Get A Grip on Climate Panic

 

Deutsche Welle provides this opinion article during the second week of COP25:  In times of climate change, panic rules. Excerpts in italics with my bolds

As the planet heats up, so does the debate about climate change. Sensible debate is becoming increasingly difficult in these fearful times, and Zoran Arbutina says people with rational arguments are at a disadvantage.

“I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. … I want you to act as if our house is on fire.” The words spoken by teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January are certain to end up high on the list of the year’s most important quotes.

It’s rare to see someone express the zeitgeist so clearly. It’s as if millions of mainly young people were just waiting for someone to give them the go-ahead to finally do what they needed to do: stand up, take to the streets and speak out against man-made climate change.

In Germany, even more so than in other European countries, it seems the urgent call of the young Swedish activist has unleashed a veritable avalanche of protest and outrage, overrunning everything in its path. These days, panic rules the country — and it’s putting pressure on politicians.

Just do ‘something’

More and more German cities have declared a “climate emergency,” with even the European Parliament recently getting carried away and following suit. Such declarations are essentially symbolic; the climate isn’t any better off as a result, but that’s not the point. It’s all about creating a social climate of fear, of panic.

The latest alarming contribution is a new report by environmental think tank Germanwatch, which ranked Germany as the third-most weather-affected country in the world in 2018, after Japan and the Philippines. Germanwatch said its Global Climate Risk Index, published annually, doesn’t allow for conclusions to be drawn about how climate change has influenced extreme weather events, and said its analysis included “statistical uncertainties.” But that’s not important —what matters is the warning that rising temperatures will make extreme weather occurrences more likely. It wasn’t much, but the report was enough to spread fear even further.

Fear, however, usually isn’t the best guide. When people panic, they rarely make good decisions — and that’s certainly the case for a society. In a democracy, political decisions should be based on rational arguments and reason. In a climate of fear, rational arguments only come out when they help to further the agenda.

Signs of climate change?

An example: those who question global warming during extreme cold spells (yes, they still happen!) are often informed that there is a difference between climate and weather. If, on the other hand, we go through two dry, hot summers in a row, it’s almost always seen as a sign of runaway climate change.

Activists like to point to allegedly unambiguous scientific findings to make their claims that climate change is upon us. But when a renowned climate researcher like Hans von Storch says that protesters only “mix up” and “exaggerate” everything, his scientific integrity is immediately called into question.

Exaggerated expectations

While climate activists have pressured Germany’s traditional political parties, the Greens have sailed on the waves of the environmental movement and made huge gains in recent elections. But a new conflict awaits on the horizon: should the environmentalists return to power on the federal level, the Greens and their voters will find that they cannot fulfill the raised expectations of their followers. That failure will trigger fresh disappointment, anger and even more fear.

Of course, one can and should argue about climate policy. And naturally, the climate activists have made some good points. But climate policy must be decided as everything else in politics: through societal debate, and the belief in the power of the better argument. Climate change is too important an issue to be left to climate activists alone. Their worries should be taken seriously, as should the worries of many other social groups. But being dominated by the fears of a single group is never a good approach.

Previous Post Shows How Panic Distorts Reality (from last summer)

People who struggle with anxiety are known to have moments of “hair on fire.” IOW, letting your fears take over is like setting your own hair on fire. Currently the media, pandering as always to primal fear instincts, is declaring that the Arctic is on fire, and it is our fault. Let’s see what we can do to help them get a grip.

1. Summer is fire season for northern boreal forests and tundra.

From the Canadian National Forestry Database

Since 1990, “wildland fires” across Canada have consumed an average of 2.5 million hectares a year.

Recent Canadian Forest Fire Activity 2015 2016 2017
Area burned (hectares) 3,861,647 1,416,053 3,371,833
Number of fires 7,140 5,203 5,611

The total area of Forest and other wooded land in Canada  is 396,433,600 (hectares).  So the data says that every average year 0.6% of Canadian wooded area burns due to numerous fires, ranging from 1000 in a slow year to over 10,000 fires and 7M hectares burned in 1995.

2. With the warming since 1980 some years have seen increased areas burning.

From Wildland Fire in High Latitudes, A. York et al. (2017)

Despite the low annual temperatures and short growing seasons characteristic of northern ecosystems, wildland fire affects both boreal forest (the broad band of mostly coniferous trees that generally stretches across the area north of the July 13° C isotherm in North America and Eurasia, also known as Taiga) and adjacent tundra regions. In fact, fire is the dominant ecological disturbance in boreal forest, the world’s largest terrestrial biome. Fire disturbance affects these high latitude systems at multiple scales, including direct release of carbon through combustion (Kasischke et al., 2000) and interactions with vegetation succession (Mann et al., 2012; Johnstone et al., 2010), biogeochemical cycles (Bond-Lamberty et al., 2007), energy balance (Rogers et al., 2015), and hydrology (Liu et al., 2005). About 35% of global soil carbon is stored in tundra and boreal systems (Scharlemann et al., 2014) that are potentially vulnerable to fire disturbance (Turetsky et al., 2015). This brief report summarizes evidence from Alaska and Canada on variability and trends in fire disturbance in high latitudes and outlines how short-term fire weather conditions in these regions influence area burned.

Climate is a dominant control of fire activity in both boreal and tundra ecosystems. The relationship between climate and fire is strongly nonlinear, with the likelihood of fire occurrence within a 30-year period much higher where mean July temperatures exceed 13.4° C (56° F) (Young et al., 2017). High latitude fire regimes appear to be responding rapidly to recent environmental changes associated with the warming climate. Although highly variable, area burned has increased over the past several decades in much of boreal North America (Kasischke and Turetsky, 2006; Gillett et al., 2004). Since the early 1960s, the number of individual fire events and the size of those events has increased, contributing to more frequent large fire years in northwestern North America (Kasischke and Turetsky, 2006). Figure 1 shows annual area burned per year in Alaska (a) and Northwest Territories (b) since 1980, including both boreal and tundra regions.

[Comment: Note that both Alaska and NW Territories see about 500k hectares burned on average each year since 1980.  And in each region, three years have been much above that average, with no particular pattern as to timing.]

Recent large fire seasons in high latitudes include 2014 in the Northwest Territories, where 385 fires burned 8.4 million acres, and 2015 in Alaska, where 766 fires burned 5.1 million acres (Figs. 1 & 2)—more than half the total acreage burned in the US (NWT, 2015; AICC, 2015). Multiple northern communities have been threatened or damaged by recent wildfires, notably Fort McMurray, Alberta, where 88,000 people were evacuated and 2400 structures were destroyed in May 2016. Examples of recent significant tundra fires include the 2007 Anaktuvuk River Fire, the largest and longest-burning fire known to have occurred on the North Slope of Alaska (256,000 acres), which initiated widespread thermokarst development (Jones et al., 2015). An unusually large tundra fire in western Greenland in 2017 received considerable media attention.

Large fire events such as these require the confluence of receptive fuels that will promote fire growth once ignited, periods of warm and dry weather conditions, and a source of ignition—most commonly, convective thunderstorms that produce lightning ignitions. High latitude ecosystems are characterized by unique fuels—in particular, fast-drying beds of mosses, lichens, resinous shrubs, and accumulated organic material (duff) that underlie dense, highly flammable conifers. These understory fuels cure rapidly during warm, dry periods with long daylight hours in June and July. Consequently, extended periods of drought are not required to increase fire danger to extreme levels in these systems.

Most acreage burned in high latitude systems occurs during sporadic periods of high fire activity; 50% of the acreage burned in Alaska from 2002 to 2010 was consumed in just 36 days (Barrett et al., 2016). Figure 3 shows cumulative acres burned in the four largest fire seasons in Alaska since 1990 (from Fig. 1) and illustrates the varying trajectories of each season. Some seasons show periods of rapid growth during unusually warm and dry weather (2004, 2009, 2015), while others (2004 and 2005) were prolonged into the fall in the absence of season-ending rain events. In 2004, which was Alaska’s largest wildfire season at 6.6 million acres, the trajectory was characterized by both rapid mid-season growth and extended activity into September. These different pathways to large fire seasons demonstrate the importance of intraseasonal weather variability and the timing of dynamical features. As another example, although not large in total acres burned, the 2016 wildland fire season in Alaska was more than 6 months long, with incidents requiring response from mid-April through late October (AICC, 2016).

3. Wildfires are part of the ecology cycle making the biosphere sustainable.

Forest Fire Ecology: Fire in Canada’s forests varies in its role and importance.

In the moist forests of the west coast, wildland fires are relatively infrequent and generally play a minor ecological role.

In boreal forests, the complete opposite is true. Fires are frequent and their ecological influence at all levels—species, stand and landscape—drives boreal forest vegetation dynamics. This in turn affects the movement of wildlife populations, whose need for food and cover means they must relocate as the forest patterns change.

lThe Canadian boreal forest is a mosaic of species and stands. It ranges in composition from pure deciduous and mixed deciduous-coniferous to pure coniferous stands.

The diversity of the forest mosaic is largely the result of many fires occurring on the landscape over a long period of time. These fires have varied in frequency, intensity, severity, size, shape and season of burn.

The fire management balancing act: Fire is a vital ecological component of Canadian forests and will always be present.

Not all wildland fires should (or can) be controlled. Forest agencies work to harness the force of natural fire to take advantage of its ecological benefits while at the same time limiting its potential damage and costs.

