within the biological productive capacity of the earth."
Unless sustainability is adhered to, "severe ecological backlashes undermining future population and economic growth" will occur, the Living Planet report says.
'Deficit spending of the worst kind'
Since the Living Planet report was released, the worldwide media and the international environmental community have cited it frequently.
Time magazine, in its special August 26 Earth Summit edition, based the following assessment on the Living Planet report: "The amount of crops, animals and other bio matter we extract from the earth each year exceeds what the planet can replace by an estimated 20%, meaning it takes 14.4 months to replenish what we use in 12 [months] - deficit spending of the worst kind," the magazine said.
Others have also expanded upon the initial "1.2 extra planets" estimate. The exaggerated number of Earths hit a high at the Earth summit this week, when former Governor of California Jerry Brown said mankind needs "another five planets" for ecological survival.
According to the Danish institute's analysis, the Living Planet report holds that a doomsday scenario will unfold if current development trends are not reversed. Under that scenario, future global life expectancy would be 25 years; global per-capita gross domestic product would fall to a level equaling that of present-day Sudan; and education levels would fall by 2050.
Rubin called the World Wildlife Fund's report remarkable for it's pessimism. "The WWF presented some very ominous predictions for the mid-century generations," Rubin said.
'Disparity in consumption'
The Living Planet Report's recommendations to avoid catastrophe include redressing the "disparity in consumption between high and low income countries" and controlling population growth through the promotion of "universal education and health care," in order to avoid ecological disaster
"We have no doubt that the information is correct...from a scientific and technical point of view," said Gordon Shepherd of the World Wildlife Fund.
Shepherd did concede, however, that more data is necessary to project accurately into the future.
"There is a paucity of information available, and if governments stopped listening to attacks from people like Lomborg, we would have more data," Shepherd told CNSNews.com .
But Rubin countered that Living Planet projections are of an "arbitrary nature," and the supposed need for 1.2 more planets is "a one-dimensional figure that relies on an extremely eco-centric sustainability understanding."
Rubin believes the whole focus of the report on present-day deprivation is misguided.
"At present it could seem that we focus so much on the problems ahead that we fail to address the problems facing vast parts of humanity every day - the lack of access to food, water, sanitation and education," Rubin said.
"We are simply not spending enough of the Earth's sustainable capacity to accommodate present basic needs. The world's poor and hungry have a legitimate right to demand that we try," Rubin said.
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