While I’m on the subject of MRC interns wanting to pluck their eyeballs out watching Al-Gorey screeds about our impending planetary doom, MRC intern Chadd Clark sat through the entire Matt Lauer "Countdown to Doomsday" special on the Sci-Fi Channel that aired on June 14. The transcripts are so full of hyperbole it reads more like the the aforementioned Science Fiction in the usual rotation on that channel than an alleged documentary hosted by an NBC News anchor. Chadd lined up a long list of wild predictions of how we may all be dead tomorrow.
9:03 PM, Lauer on the threat of extinction: "Today, some of our greatest scientific minds are warning that we could be on the brink of another terrible extinction, only this one, is our own."
9:08 PM, Lauer on the alleged threat of super volcanoes: "While these scenarios seem dire, they actually pale in comparison with the threat of super volcanoes, volcanoes capable of eruption so massive, they can end life as we know it. Now these eruptions are rare, about once every half a million years or so, but they can happen at any time."
9:42 PM, on the destruction of ecosystems:
Lauer: "Today, life on earth is disappearing faster than the days when dinosaurs breathed their last, but for a very different reason."
Dr. Paul Ehrlich, Center for Conservation Biology: "Humanity is assaulting earth's life support system, what scientists sometimes call ecosystems, at a level that is absolutely unprecedented."
Lauer: "We're living on the edge of a mass extinction. Scientists predict that more than two-thirds of the world's species will be lost by the end of this century. That's as many as 7 million different kinds of plants and animals gone forever."
Dr. Peter Raven, Missouri Botanical Garden: "We worry about the extinction of those organisms, but it's widely appreciated that there's one of them which if it disappeared tomorrow would leave the other 9,999,000 cheering wildly - that would be us."
Lauer: "Us homo sapiens are turning out to be as destructive a force as any asteroid. Earth's intricate web of ecosystems thrived for millions of years as natural paradises, until we came along, paved paradise, and put up a parking lot. Our assault on nature is killing off the very things we depend on for our own lives."
Raven: "We're driving them to extinction at the very time when we ought to be using them to build better and more sustainable lives. How dumb is that?"
Lauer: "Pretty dumb, considering that the food and water that keep you alive, the plants the give you medicine, the wood that gives you shelter, the climate, energy, even the air that you breathe, are all products of earth's natural systems."
Ehrlich: "If I were to grade humanity on its care of the life support systems upon which its very future depends, I'd give it a grade of F."
Lauer: "That failing grade is spelling disaster for our environment, and for us."
As legendary liberal-media blowhard Eric Engberg would say, time out! NBC’s "Today" and Paul Ehrlich have a history. (Yes, Sci-Fi's screen graphic is misspelled.) In June 1989, NBC gave Ehrlich a three-part series that he wrote, taped, and reported, all without a conservative counterpoint, despite Ehrlich's rather stunning record of predictions that did not pan out, especially in his man-hating 1968 manifesto "The Population Bomb." As we noted then in our MediaWatch newsletter:
Ehrlich saw widespread famine as part of the solution to his theories of overpopulation. In what he called a "cheerful scenario," the U.S. government would decide in 1974 it would no longer send food to countries considered "beyond hope." Famine and food riots would ensue until 1985, "when it is calculated the major die-back will be over," that is, when enough millions have died to reduce Earth's population to some arbitrarily acceptable level, like 1.5 billion people.
The Today reports were about as "cheerful," and Ehrlich's predictions as pessimistic about the coming decade. "We're going to see massive extinction," he warned, not to mention drought, erosion, and famine. Global warming is going to melt the polar ice caps, causing a flood in which "we could expect to lose all of Florida, Washington D.C., and the Los Angeles basin...we'll be in rising waters with no ark in sight." Thus, industrial nations will have to abandon their wasteful lifestyles using gas and electricity or risk global cataclysm. "Perhaps the most explosive social problem of the next 50 years will be that the ecosystems of the world cannot support the spread of the American lifestyle to the Third World or even to the next generation of Americans."