Tundra Fire Ecology

From Arctic tundra fires: natural variability and responses to climate change, Feng Sheng Hu et al. (2015)

Circumpolar tundra fires have primarily occurred in the portions of the Arctic with warmer summer conditions, especially Alaska and northeastern Siberia (Figure 1). Satellite-based estimates (Giglio et al. 2010; Global Fire Emissions Database 2015) show that for the period of 2002–2013, 0.48% of the Alaskan tundra has burned, which is four times the estimate for the Arctic as a whole (0.12%; Figure 1). These estimates encompass tundra ecoregions with a wide range of fire regimes. For instance, within Alaska, the observational record of the past 60 years indicates that only 1.4% of the North Slope ecoregion has burned (Rocha et al. 2012); 68% of the total burned area in this ecoregion was associated with a single event, the 2007 AR Fire.

The Noatak and Seward Peninsula ecoregions are the most flammable of the tundra biome, and both contain areas that have experienced multiple fires within the past 60 years (Rocha et al. 2012). This high level of fire activity suggests that fuel availability has not been a major limiting factor for fire occurrence in some tundra regions, probably because of the rapid post-fire recovery of tundra vegetation (Racine et al. 1987; Bret-Harte et al. 2013) and the abundance of peaty soils.

However, the wide range of tundra-fire regimes in the modern record results from spatial variations in climate and fuel conditions among ecoregions. For example, frequent tundra burning in the Noatak ecoregion reflects relatively warm/dry climate conditions, whereas the extreme rarity of tundra fires in southwestern Alaska reflects a wet regional climate and abundant lakes that act as natural firebreaks.

Fire alters the surface properties, energy balance, and carbon (C) storage of many terrestrial ecosystems. These effects are particularly marked in Arctic tundra (Figure 5), where fires can catalyze biogeochemical and energetic processes that have historically been limited by low temperatures.

In contrast to the long-term impacts of tundra fires on soil processes, post-fire vegetation recovery is unexpectedly rapid. Across all burned areas in the Alaskan tundra, surface greenness recovered within a decade after burning (Figure 6; Rocha et al. 2012). This rapid recovery was fueled by belowground C reserves in roots and rhizomes, increased nutrient availability from ash, and elevated soil temperatures.

At present, the primary objective for wildland fire management in tundra ecosystems is to maintain biodiversity through wildland fires while also protecting life, property, and sensitive resources. In Alaska, the majority of Arctic tundra is managed under the “Limited Protection” option, and most natural ignitions are managed for the purpose of preserving fire in its natural role in ecosystems. Under future scenarios of climate and tundra burning, managing tundra fire is likely to become increasingly complex. Land managers and policy makers will need to consider trade-offs between fire’s ecological roles and its socioeconomic impacts.

4. Arctic fire regimes involve numerous interacting factors.

Frequent Fires in Ancient Shrub Tundra: Implications of Paleorecords for Arctic Environmental Change
Philip E. Higuera et al. (2008)

Although our fire-history records provide unique insights into the potential response of modern tundra ecosystems to climate and vegetation change, they are imperfect analogs for future fire regimes. First, ongoing vegetation changes differ from those of the late-glacial period: several shrub taxa (Salix, Alnus, and Betula) are currently expanding into tundra [10], whereas Betula was the primary constituent of the ancient shrub tundra. The lower flammability of Alnus and Salix compared to Betula could make future shrub tundra less flammable than the ancient shrub tundra. Second, mechanisms of past and future climate change also differ. In the late-glacial and early-Holocene periods, Alaskan climate was responding to shrinking continental ice volumes, sea-level changes, and amplified seasonality arising from changes in the seasonal cycle of insolation [13]; in the future, increased concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gases are projected to cause year-round warming in the Arctic, but with a greater increase in winter months [8]. Finally, we know little about the potential effects of a variety of biological and physical processes on climate-vegetation-fire interactions. For example, permafrost melting as a result of future warming [8] and/or increased burning [24] could further facilitate fires by promoting shrub expansion [10], or inhibit fires by increasing soil moisture [24].

5. The Arctic has adapted to many fire regimes stronger than today’s activity.

The Burning Tundra: A Look Back at the Last 6,000 Years of Fire in the Noatak National Preserve, Northwestern Alaska

Fire history in the Noatak also suggests that subtle changes in vegetation were linked to changes in tundra fire occurrence. Spatial variability across the study region suggests that vegetation responded to local-scale climate, which in turn influenced the flammability of surrounding areas. This work adds to evidence from ‘ancient’ shrub tundra in the southcentral Brooks Range suggesting that vegetation change will likely modify tundra fire regimes, and it further suggests that the direction of this impact will depend upon the specific makeup of future tundra vegetation. Ongoing climate-related vegetation change in arctic tundra such as increasing shrub abundance in response to warming temperatures (e.g., Tape et al. 2006), could both increase (e.g., birch) or decrease (e.g., alder) the probability of future tundra fires.

This study provides estimated fire return intervals (FRIs) for one of the most flammable tundra ecosystems in Alaska. Fire managers require this basic information, and it provides a valuable context for ongoing and future environmental change. At most sites, FRIs varied through time in response to changes in climate and local vegetation. Thus, an individual mean or median FRI does not capture the range of variability in tundra fire occurrence. Long-term mean FRIs in many periods were both shorter than estimates based on the past 60 years and statistically indistinct from mean FRIs found in Alaskan boreal forests (e.g., Higuera et al. 2009) (Figure 2). These results imply that tundra ecosystems have been resilient to relatively frequent burning over the past 6,000 years, which has implications for both managers and scientists concerned about environmental change in tundra ecosystems. For example, increased tundra fire occurrence could negatively impact winter forage for the Western Arctic Caribou Herd (Joly et al. 2009). Although the Noatak is only a portion of this herd’s range, our results indicate that if caribou utilized the study area over the past 6,000 years, then they have successfully co-existed with relatively frequent fire.

 

Polar Bears Are Alright (How Dare You Say That!)

Polar bear walking the streets in Norilsk, Russia © Reuters / Stringer

Helen Buyniski writes an op ed at Russia Today The REAL inconvenient truth: Polar bears thriving in spite of climate change, but saying this gets scientists fired.  Others have covered this disgraceful episode, but the article provides some important details and European perspective. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Polar bears have become the poster child for climate change, their population supposedly devastated by shrinking ice cover. But when one zoologist disproved the myth, she came under the inquisition of the climate church.

Zoologist and polar bear expert Susan Crockford was shunned by the academy for her insistence that despite the polar bear’s status as a climate change icon, the warming planet had actually caused the species to thrive. She did not deny climate change – merely the idea that it was harming the bears.

After losing her contract as an adjunct professor at Canada’s University of Victoria, where she worked for 15 years, she has been vindicated by a report from northern Canada confirming her theory that polar bears are climate change’s beneficiaries, rather than its victims.

Footage of an emaciated polar bear, captioned “this is what climate change looks like,” yanked at the world’s heartstrings when it was posted on National Geographic in 2017. Eight months later, the publication changed the caption to “this is what starvation looks like,” admitting there was no way to tell why the bear was starving. But it wasn’t the first sick bear to be pressed into service for the environmentalist cause, and it won’t be the last. Climate change’s PR team may have made an unfortunate choice in elevating the polar bear to icon status.

© Reuters / Mal Langsdon

The Inuit groups who actually live with the bears in northern Canada seem to agree with Crockford’s claim that bear populations are increasing, as documented in a court affidavit by the director of wildlife management for the Nunavik Marine Region Wildlife Board. Faced with cuts to their bear-hunting quota by an environment ministry concerned with population numbers, Nunavut residents have seen an “increase in the polar bear population and a particularly notable increase since the 1980s,” the director attested.

Nor are the (plentiful) bears suffering or sickly: “Nunavik Inuit report that it is rare to see a skinny bear and most bears are observed to be healthy,” the affidavit continued. Locals are, however, reportedly concerned about outside perception of declining polar bear numbers, fueled by groups like the World Wildlife Federation (WWF), which explicitly described the bears as the “poster child for the impacts of climate change on species.”

Crockford has been saying for years that bear populations are either growing or stable – even though they may go down in some habitats, they increase in others. She does say starvation is the most common cause of death for adult bears, but there are many factors that could lead them to the state captured by National Geographic – from too many bears, straining food supplies and leaving slower hunters out-competed; to broken jaws, other injuries, and disease.

But as ice cover decreases, she claims, polar bears thrive. The ringed seals that are one of their primary food sources multiply in the warmer water, and polar bear populations have been steady or on the rise since 2005, all predictions of doom aside.

Polar bear populations hit record highs in 2018, Crockford revealed in last year’s State of the Polar Bear report, whose publication by the climate skeptic Global Warming Policy Foundation was sparsely noted outside fellow-traveler sites like Climate Depot. Despite sea ice depletion to levels not expected until 2050, which was supposed to decimate two thirds of the bear population, the animals are thriving.

In fact, they’re thriving too much, according to the humans who have to live with them. The Nunavut government sounded the alarm last year: “Inuit believe there are now so many bears that public safety has become a major concern… the polar bear may have exceeded the coexistence threshold.” Two locals were killed in bear attacks in the region. Nor is Canada the only habitat affected – in 2017, they laid siege to the Siberian town of Ryrkaypiy, invading human homes and terrifying the locals.

Even the WWF has softened its predictions of a polar bear apocalypse, admitting that only one of the 19 bear populations are in decline as of 2017 while two are increasing and seven are stable. Yet the International Union for Conservation of Nature insists the numbers will plummet 30 percent by 2050, linking population decline with dwindling sea ice.

Crockford’s view – even though it’s based on years of research and previous studies – is considered heretical and scorned by climate doomsayers, for whom no deviation from orthodoxy is permitted, even when the facts do not match the propaganda.

The University of Victoria declined to renew her contract in May this year after 15 years of employment despite having promoted her work in the past. The school’s speakers’ bureau, which had sent her out for ten years to give lectures to schools and adult groups, dropped her like a hot potato in May 2017 after a vague outside complaint about her “lack of balance” allegedly triggered a kafkaesque cascade of deplatforming culminating in her removal. The school did not deny the reason she was let go was because of her heretical polar bear science, but would not confirm it either.

global-warming-inquisition

Misrepresenting thriving wildlife populations as a harbinger of their doom is nothing new for nature photographers and documentarians – David Attenborough’s depiction of suicidal walruses plummeting from cliffs “because of climate change” was recently exposed as less than the whole truth.Walruses ‘hauled out’ on land are spooked easily and will plummet from cliffs in their rush to return to the safety of the water. These stampedes can be triggered by polar bears, who do so deliberately in order to feast on the dead walruses left trampled or smashed at the cliff bottom, or by overhead planes (or the drones used for documentary filming).

One of the most notorious examples of phony wildlife tragedy gave rise to the myth of suicidal, cliff-jumping lemmings. A 1958 Disney nature documentary captured the little creatures marching off a precipice, seemingly to their doom, teaching viewers a valuable lesson about blindly following a leader, but that scene was staged by the filmmakers for the sake of added drama.

Climate change proponents may not be staging mass animal suicide to convince the public, but their effort to torpedo the career of a scientist for reasons unrelated to the integrity of her research is equally unprofessional. The climate change debate must be had in good faith by scientific professionals on all sides, with participants free to voice their research-based dissent with prevailing orthodoxy, or it is not science but doctrine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

11 Empty Climate Claims

Below are a series of rebuttals of the 11 most common climate alarmists’ claims such as those made in the recently released Fourth National Climate Assessment Report.[2] The authors of these rebuttals are all recognized experts in the relevant fields.  H/T Joseph D’Aleo for compiling work by many experts at his website ACRESEARCH Fact Checking Climate Claims.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

For each alarmist claim, a summary of the relevant rebuttal is provided below along with a link to the full text of the rebuttal, which includes the names and the credentials of the authors of each rebuttal.

Claim: Heat Waves are increasing at an alarming rate and heat kills.
Fact:  They have been decreasing since the 1930s in the U.S. and globally.

There has been no detectable long-term increase in heat waves in the United States or elsewhere in the world. Most all-time record highs here in the U.S. happened many years ago, long before mankind was using much fossil fuel. Thirty-eight states set their all-time record highs before 1960 (23 in the 1930s!). Here in the United States, the number of 100F, 95F and 90F days per year has been steadily declining since the 1930s. The Environmental Protection Agency Heat Wave Index confirms the 1930s as the hottest decade.

Days over 95F vs. CO2Detailed Rebuttal and Authors: Heat Waves (08/19/19)

Claim: Global warming is causing more hurricanes and stronger hurricanes.
Fact:  Hurricane activity is flat to down since 1900, landfalls in the US are declining

The long-term linear trend in the number and intensity of global hurricane activity has remained flat or down. Hurricane activity does vary year-to-year and over longer periods as short-term ocean cycles like El Nino/La Nina and multidecadal cycles in the Pacific (PDO) and Atlantic (AMO) ocean temperature regimes favor changes in activity levels and some basins over others.

Credible data show this is true despite much better open ocean detection than before the 1960s when many short-lived storms at sea would have been missed as there were no satellites, no aircraft reconnaissance, no radar, no buoys and no automated weather stations.

Detailed Rebuttal and Authors: AC Rebuttal Hurricanes (10/19/19).

Claim: Global warming is causing more and stronger tornadoes.
Fact:  The number of strong tornadoes have declined over the last half century

Tornadoes are failing to follow “global warming” predictions. Strong tornadoes have seen a decline in frequency since the 1950s. The years 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 all saw below average to near record low tornado counts in the U.S. since records began in 1954. 2017 rebounded only to the long-term mean. 2018 ranked well below the 25thpercentile. Tornadoes increased this spring as extreme cold and late snow clashed with southeast warmth to produce a series of strong storms with heavy rains and severe weather including tornadoes. May ranked among the biggest months and the season rebounded after 7 quiet years above the 50th percentile.

Detailed Rebuttal and Authors: AC Rebuttals Tornadoes (08/20/19)

Claim: Global warming is increasing the magnitude and frequency of droughts and floods.
Fact: Droughts and floods have not changed since we’ve been using fossil fuels

Our use of fossil fuels to power our civilization is not causing droughts or floods. NOAA found there is no evidence that floods and droughts are increasing because of climate change.

The number, extend or severity of these events does increase dramatically for a brief period of years at some locations from time to time but then conditions return to more normal. This is simply the long-established constant variation of weather resulting from a confluence of natural factors.

Detailed Rebuttal and Authors: AC Rebuttals Droughts and Floods (08/22/19

Claim: Global Warming has increased U.S. Wildfires.
Fact: Wildfires have been decreasing since 1800s. The increase in damage in recent years is due to population growth in vulnerable areas and poor forest management.

Wildfires are in the news almost every late summer and fall. The National Interagency Fire Center has recorded the number of fires and acreage affected since 1985. This data show the number of fires trending down slightly, though the acreage burned had increased before leveling off over the last 20 years.

The NWS tracks the number of days where conditions are conducive to wildfires when they issue red-flag warnings. It is little changed.

Detailed Rebuttal and Authors: AC Rebuttal Wildfires 080719

Claim: Global warming is causing snow to disappear.
Fact: Snowfall is increasing in the fall and winter in the Northern Hemisphere and North America with many records being set.

This is one claim that has been repeated for decades even as nature showed very much the opposite trend with unprecedented snows even in the big coastal cities. Every time they repeated the claim, it seems nature upped the ante more.

Alarmists have eventually evolved to crediting warming with producing greater snowfall, because of increased moisture but the snow events in recent years have usually occurred in colder winters with high snow water equivalent ratios in frigid arctic air.

Detailed Rebuttal and Authors: AC Rebuttal Snow (09/19/19)

Claim: Global warming is resulting in rising sea levels as seen in both tide gauge and satellite technology.
Fact: The rate of global sea level rise on average has fallen by 40% the last century. Where it is increasing – local factors such as land subsidence are to blame.

This claim is demonstrably false. It really hinges on this statement: “Tide gauges and satellites agree with the model projections.” The models project a rapid acceleration of sea level rise over the next 30 to 70 years. However, while the models may project acceleration, the tide gauges clearly do not.

All data from tide gauges in areas where land is not rising or sinking show instead a steady linear and unchanging sea level rate of rise from 4 up to 6 inches/century, with variations due to gravitational factors. It is true that where the land is sinking as it is in the Tidewater area of Virginia and the Mississippi Delta region, sea levels will appear to rise faster but no changes in CO2 emissions would change that.

Detailed Rebuttal and Authors: Rebuttal – Sea Level (01/18/19)

Claim: Arctic, Antarctic and Greenland ice loss is accelerating due to global warming.
Fact: The polar ice varies with multidecadal cycles in ocean temperatures. Current levels are comparable to or above historical low levels

Satellite and land surface temperature records and sea surface temperatures show that both the East Antarctic Ice Sheet and the West Antarctic Ice Sheet are cooling, not warming and glacial ice is increasing, not melting. Satellite and land surface temperature measurements of the southern polar area show no warming over the past 37 years. Growth of the Antarctic ice sheets means the sea level rise is not being caused by melting of polar ice and, in fact, is slightly lowering the rate of rise. Satellite Antarctic temperature records show 0.02C/decade cooling since 1979. The Southern Ocean around Antarctica has been getting sharply colder since 2006. Antarctic sea ice is increasing, reaching all-time highs. Surface temperatures at 13 stations show the Antarctic Peninsula has been sharply cooling since 2000.

Arctic temperature records show that the 1920s and 1930s were warmer than in the 2000s. Official historical fluctuations of Arctic sea ice begin with the first satellite images in 1979. That happens to coincide with the end of the recent 1945–1977 global cold period and the resulting maximum extent of Arctic sea ice. During the warm period from 1978 until recently, the extent of sea ice has diminished, but increased in the past several years. The Greenland ice sheet has also grown with cooling after an anomalously warm 2012.

Detailed Rebuttal and Authors: AC Rebuttal Arctic, Antarctic and Greenland (05/19/19)

Claim: Global warming responsible for record July warmth in Alaska.
Fact:  Alaska July 2019 heat records resulted from a warm North Pacific and reduced ice in the Bering Sea late winter due to strong storms. The opposite occurred with record cold in 2012.

Alaska climate (averages and extremes) varies over time but the changes can be explained by natural variability in the North Pacific Ocean, which controls the climate regime in downstream land areas. These ocean temperature regimes (modes of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation or PDO) improves season-to-season and year-to-year climate forecasts for North America because of its strong tendency for multi-season and multi-year persistence. The PDO correlates well with tendencies for El Nino and La Nina, which have a major impact on Alaska and much of North America.

See Rebuttal: AC Rebuttal- Alaska’s hot July caused by global warming (08/21/19)

Claim: Rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations are causing ocean acidification, which is catastrophically harming marine life.
Fact: When life is considered, ocean acidification is often found to be a non-problem, or even a benefit.

The ocean chemistry aspect of the ocean acidification hypothesis is rather straightforward, but it is not as solid as it is often claimed to be. For one thing, the work of a number of respected scientists suggests that the drop in oceanic pH will not be nearly as great as the IPCC and others predict. And, as with all phenomena involving living organisms, the introduction of life into the analysis greatly complicates things. When a number of interrelated biological phenomena are considered, it becomes much more difficult, if not impossible, to draw such sweeping negative conclusions about the reaction of marine organisms to ocean acidification. Quite to the contrary, when life is considered, ocean acidification is often found to be a non-problem, or even a benefit. And in this regard, numerous scientific studies have demonstrated the robustness of multiple marine plant and animal species to ocean acidification—when they are properly performed under realistic experimental conditions.