In our February 1990 MediaWatch, NBC won our "Janet Cooke Award" for giving Ehrlich a three-part series on Today, which he produced. again with absolutely no conservative counterpoint. His record of gloomy predictions have not often come to their fearsome fruition. The Ehrlich series kicked off January 9, 1990 with a story on "how man is destroying the entire ecological system with something that appears to be completely harmless." What was this global threat? The cow. "The dog may be man's best friend, but cows are family...our dependence on the cow is destroying the world environment."
Lauer and his Sci-Fi sob sisters never asked whether any of Ehrlich’s wild predictions of doom in 1990 have come true in the last 16 years. As Julian Simon, professor of economics at the University of Maryland and author of The Ultimate Resource, a fact-filled refutation of Ehrlich's contentions, told MediaWatch: "On just about every point where his statements can be tested against evidence, Ehrlich is wrong. Indeed, he has been wrong across the board since the 1960's. Every one of his predictions has been falsified. How many times does a 'prophet' have to be wrong before he stops being a prophet?" In 1980, Ehrlich accepted a bet from Simon that five natural resources of Ehrlich's choosing would grow more scarce [i.e., expensive] by 1990. Ehrlich lost on all five counts. Sadly, Dr. Simon has passed away, and Ehrlich’s still spinning tall tales on a Sci-Fi soapbox.
9:45 PM, on overpopulation destroying ecosystems:
Lauer: "It's no coincidence that ecosystem destruction is happening at exactly the same time our population is exploding. 50 years ago, the world's population was only 2.5 billion people. Today, it's 6.5 billion. 50 years from now, it will be 9.5 billion. Not even fuzzy math can make numbers like that add up to a healthy planet."
Ehrlich: "If we want the United States to last a long time, the way to do it isn't to see if we can cram in 500 million people before it goes bust."
Lauer: "The stark reality is that there are simply too many of us, and we consume way too much, especially here at home."
Raven: "We use twice as much energy in the United States per person. Does anybody really think that we live twice as well as a result of doing that? No, we waste twice as well. That's our special trick."
Lauer: "Even the mighty oceans, the biggest ecosystems of them all, are losing the battle."
Sylvia Earle, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence: "Grave changes have taken place that have altered the very nature of the ocean itself. The ocean is in trouble. Take away the ocean, and you take away life itself for planet earth."
Lauer: "In Sylvia Earle's lifetime, commercial fishing fleets have wiped out 90 percent of large fish in the ocean - sharks, tuna, swordfish, snapper, cod - fish we love to eat, features that are vital to the food change, vital to ecosystem earth. What a waste."
9:47 PM, on the loss of biodiversity:
Lauer: "On land, wild creatures are also in trouble. Losing our cousins in the animal kingdom has dire implications for us too."
Richard Carroll, World Wildlife Fund: "When you see a gorilla, you can't help but see that recognition that separates us from our closest relatives..."
Lauer: "Can humans avoid getting caught up in the mass extinction that we started? It will take a massive global effort to make things right, but the solutions are not a secret: control population, recycle, reduce consumption, develop green technologies."
9:49 PM, Lauer on the problem of ecosystem destruction:
"The future lies beyond our vision. It's not beyond our control. We are the problem. We can be, and must be, the solution, or else, this beautiful green place we call home could turn into a lifeless, gray planet."
10:15 PM, on the potential reality of global disaster:
Lauer: "Massive tornados in Los Angeles are just some of the ways that global warming wreaks death and destruction around the world in the movie The Day After Tomorrow. The movie's nightmarish scenario is not as far fetched as it may seem...For years, many scientists have warned that gasses emitted from burning fossil fuels are creating a greenhouse effect that's heating up the globe. Now, having ignored the calls for action, we may be at a tipping point."
Dr. James E. Hansen, Director, NASA Goddard: "The danger is that we will pass a point of no return and not be able to prevent further changes from happening."