Detailed Rebuttal and Author: AC Rebuttal – Ocean Acidification (02/04/19)

Claim: Carbon pollution is a health hazard.
Fact: Carbon dioxide (CO2) is an odorless invisible trace gas that is plant food and it is essential to life on the planet. It is not a pollutant.

The term “carbon pollution” is a deliberate, ambiguous, disingenuous term, designed to mislead people into thinking carbon dioxide is pollution. It is used by the environmentalists to confuse the environmental impacts of CO2 emissions with the impact of the emissions of unwanted waste products of combustion. The burning of carbon-based fuels (fossil fuels – coal, oil, natural gas – and biofuels and biomass) converts the carbon in the fuels to carbon dioxide (CO2), which is an odorless invisible gas that is plant food and it is essential to life on the planet.
Detailed Rebuttal and Authors: AC Rebuttal Health Impacts (02/04/19)

Claim: CO2-induced climate change is threatening global food production and harming natural ecosystems.
Fact: The vitality of global vegetation in both managed and unmanaged ecosystems is better off now than it was a hundred years ago, 50 years ago, or even a mere two-to-three decades ago thanks in part to CO2.

Such claims are not justified; far from being in danger, the vitality of global vegetation in both managed and unmanaged ecosystems is better off now than it was a hundred years ago, 50 years ago, or even a mere two-to-three decades ago.

With respect to managed ecosystems (primarily the agricultural enterprise), yields of nearly all important food crops have been rising for decades (i.e., the Green Revolution). Reasons for these increases are manifold, but they have mainly occurred in response to continuing advancements in agricultural technology and scientific research that have expanded the knowledge or intelligence base of farming (e.g., fertilizers, pesticides, irrigation, crop selection and breeding, computers, machinery and other devices).

Spatial pattern of trends in Gross Primary Production (1982- 2015). Source: Sun et al. 2018.

Detailed Rebuttal and Authors: AC Rebuttal Agriculture and NaturalEcosystems_Idso020619 (1)

Conclusion:

The well-documented invalidation of the “three lines of evidence” upon which EPA attributes global warming to human -caused CO2 emissions breaks the causal link between such CO2 emissions and global warming.

This in turn necessarily breaks the causal chain between CO2 emissions and the alleged knock-on effects of global warming, such as loss of Arctic ice, increased sea level, and increased heat waves, floods, droughts, hurricanes, tornadoes, etc. These alleged downstream effects are constantly cited to whip up alarm and create demands for ever tighter CO2 regulation. EPA explicitly relied on predicted increases in such events to justify the Endangerment Finding supporting its Clean Power Plan. But as shown above, there is no evidence to support such claims, and copious empirical evidence that refutes them.

Climate Delusional Disorder (CDD)

 

WebMD tells What You Need to Know about this condition.  Delusions and Delusional Disorder. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Delusions are the main symptom of delusional disorder. They’re unshakable beliefs in something that isn’t true or based on reality. But that doesn’t mean they’re completely unrealistic. Delusional disorder involves delusions that aren’t bizarre, having to do with situations that could happen in real life, like being followed, poisoned, deceived, conspired against, or loved from a distance. These delusions usually involve mistaken perceptions or experiences. But in reality, the situations are either not true at all or highly exaggerated.

People with delusional disorder often can continue to socialize and function normally, apart from the subject of their delusion, and generally do not behave in an obviously odd or bizarre manner. This is unlike people with other psychotic disorders, who also might have delusions as a symptom of their disorder. But in some cases, people with delusional disorder might become so preoccupied with their delusions that their lives are disrupted.

What Are the Complications of Delusional Disorder?

  • People with delusional disorder might become depressed, often as the result of difficulties associated with the delusions.
  • Acting on the delusions also can lead to violence or legal problems. For example, a person with an erotomanic delusion who stalks or harasses the object of the delusion could be arrested.
  • Also, people with this disorder can become alienated from others, especially if their delusions interfere with or damage their relationships.

Treatment most often includes medication and psychotherapy (a type of counseling). Delusional disorder can be very difficult to treat, in part because those who have it often have poor insight and do not know there’s a psychiatric problem. Studies show that close to half of patients treated with antipsychotic medications show at least partial improvement.

Delusional disorder is typically a chronic (ongoing) condition, but when properly treated, many people can find relief from their symptoms. Some recover completely, while others have bouts of delusional beliefs with periods of remission (lack of symptoms).

Unfortunately, many people with this disorder don’t seek help. It’s often hard for people with a mental disorder to know they aren’t well. Or they may credit their symptoms to other things, like the environment. They also might be too embarrassed or afraid to seek treatment. Without treatment, delusional disorder can be a lifelong illness.

An example of CDD

H.Sterling Burnett and James Taylor write at Epoch Times United Nations Misleads About Food Production and Climate Change. Excerpts in italics with my bolds

There is no better way to describe the arguments contained in the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) new report, “Climate Change and Land,” released just in time to influence discussions at the United Nations’ 68th Civil Society Conference. Citing anecdotal evidence instead of hard data, IPCC’s new report paints a dark, disturbing picture about the current and future state of crop production and food availability.

“Climate change, including increases in frequency and intensity of extremes, has adversely impacted food security and terrestrial ecosystems as well as contributed to desertification and land degradation in many regions,” the report claims.

“Warming compounded by drying has caused yield declines in parts of Southern Europe. Based on indigenous and local knowledge, climate change is affecting food security in drylands, particularly those in Africa, and high mountain regions of Asia and South America,” the report continues.

Here, climate alarmists in the United Nations are doing nothing more than “pounding the table,” hoping fear will drive the public to demand “climate action now!”

Of course, the fake news media eagerly amplified the alarmist report. For example, an Aug. 8 NBC News headline reads, “Climate change could trigger a global food crisis, new U.N. report says.” Many other major media outlets published similar stories.

The biggest problem is the report’s thesis and “facts” are totally wrong—and that’s quite a problem!

For instance, the United Nations’ own data shows farmers throughout the world are setting new production records virtually every year. In fact, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization reports new records were set in each of the past five years for global cereal production, which is composed of the Big Three food staples: corn, wheat, and rice.

Indeed, World-Grain.com reports in 2016 world cereal production broke records for the third straight year, exceeding the previous record yield, recorded in 2015, by 1.2 percent and topping the record yield in 2014 by 1.5 percent. These facts should not surprise anyone because hundreds of studies and experiments conclusively demonstrate plants do better under conditions of higher carbon dioxide and modestly warmer temperatures.

The ongoing record crop production perfectly illustrates the difference between the Climate Delusion perpetrated by IPCC and other government-funded alarmists and what is actually happening in the real world. To make the news gloomy, IPCC’s report nefariously engages in semantic tricks to give readers a false impression of declining global crop production. The report cites anecdotal evidence crop yields are declining in “parts” of Southern Europe, ignoring copious data showing crop yields are rising across the globe, including throughout Southern Europe.

Instead of highlighting this welcome development, IPCC focuses on what it claims are yield reductions in some small regions of Southern Europe. Readers who are not paying close attention will be led to believe, incorrectly, that crop yields are declining throughout Southern Europe. In reality, the exact opposite is true!

IPCC claims “indigenous and local knowledge” indicates food production is declining “in drylands” in Africa, Asia, and South America. However, such indigenous and local knowledge does not trump objective data, which are readily available to IPCC’s authors and show crop yields are increasing throughout Africa, Asia, and South America as a whole, including in dryland areas.

Tragically, IPCC’s misleading claims result in people who dare to point out crop production continues to set new records being accused of “denying” climate change and attacking science. Climate change is real and record crop production is in fact consistent with it. In fact, record crop production is partly due to climate change.

This is just the latest example of the ongoing Climate Delusion, as radical environmental activists, government bureaucrats, socialists, and a biased news media, looking to transform U.S. society, repeatedly make ridiculous climate claims with no basis in real environmental conditions. They hope the constant drumbeat of authoritative-sounding claims will fool people into stampeding politicians to give governments more power over the economy to combat the false climate crisis.

Fortunately, we can avoid this fate. Factual data showing the truth about global food supplies and other climate conditions are readily available to anyone willing to search the internet. Let’s hope the public accesses the facts. Enacting policies that restrict the use of abundant energy supplies will rob people of choice and harm the economy. This won’t hurt the global elite, but it will result in everyone else living poorer, more precarious lives.

See also Alarmists Anonymous

Arctic On Fire! Not.

People who struggle with anxiety are known to have moments of “hair on fire.” IOW, letting your fears take over is like setting your own hair on fire. Currently the media, pandering as always to primal fear instincts, is declaring that the Arctic is on fire, and it is our fault. Let’s see what we can do to help them get a grip.

1. Summer is fire season for northern boreal forests and tundra.

From the Canadian National Forestry Database

Since 1990, “wildland fires” across Canada have consumed an average of 2.5 million hectares a year.

Recent Canadian Forest Fire Activity 2015 2016 2017
Area burned (hectares) 3,861,647 1,416,053 3,371,833
Number of fires 7,140 5,203 5,611

The total area of Forest and other wooded land in Canada  is 396,433,600 (hectares).  So the data says that every average year 0.6% of Canadian wooded area burns due to numerous fires, ranging from 1000 in a slow year to over 10,000 fires and 7M hectares burned in 1994.

2. With the warming since 1980 some years have seen increased areas burning.

From Wildland Fire in High Latitudes, A. York et al. (2017)

Despite the low annual temperatures and short growing seasons characteristic of northern ecosystems, wildland fire affects both boreal forest (the broad band of mostly coniferous trees that generally stretches across the area north of the July 13° C isotherm in North America and Eurasia, also known as Taiga) and adjacent tundra regions. In fact, fire is the dominant ecological disturbance in boreal forest, the world’s largest terrestrial biome. Fire disturbance affects these high latitude systems at multiple scales, including direct release of carbon through combustion (Kasischke et al., 2000) and interactions with vegetation succession (Mann et al., 2012; Johnstone et al., 2010), biogeochemical cycles (Bond-Lamberty et al., 2007), energy balance (Rogers et al., 2015), and hydrology (Liu et al., 2005). About 35% of global soil carbon is stored in tundra and boreal systems (Scharlemann et al., 2014) that are potentially vulnerable to fire disturbance (Turetsky et al., 2015). This brief report summarizes evidence from Alaska and Canada on variability and trends in fire disturbance in high latitudes and outlines how short-term fire weather conditions in these regions influence area burned.

Climate is a dominant control of fire activity in both boreal and tundra ecosystems. The relationship between climate and fire is strongly nonlinear, with the likelihood of fire occurrence within a 30-year period much higher where mean July temperatures exceed 13.4° C (56° F) (Young et al., 2017). High latitude fire regimes appear to be responding rapidly to recent environmental changes associated with the warming climate. Although highly variable, area burned has increased over the past several decades in much of boreal North America (Kasischke and Turetsky, 2006; Gillett et al., 2004). Since the early 1960s, the number of individual fire events and the size of those events has increased, contributing to more frequent large fire years in northwestern North America (Kasischke and Turetsky, 2006). Figure 1 shows annual area burned per year in Alaska (a) and Northwest Territories (b) since 1980, including both boreal and tundra regions.

[Comment: Note that both Alaska and NW Territories see about 500k hectares burned on average each year since 1980.  And in each region, three years have been much above that average, with no particular pattern as to timing.]

Recent large fire seasons in high latitudes include 2014 in the Northwest Territories, where 385 fires burned 8.4 million acres, and 2015 in Alaska, where 766 fires burned 5.1 million acres (Figs. 1 & 2)—more than half the total acreage burned in the US (NWT, 2015; AICC, 2015). Multiple northern communities have been threatened or damaged by recent wildfires, notably Fort McMurray, Alberta, where 88,000 people were evacuated and 2400 structures were destroyed in May 2016. Examples of recent significant tundra fires include the 2007 Anaktuvuk River Fire, the largest and longest-burning fire known to have occurred on the North Slope of Alaska (256,000 acres), which initiated widespread thermokarst development (Jones et al., 2015). An unusually large tundra fire in western Greenland in 2017 received considerable media attention.

Large fire events such as these require the confluence of receptive fuels that will promote fire growth once ignited, periods of warm and dry weather conditions, and a source of ignition—most commonly, convective thunderstorms that produce lightning ignitions. High latitude ecosystems are characterized by unique fuels—in particular, fast-drying beds of mosses, lichens, resinous shrubs, and accumulated organic material (duff) that underlie dense, highly flammable conifers. These understory fuels cure rapidly during warm, dry periods with long daylight hours in June and July. Consequently, extended periods of drought are not required to increase fire danger to extreme levels in these systems.

Most acreage burned in high latitude systems occurs during sporadic periods of high fire activity; 50% of the acreage burned in Alaska from 2002 to 2010 was consumed in just 36 days (Barrett et al., 2016). Figure 3 shows cumulative acres burned in the four largest fire seasons in Alaska since 1990 (from Fig. 1) and illustrates the varying trajectories of each season. Some seasons show periods of rapid growth during unusually warm and dry weather (2004, 2009, 2015), while others (2004 and 2005) were prolonged into the fall in the absence of season-ending rain events. In 2004, which was Alaska’s largest wildfire season at 6.6 million acres, the trajectory was characterized by both rapid mid-season growth and extended activity into September. These different pathways to large fire seasons demonstrate the importance of intraseasonal weather variability and the timing of dynamical features. As another example, although not large in total acres burned, the 2016 wildland fire season in Alaska was more than 6 months long, with incidents requiring response from mid-April through late October (AICC, 2016).

3. Wildfires are part of the ecology cycle making the biosphere sustainable.

Forest Fire Ecology: Fire in Canada’s forests varies in its role and importance.

In the moist forests of the west coast, wildland fires are relatively infrequent and generally play a minor ecological role.

In boreal forests, the complete opposite is true. Fires are frequent and their ecological influence at all levels—species, stand and landscape—drives boreal forest vegetation dynamics. This in turn affects the movement of wildlife populations, whose need for food and cover means they must relocate as the forest patterns change.

lThe Canadian boreal forest is a mosaic of species and stands. It ranges in composition from pure deciduous and mixed deciduous-coniferous to pure coniferous stands.

The diversity of the forest mosaic is largely the result of many fires occurring on the landscape over a long period of time. These fires have varied in frequency, intensity, severity, size, shape and season of burn.

The fire management balancing act: Fire is a vital ecological component of Canadian forests and will always be present.

Not all wildland fires should (or can) be controlled. Forest agencies work to harness the force of natural fire to take advantage of its ecological benefits while at the same time limiting its potential damage and costs.

Tundra Fire Ecology

From Arctic tundra fires: natural variability and responses to climate change, Feng Sheng Hu et al. (2015)

Circumpolar tundra fires have primarily occurred in the portions of the Arctic with warmer summer conditions, especially Alaska and northeastern Siberia (Figure 1). Satellite-based estimates (Giglio et al. 2010; Global Fire Emissions Database 2015) show that for the period of 2002–2013, 0.48% of the Alaskan tundra has burned, which is four times the estimate for the Arctic as a whole (0.12%; Figure 1). These estimates encompass tundra ecoregions with a wide range of fire regimes. For instance, within Alaska, the observational record of the past 60 years indicates that only 1.4% of the North Slope ecoregion has burned (Rocha et al. 2012); 68% of the total burned area in this ecoregion was associated with a single event, the 2007 AR Fire.

The Noatak and Seward Peninsula ecoregions are the most flammable of the tundra biome, and both contain areas that have experienced multiple fires within the past 60 years (Rocha et al. 2012). This high level of fire activity suggests that fuel availability has not been a major limiting factor for fire occurrence in some tundra regions, probably because of the rapid post-fire recovery of tundra vegetation (Racine et al. 1987; Bret-Harte et al. 2013) and the abundance of peaty soils.

However, the wide range of tundra-fire regimes in the modern record results from spatial variations in climate and fuel conditions among ecoregions. For example, frequent tundra burning in the Noatak ecoregion reflects relatively warm/dry climate conditions, whereas the extreme rarity of tundra fires in southwestern Alaska reflects a wet regional climate and abundant lakes that act as natural firebreaks.

Fire alters the surface properties, energy balance, and carbon (C) storage of many terrestrial ecosystems. These effects are particularly marked in Arctic tundra (Figure 5), where fires can catalyze biogeochemical and energetic processes that have historically been limited by low temperatures.

In contrast to the long-term impacts of tundra fires on soil processes, post-fire vegetation recovery is unexpectedly rapid. Across all burned areas in the Alaskan tundra, surface greenness recovered within a decade after burning (Figure 6; Rocha et al. 2012). This rapid recovery was fueled by belowground C reserves in roots and rhizomes, increased nutrient availability from ash, and elevated soil temperatures.

At present, the primary objective for wildland fire management in tundra ecosystems is to maintain biodiversity through wildland fires while also protecting life, property, and sensitive resources. In Alaska, the majority of Arctic tundra is managed under the “Limited Protection” option, and most natural ignitions are managed for the purpose of preserving fire in its natural role in ecosystems. Under future scenarios of climate and tundra burning, managing tundra fire is likely to become increasingly complex. Land managers and policy makers will need to consider trade-offs between fire’s ecological roles and its socioeconomic impacts.

4. Arctic fire regimes involve numerous interacting factors.

Frequent Fires in Ancient Shrub Tundra: Implications of Paleorecords for Arctic Environmental Change
Philip E. Higuera et al. (2008)

Although our fire-history records provide unique insights into the potential response of modern tundra ecosystems to climate and vegetation change, they are imperfect analogs for future fire regimes. First, ongoing vegetation changes differ from those of the late-glacial period: several shrub taxa (Salix, Alnus, and Betula) are currently expanding into tundra [10], whereas Betula was the primary constituent of the ancient shrub tundra. The lower flammability of Alnus and Salix compared to Betula could make future shrub tundra less flammable than the ancient shrub tundra. Second, mechanisms of past and future climate change also differ. In the late-glacial and early-Holocene periods, Alaskan climate was responding to shrinking continental ice volumes, sea-level changes, and amplified seasonality arising from changes in the seasonal cycle of insolation [13]; in the future, increased concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gases are projected to cause year-round warming in the Arctic, but with a greater increase in winter months [8]. Finally, we know little about the potential effects of a variety of biological and physical processes on climate-vegetation-fire interactions. For example, permafrost melting as a result of future warming [8] and/or increased burning [24] could further facilitate fires by promoting shrub expansion [10], or inhibit fires by increasing soil moisture [24].

5. The Arctic has adapted to many fire regimes stronger than today’s activity.

The Burning Tundra: A Look Back at the Last 6,000 Years of Fire in the Noatak National Preserve, Northwestern Alaska

Fire history in the Noatak also suggests that subtle changes in vegetation were linked to changes in tundra fire occurrence. Spatial variability across the study region suggests that vegetation responded to local-scale climate, which in turn influenced the flammability of surrounding areas. This work adds to evidence from ‘ancient’ shrub tundra in the southcentral Brooks Range suggesting that vegetation change will likely modify tundra fire regimes, and it further suggests that the direction of this impact will depend upon the specific makeup of future tundra vegetation. Ongoing climate-related vegetation change in arctic tundra such as increasing shrub abundance in response to warming temperatures (e.g., Tape et al. 2006), could both increase (e.g., birch) or decrease (e.g., alder) the probability of future tundra fires.