10:18 PM, on the ice caps melting:
Lauer: "Dramatic, as in starvation, since we all depend on fish for much of our protein. But, the warming of the ocean also presents another threat. You've undoubtedly heard that the polar ice caps and glaciers around the world are beginning to melt, but new data on the rate of the thaw is shocking scientists."
Marika Holland, National Center For Atmospheric Research: "The change is rapid and very dramatic. In the last 800,000 years, there has not been an arctic that has no sea ice in the summer, and our climate models are showing that that could happen within 50 years. Species like polar bears and like seals will be at great risk, and many indications are that they'll be driven towards extinction."
Lauer: "The terrifying danger is if the massive glaciers of Greenland and ice-bound Antarctica turn to slush, the Greenland ice sheet alone could raise the global sea level by 23 feet. If Antarctica melted, seas would rise an additional 215 feet. The effects would be catastrophic."
And so on:
Lauer: "The devastating effects of global warming may be much more imminent than most people realize. Hidden at the bottom of the ocean is a little known factor that could accelerate the whole process - massive deposits of frozen methane, a potent greenhouse gas."
Hansen: "The amount of methane in the ocean is much larger than the amount of methane and CO2 that we can get from fossil fuels."
Lauer: "If the ocean gets warm enough, the methane will defrost and rise from the ocean into the atmosphere. Global warming will suddenly get a steroid injection. If that happens, we will be past the tipping point. Colossal hurricanes would hammer the globe. The oceans would become too hot to support much life. Droughts, forest fires, and famine would rage across the continents. Florida would be gone, completely swallowed by the rising ocean, as well as hundreds of cities all around the world."
Florida would be gone? Well, let’s consult the Ehrlich panic from Today in 1990 for another drink of that crazy brew. "As global temperatures rise, they may cause the massive West Antarctic ice sheet to slip more rapidly. Then we'll be facing a sea-level rise not of one to three feet in a century, but of 10 or 20 feet in a much shorter time. The Supreme Court would be flooded. You could tie your boat to the Washington Monument. Storm surges would make the Capitol unusable. For Today, Paul Ehrlich in Washington, DC, on the future shoreline of Chesapeake Bay." The last I checked, the shoreline of the Chesapeake is still a decent drive from the Washington Monument.
At 9:48, I found Ehrlich adding this nugget of political rhetoric to the special: "When you hear a politician say we've really gotta concentrate on the economy now, and forget about the ecology, you know you're listening to a moron."
Sigh, let's continue to the proposed solutions to Armageddon:
10:21 PM, Lauer on the Kyoto energy-curbing agreement:
"What can be done to prevent this global Armageddon? More than 160 countries have signed an agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But, the United States has refused to sign, saying it would threaten economic growth. As a result, emissions in the U.S. have increased by 2 percent each year... Recently, President Bush acknowledged there is a problem with too much oil consumption and supported a switch to alternative fuels. But so far, the United States has not come up with a plan to combat global warming."
10:22 PM, Lauer on the feelings of the American people on global warming:
"In the meantime, people are starting to reach their own tipping point. A recent U.S. poll shows that the majority of people believes that global warming is a global problem, and that the government needs to be part of the solution....The only way to ensure our survival is to take matters into our own hands, stop talking about developing new cleaner energy, like alternative fuel cars and wind farms, and start investing in them. The trend is unmistakable. The ten hottest years on record have all occurred since 1990."
10:36 PM, on the ability of viruses to spread:
Lauer: "In 1918, the Spanish Flu killed more than 50 million people world wide, and this time, things could be even worse. Our modern global village is a crowded, hectic place, and that makes us more vulnerable than ever before."
Laurie Garrett, Council on Foreign Relations: "Globalization is globalized opportunity, but it's also globalized threat."
Lauer: "A bug out of Africa or Asia can hitch a ride on a jumbo jet and find itself just about anywhere in the world in less than a day. In the last few decades, infectious diseases like SARS and AIDS have emerged and spread all over the world."
Sadly, I prefer Matt questioning Britney Spears about the paparazzi to this panicked propaganda.