This study provides estimated fire return intervals (FRIs) for one of the most flammable tundra ecosystems in Alaska. Fire managers require this basic information, and it provides a valuable context for ongoing and future environmental change. At most sites, FRIs varied through time in response to changes in climate and local vegetation. Thus, an individual mean or median FRI does not capture the range of variability in tundra fire occurrence. Long-term mean FRIs in many periods were both shorter than estimates based on the past 60 years and statistically indistinct from mean FRIs found in Alaskan boreal forests (e.g., Higuera et al. 2009) (Figure 2). These results imply that tundra ecosystems have been resilient to relatively frequent burning over the past 6,000 years, which has implications for both managers and scientists concerned about environmental change in tundra ecosystems. For example, increased tundra fire occurrence could negatively impact winter forage for the Western Arctic Caribou Herd (Joly et al. 2009). Although the Noatak is only a portion of this herd’s range, our results indicate that if caribou utilized the study area over the past 6,000 years, then they have successfully co-existed with relatively frequent fire.

 

Global Warming Favors Rats over Cute Animals

John Robson writes at Nation Post Why will global warming kill only the cute animals?
Excerpts in italics with my bolds

Only loathsome species will flourish, according to certain studies. Why? Because ‘rat explosion’ is more alarming than ‘two degrees’

Rats! It’s global warming again. Can’t we get a break?

No, literally. Not from the warming part. It’s actually quite chilly outside and there hasn’t been any measurable planetary warming since 1999. From the rats. Big ugly swarms of them spreading disease and biting your kids.

Monday’s Post headline actually said “Explosion of rats feared as climate warms.” So the good news is rats aren’t increasing any more than temperature. The bad news is a further increase in passive-voice predictions of doom.

Before the rats reach your face I’d like to note that this “news” story is remarkable for having the plumbing on the outside. It starts “Scientists have shown that the likely 2 degrees of global warming to come this century will be extremely dangerous, but, you know, ‘2 degrees’ is hardly a phrase from horror films. How about ‘rat explosion?’ ”

Exactly. It’s openly a story about hype not science. “The physics of climate change doesn’t have the same fear factor as the biology.” So cue the Fu Manchu-style mandibles, mould and plague because “it’s the creatures multiplying in outbreaks and infestations that generate horror.”

Beach invaded by red crabs.

It’s also old news. I’ve collected quite the file of creepy-crawly global-warming scare stories over the years including “super-sized, extra-itchy poison ivy” (Ottawa Citizen 2006), “tropical and potentially lethal fungus” (Globe and Mail 2007), venomous jellyfish the size of refrigerators (MSNBC 2009), mass starvation and the extinction of humanity (Globe and Mail 2009), bigger and more frequent kidney stones (Ottawa Citizen 2008), soggy pork chops (Globe and Mail 2009), asthma, allergies and runny noses (NBC 2015) and the conflict in Darfur (Ottawa Citizen 2007). Not to mention drought and flooding and the migration of France’s fabled wine industry to … um… Scotland (all Ottawa Citizen 2007), where they’ll be pairing a fine ruby Loch Ness with rat haggis I suppose. Och aye mon.

I could go on and on. But they already did. And don’t go reading these stories and thinking they offer evidence, or rather speculation, that warmth benefits life generally.

Far from it. Virtually none of these stories has anything cute or cuddly flourishing. Unless you count stray cats in Toronto (National Post 2007). Instead it’s a strangely un-PC combination of lookism and speciesism.

If you want to be a climate alarmist without all that tedious mucking about with facts, here’s how. Make a collage of many living things. Circle everything you’d like to see, up close or from a distance, like coral reefs or polar bears. Now predict their catastrophic decline if it gets two degrees warmer. (Don’t worry about them having somehow staggered through the Holocene Climatic Optimum. Pretend it never happened and hope it’s gone in the morning.)

Now circle all the really hideous stuff. Eyes on stalks, pointy noses, smelly, slimy. Predict a huge increase. Chocolate? Gone. (Globe and Mail 2012.) Diarrhea-inducing vibrio bacteria? Coming soon to an intestine near you. (MSNBC 2011.) Zika, or crabs swarming beaches? Oh yeah. (NBC 2016.) Insomnia, insanity and suicide? You bet. (Washington Post 2017, National Post 2018, Globe and Mail 2018.) Beer? Going going … (Guardian 2018.)

Friends, scientists, countrypersons, lend me your ears before some warmth-surfing pest chews them off. Even if a rapidly warming Earth were bad for man and beast, and our fault, the initial phases, with temperatures well within the range since the last glaciation ended 12,000 years back, can’t bring only bad consequences. No wind is that ill.

Nor is it plausible that every single new study says it’s worse than scientists thought. (Especially if “the science is settled”). If it were real science somebody would occasionally discover there’s a bit more time, climate somewhere will improve in the short run, some species that doesn’t have you fumbling for the Raid will flourish briefly. But no.

Even if climate change is going to have wiped out “sea spiders as large as a dinner plate” (Ottawa Citizen 2002) it’s the tragic loss of a unique species. But mostly it’s bumble bees (NBC 2015) or the coelacanth (Ottawa Citizen 2001), which cruised through the Permian-Triassic and Cretaceous-Paleogene mass extinctions but now dangles by a rhetorical thread. Oh, and the emperor penguin gets it too (NBC 2014). Plus plankton (Globe and Mail 2000). And walruses (NBC 2014).

As for the rats, one pregnant female will send 15,000 loathsome offspring a year straight to your suburb. None of their natural enemies will flourish. And “Rats are just the beginning … populations of dangerous crop-eating insects are likely to explode … Similar horrors lurk offshore … a population explosion of purple sea urchins — ‘cockroaches of the ocean’ — is choking out other denizens of Pacific kelp forests … we’re all sharing this warming planet, and at the very least surely we can unite against a future filled with rats.”

Or one filled with imaginary horrors? No? Rats.

See also:Alarmists: Global Warming Destroys Good Bugs and Multiplies Bad Bugs

Alarmists: Global Warming Destroys Good Bugs and Multiplies Bad Bugs

Alarmists are now bugging us with a new dire threat of bug populations declining in Puerto Rican rain forests.

‘One of Most Disturbing Articles I Have Ever Read’ Scientist Says of Study Detailing Climate-Driven ‘Bugpocalypse’  from Common Dreams

A truly scary new study finds that insect populations in protected Puerto Rican rainforests have fallen as much as 60-fold. Bill McKibben tweet

But just a few months ago they were warning that global warming would increase bugs and eat our lunch.  As usual they claim both things at the same time, unwilling to notice the contradiction.  This rise of the bad bugs is described in a previous August post reprinted below.

Global Warming Bugastrophe

This week yet another unimaginable calamity if Paris Accord is not fulfilled. That’s right the coordinated reports in the media raise the alarm: The Insects Are Coming For Us (unless we mend our ways!)

Global warming will help insects, hurt crops NBC News

Climate change may boost pests, stress food supplies Axios

Climate Change Will Lead To More Crop-Destroying Insects IFLScience

Global Warming Means More Insects Threatening Food Crops — A Lot More, Study Warns InsideClimate News

Global warming will likely help bugs devour more crops CBC.ca

Global warming could spur more and hungrier crop-eating bugs ABC News

Global warming could spur more crop-eating bugs CTV.ca

Global warming will make insects hungrier, eating up key crops: study AFP

Crop losses due to insects could nearly double in Europe’s bread basket due to climate EurekAlert!

Climate change projected to boost insect activity and crop loss, researchers say EurekAlert!

Rise in insect pests under climate change to hit crop yields, study says Carbon Brief

Swarms of insects will destroy crops across Europe and America by 2050 due to global warming Daily Mail

Global warming: More insects, eating more crops Phys.org

Climate change to accelerate crop losses from insects Cornell Alliance for Science

Climate Change Means Insects Are Coming for Our Food The Atlantic

Well, at least we know who is keen to reprint press releases from Alarmist Central. I am not an entomologist, nor are the journalists who are piling on this story. So let’s hear from some insect experts.

First, a tutorial on Temperature, Effects on Development and Growth (Insects)

Adult insects generally are of smaller body size when larvae are reared at higher temperatures. For example, females of Bicyclus butterflies reared at 20°C were larger than those reared at 27°C. Moreover, females laid larger eggs when they were reared or acclimatized for 10 days at the lower temperature compared to the higher temperature.

LDT: actual lower developmental threshold; T0: predicted lower developmental threshold; UDT: upper developmental threshold; TO: thermal optimum (maximum) for developmental rate. Total optimum for population growth is usually at moderate temperatures, not at such high extremes.

Development time (dt) is the time required to complete specified stage or instar and can be described as dt = SET/(T-T0). SET is the sum of effective temperatures or “thermal constant,” expressed as the number of degree days. T0 is the lower developmental threshold (LDT, or base temperature Tb), the hypothetical temperature at which developmental time would be infinite or developmental rate would be zero. The product of developmental time and the amount to which ambient temperature is above the threshold was found to be constant (= SET), that is, development will take a fixed number of degree days essentially independent of the temperature at which the animal is reared. The thermal parameters are determined in defined conditions (set of constant temperatures, suitable nutrition).

The LDT and SET values are population-specific characteristics. The LDT values are similar for all developmental stages of a given population, even when they develop in diverse seasons and experience disparate temperature fluctuations. The stability of LDT is manifested as developmental rate isometry, that is, the percentage of time spent in a particular stage at any constant physiological temperature is a stable fraction of the entire developmental time.

Tropical species have higher values of LDT than temperate ones. SET decreases as LDT increases. Insects that have spread to temperature zones from the tropical regions often maintain a high LDT and can reproduce and develop only in the hot season, spending most of the year in a state of dormancy.

A general response of insects to temperatures just below their LDT or above their UDT is the cessation of development and reproduction while the insects remain active and feed. The larvae may slowly grow and the adults accumulate reserves. These processes are terminated at more extreme temperatures.

During cooling, motility gradually decreases. At certain temperature, the neural and muscular activities are impaired and the insect lapses into cold stupor (chill coma). The stupor point is as high as 12°C in tropical insects including stored product pests, and in honey bees, around 5°C in many temperate species, near 0°C in most overwintering insects, and even below the freezing point in species living in very cold areas.

Gradual warming above UDT, which is for many species around 35°C but is never sharply delimited, increases the metabolic rate, loss of water, and motility. Around 40°C, the water loss increases sharply: the spiracles are wide open and the melting of cuticular lipids permits evaporation through the body surface. Exhaustion of water and nutrients leads to rapid decrease of motility and a drop of transpiration. At a certain temperature, heat stupor occurs. Survival at temperatures above the threshold is a function of temperature and length of exposure. Warming to the absolute upper lethal temperature, which is usually around 50-55°C, causes fast, irreversible tissue damage and death.

And then from Australia Responses to Climate Change Upper thermal limits in terrestrial ectotherms: how constrained are they?

The data for terrestrial ectotherms discussed previously point to species from mid-latitudes in particular being closest to their thermal maxima. Moreover, although data are still quite scanty, species may have only a limited capacity to deal with changes in upper thermal limits. Under an expected 2–4 °C warming scenario (IPCC 2007), mid-latitude populations near limits are likely to face the threat of extinction because they cannot adapt to new environmental conditions.

There is almost no information on how thermal limits are influenced by combinations of stressors. Changes in the conditions that organisms experience during thermal stress could lead to quite unpredictable upper thermal limits (Terblanche et al. 2011; Overgaard, Kristensen & Sørensen 2012). Moreover, thermal stress can influence susceptibility to other selective agents; tropical Bicyclus anynana butterflies lose immune function as measured by phenoloxidase (PO) activity and haemocyte numbers when exposed to warm conditions, and the effects are particularly marked when adults have a limited food supply.

Summary

These scares always sound plausible, but on closer inspection are simplistic and unrealistic. The above shows that each type of insect has a range of temperatures they can tolerate and allow them to develop. They are stressed and populations decrease when colder than the lower limit and also when hotter than the upper limit. Every species will adapt to changing conditions as they always have. Those at their upper limit will decline, not increase, and their place will be taken by others. Of course, if it gets colder, the opposite occurs. Don’t let them scare you that insects are taking over.

Global Warming Bugastrophe

This week yet another unimaginable calamity if Paris Accord is not fulfilled. That’s right the coordinated reports in the media raise the alarm: The Insects Are Coming For Us (unless we mend our ways!)

Global warming will help insects, hurt crops NBC News

Climate change may boost pests, stress food supplies Axios

Climate Change Will Lead To More Crop-Destroying Insects IFLScience

Global Warming Means More Insects Threatening Food Crops — A Lot More, Study Warns InsideClimate News

Global warming will likely help bugs devour more crops CBC.ca

Global warming could spur more and hungrier crop-eating bugs ABC News

Global warming could spur more crop-eating bugs CTV.ca

Global warming will make insects hungrier, eating up key crops: study AFP

Crop losses due to insects could nearly double in Europe’s bread basket due to climate EurekAlert!

Climate change projected to boost insect activity and crop loss, researchers say EurekAlert!

Rise in insect pests under climate change to hit crop yields, study says Carbon Brief

Swarms of insects will destroy crops across Europe and America by 2050 due to global warming Daily Mail

Global warming: More insects, eating more crops Phys.org

Climate change to accelerate crop losses from insects Cornell Alliance for Science

Climate Change Means Insects Are Coming for Our Food The Atlantic

Well, at least we know who is keen to reprint press releases from Alarmist Central. I am not an entomologist, not are the journalists who are piling on this story. So let’s hear from some insect experts.

First, a tutorial on Temperature, Effects on Development and Growth (Insects)

Adult insects generally are of smaller body size when larvae are reared at higher temperatures. For example, females of Bicyclus butterflies reared at 20°C were larger than those reared at 27°C. Moreover, females laid larger eggs when they were reared or acclimatized for 10 days at the lower temperature compared to the higher temperature.

LDT: actual lower developmental threshold; T0: predicted lower developmental threshold; UDT: upper developmental threshold; TO: thermal optimum (maximum) for developmental rate. Total optimum for population growth is usually at moderate temperatures, not at such high extremes.

Development time (dt) is the time required to complete specified stage or instar and can be described as dt = SET/(T-T0). SET is the sum of effective temperatures or “thermal constant,” expressed as the number of degree days. T0 is the lower developmental threshold (LDT, or base temperature Tb), the hypothetical temperature at which developmental time would be infinite or developmental rate would be zero. The product of developmental time and the amount to which ambient temperature is above the threshold was found to be constant (= SET), that is, development will take a fixed number of degree days essentially independent of the temperature at which the animal is reared. The thermal parameters are determined in defined conditions (set of constant temperatures, suitable nutrition).

The LDT and SET values are population-specific characteristics. The LDT values are similar for all developmental stages of a given population, even when they develop in diverse seasons and experience disparate temperature fluctuations. The stability of LDT is manifested as developmental rate isometry, that is, the percentage of time spent in a particular stage at any constant physiological temperature is a stable fraction of the entire developmental time.

Tropical species have higher values of LDT than temperate ones. SET decreases as LDT increases. Insects that have spread to temperature zones from the tropical regions often maintain a high LDT and can reproduce and develop only in the hot season, spending most of the year in a state of dormancy.

A general response of insects to temperatures just below their LDT or above their UDT is the cessation of development and reproduction while the insects remain active and feed. The larvae may slowly grow and the adults accumulate reserves. These processes are terminated at more extreme temperatures.

During cooling, motility gradually decreases. At certain temperature, the neural and muscular activities are impaired and the insect lapses into cold stupor (chill coma). The stupor point is as high as 12°C in tropical insects including stored product pests, and in honey bees, around 5°C in many temperate species, near 0°C in most overwintering insects, and even below the freezing point in species living in very cold areas.

Gradual warming above UDT, which is for many species around 35°C but is never sharply delimited, increases the metabolic rate, loss of water, and motility. Around 40°C, the water loss increases sharply: the spiracles are wide open and the melting of cuticular lipids permits evaporation through the body surface. Exhaustion of water and nutrients leads to rapid decrease of motility and a drop of transpiration. At a certain temperature, heat stupor occurs. Survival at temperatures above the threshold is a function of temperature and length of exposure. Warming to the absolute upper lethal temperature, which is usually around 50-55°C, causes fast, irreversible tissue damage and death.

And then from Australia Responses to Climate Change Upper thermal limits in terrestrial ectotherms: how constrained are they?

The data for terrestrial ectotherms discussed previously point to species from mid-latitudes in particular being closest to their thermal maxima. Moreover, although data are still quite scanty, species may have only a limited capacity to deal with changes in upper thermal limits. Under an expected 2–4 °C warming scenario (IPCC 2007), mid-latitude populations near limits are likely to face the threat of extinction because they cannot adapt to new environmental conditions.

There is almost no information on how thermal limits are influenced by combinations of stressors. Changes in the conditions that organisms experience during thermal stress could lead to quite unpredictable upper thermal limits (Terblanche et al. 2011; Overgaard, Kristensen & Sørensen 2012). Moreover, thermal stress can influence susceptibility to other selective agents; tropical Bicyclus anynana butterflies lose immune function as measured by phenoloxidase (PO) activity and haemocyte numbers when exposed to warm conditions, and the effects are particularly marked when adults have a limited food supply.

Summary

These scares always sound plausible, but on closer inspection are simplistic and unrealistic. The above shows that each type of insect has a range of temperatures they can tolerate and allow them to develop. They are stressed and populations decrease when colder than the lower limit and also when hotter than the upper limit. Every species will adapt to changing conditions as they always have. Those at their upper limit will decline, not increase, and their place will be taken by others. Of course, if it gets colder, the opposite occurs. Don’t let them scare you that insects are taking over.

Climate Change Induces Biodiversity

Quartz reports Climate change will force species to find new homes. We have to embrace it. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

During the last Ice Age, species adapted to warmer climes survived in refugia: places that, through some quirk of topography and geography, stayed temperate in a glacial world. By this century’s end, new refugia will emerge—locales where plants and animals will shelter from rising temperatures, protected until such time as they can proliferate again.

For that to happen, though, nature-loving people will need to be open-minded to change. After all, these places will become very different from what they are now.

“The important species turnover expected in northern protected areas emphasizes the hopelessness of trying to preserve a snapshot of today’s biodiversity,” write researchers led by biologist Dominique Berteaux of the Univery of Quebec in Rimouski. “This challenges the traditional paradigm of conserving the ecological integrity of national parks.”

In a study published in the journal Scientific Reports, Berteaux’s team model the likely near-future climate suitability of a 230,000-square-mile network of protected areas in Quebec for 529 species of birds, amphibians, plants, and trees. That’s only a portion of possible biodiversity, but it’s enough to signify larger trends—and by the year 2100, Quebec’s nature could be a jumble of existing and newly-arrived species.

The total number of species living in the region will soar by about 92%. An estimated 24% of species now found there will become locally extinct. Species turnover—a metric used by ecologists to represent these gains and losses—comes in at 55%. Those are just averages: Some places are predicted to experience less change, but others could have far more.

Reality is more complicated than models, of course, and the results are not intended to be exact predictions. Rather, they “provide the best-available indication of the strong pressure that climate change will impose on biodiversity,” write Berteaux and colleagues. There are several implications.

First and foremost, “northern protected areas should ultimately become important refuges for species tracking climate northward”—but only if they can get there. Urbanization and habitat fragmentation could block them, squeezing species between inhospitable climate to the south and impassable landscapes to the north. Protecting migration corridors is vital.

And once new species do arrive, ecological disruption is inevitable. Newcomers may degrade ecosystem function; they may also be necessary to preserve ecosystem function. These are not mutually exclusive propositions. “In this context,” write Berteaux’s team, “deciding which new species should be controlled and which should be tolerated or favored will represent an immense challenge.”

Ultimately it may make more sense to take a big-picture approach, protecting a diversity of habitats rather than worrying about particular species. It may also be sensible, says Berteaux, to be more welcoming of newcomers than conservationists now tend to be.

People tend to “see all the bad things they could bring. We forget that nature is always transient,” said Berteaux when asked about dismay over the northward expansion of beavers into the Arctic—something not discussed in this study, but emblematic of its themes. “Change has to be accepted and conservation must be thought in this context of permanent change.”

Source: Berteaux et al. “Northern protected areas will become important refuges for biodiversity tracking suitable climates.” Scientific Reports, 2018.

Berteaux et al provide a summary of results and a plan for adapting.

The Northern Biodiversity Paradox predicts that, despite its globally negative effects on biodiversity, climate change will increase biodiversity in northern regions where many species are limited by low temperatures. We assessed the potential impacts of climate change on the biodiversity of a northern network of 1,749 protected areas spread over >600,000 km2 in Quebec, Canada. Using ecological niche modeling, we calculated potential changes in the probability of occurrence of 529 species to evaluate the potential impacts of climate change on (1) species gain, loss, turnover, and richness in protected areas, (2) representativity of protected areas, and (3) extent of species ranges located in protected areas.

We predict a major species turnover over time, with 49% of total protected land area potentially experiencing a species turnover >80%. We also predict increases in regional species richness, representativity of protected areas, and species protection provided by protected areas. Although we did not model the likelihood of species colonising habitats that become suitable as a result of climate change, northern protected areas should ultimately become important refuges for species tracking climate northward. This is the first study to examine in such details the potential effects of climate change on a northern protected area network.

Conservation implications
The protected areas of Quebec are poised to becoming biodiversity refuges of continental importance, which has four imbricated conservation implications. First, the efficiency of the Quebec network of protected areas in preserving biodiversity could be compromised by limitations to species dispersal. A biodiversity deficit could occur in some areas of Quebec if many species are trapped for decades or centuries between rapid retreat at their southern edge and slow advance at their northern edge38. Therefore, increasing connectivity between protected areas and preserving and restoring potential immigration corridors are priorities.

Second, colonizing species favour protected over unprotected sites and managers of protected areas in northern regions will have to deal with an increasing number of new immigrant species. Newly arriving species can impact negatively ecosystem structure and function. At the same time, self-sustaining populations of non-native species could become necessary in some protected areas to ensure local ecosystem functions and services if historical communities are deeply modified. In this context, deciding which new species should be controlled and which should be tolerated or favored will represent an immense challenge.

Third, in Canada as in several other high-latitude countries, northern peripheral species are already a significant portion of species at risk. These species can have negative impacts on native communities locally, but from a wider point of view, genetic diversity of leading-edge peripheral populations may help species to cope with climate change. Hence, assigning conservation status to rare and recently naturalized species is a thorny issue, and conservation value of rare new species should be considered in a long-term continental perspective rather than short-term national perspective.

Fourth, the important species turnover expected in northern protected areas emphasizes the hopelessness of trying to preserve a snapshot of today’s biodiversity. This challenges the traditional paradigm of conserving the ecological integrity of National Parks. Designing conservation to preserve site resilience and a diversity of physical features and abiotic conditions that are associated with ecological diversity could be a valuable biodiversity conservation strategy under climate change.

Source: Phanerozoic_Biodiversity.png Author: SVG version by Albert Mestre

See Also:  Sixth Mass Genesis, Not Extinction

Sixth Mass Genesis, Not Extinction

Chris D Thomas Professor of Evolutionary Biology, University of York writes in the Conversation New species are coming into existence faster than ever thanks to humans. Excerpts below in italics with my bolds.

Animals and plants are seemingly disappearing faster than at any time since the dinosaurs died out, 66m years ago. The death knell tolls for life on Earth. Rhinos will soon be gone unless we defend them, Mexico’s final few Vaquita porpoises are drowning in fishing nets, and in America, Franklin trees survive only in parks and gardens.

Yet the survivors are taking advantage of new opportunities created by humans. Many are spreading into new parts of the world, adapting to new conditions, and even evolving into new species. In some respects, diversity is actually increasing in the human epoch, the Anthropocene. It is these biological gains that I contemplate in a new book, Inheritors of the Earth: How Nature is Thriving in an Age of Extinction, in which I argue that it is no longer credible for us to take a loss-only view of the world’s biodiversity.

The beneficiaries surround us all. Glancing out of my study window, I see poppies and camomile plants sprouting in the margins of the adjacent barley field. These plants are southern European “weeds” taking advantage of a new human-created habitat. When I visit London, I see pigeons nesting on human-built cliffs (their ancestors nested on sea cliffs) and I listen out for the cries of skyscraper-dwelling peregrine falcons which hunt them.

Climate change has brought tree bumblebees from continental Europe to my Yorkshire garden in recent years. They are joined by an influx of world travellers, moved by humans as ornamental garden plants, pets, crops, and livestock, or simply by accident, before they escaped into the wild. Neither the hares nor the rabbits in my field are “native” to Britain.

Parakeets from Asia have established themselves in cities across Britain. Alicja Korbinska / shutterstock

Many conservationists and “invasive species biologists” wring their hands at this cavalcade of “aliens”. But it is how the biological world works. Throughout the history of the Earth, species have survived by moving to new locations that permit them to flourish – today, escaped yellow-crested cockatoos are thriving in Hong Kong, while continuing to decline in their Indonesian homeland.

Nonetheless, the rate at which we are transporting species is unprecedented, converting previously separate continents and islands into one biological supercontinent. In effect, we are creating New Pangea, the greatest ecological pile-up in the Earth’s long history. A few of the imported species cause others to become extinct – rats have driven some predator-naïve island birds to extinction, for example. Ground-nesting, flightless pigeons and rails that did not recognise the danger were no match for a deadly combination of rodents and human hunters.

But despite being high-profile, these cases are fairly rare. In general, most of the newcomers fit in, with limited impacts on other species. The net result is that many more species are arriving than are dying out – in Britain alone, nearly 2,000 extra species have established populations in the past couple of thousand years.

Source: Phanerozoic_Biodiversity.png Author: SVG version by Albert Mestre

Extinction and evolution
The processes of evolution also continue, as animals, plants and microbes adjust to the way humans are altering the world around them. Fish have evolved to breed when they are smaller and younger, increasing the chances that they will escape the fisherman’s nets, and butterflies have changed their diets to make used of human-altered habitats.

Entirely new species have even come into existence. The “apple fly” has evolved in North America, thanks to European colonials bringing fruit trees to the New World. And house sparrows mated with Mediterranean “Spanish” sparrows somewhere on an Italian farm. Their descendants represent a brand new species, the Italian sparrow. Life on Earth is no longer the same as it was before humans arrived on the scene.

There is no doubt that the rate at which species are dying out is very high, and we could well be in for a “Big Sixth” mass extinction. This represents a loss of biological diversity. Yet, we also know that the Big Five mass extinctions of the past half billion years ultimately led to increases in diversity. Could this happen again? It seems so, because the current rate at which new animals and plants (such as the apple fly, the Italian sparrow and Oxford ragwort) are coming into existence is unusually high – and it may be the highest ever. We are already on the verge of Genesis Number Six – a million or so years from now, the world could end up supporting more species, not fewer, as a consequence of the evolution of Homo sapiens.

The Italian sparrow only evolved after humans caused its ancestors to meet. Chris Thomas, Author provided

The ongoing ecological and evolutionary success stories of the Anthropocene epoch require us to re-evaluate our relationship with the rest of nature. Change is ultimately the means by which species survive and turn into new species. So, perhaps we should not spend quite so much time bemoaning the losses that have already taken place, and trying to recreate some imagined past world. We cannot rewind history. It might be more effective for us to facilitate future biological gains even if, in so doing, we move further away from how the world used to be.

This does not let us off the hook – species are genuinely dying out – but it does mean that we should not regard change per se as negative. We should perhaps think of ourselves as inmates and moulders of a dynamic, changing world, rather than as despoilers of a formerly pristine land.

Footnote: I dislike the trendy word “Anthropocene”. It strikes me as hubris to claim for ourselves powers comparable to geologic or astronomical forces. I appreciate Chris Thomas pointing out human influences, both positive and negative, upon the natural world, and the responsibilities that follow from our actions. But I also appreciate what Michael Crichton wrote in State of Fear (2004):

Our planet is five billion years old, and it has been changing constantly all during that time. […] Our atmosphere is as violent as the land beneath it. At any moment there are one thousand five hundred electrical storms across the planet. Eleven lightning bolts strike the ground each second. A tornado tears across the surface every six hours. And every four days, a giant cyclonic storm, hundreds of miles in diameter, spins over the ocean and wreaks havoc on the land.

The nasty little apes that call themselves human beings can do nothing except run and hide. For these same apes to imagine they can stabilize this atmosphere is arrogant beyond belief. They can’t control the climate.

The reality is, they run from the storms.