The Loom

Looking For A Gloomy Read?

Check this out. An international team of climate experts has been looking into the impact of climate on ecosystems, food production, and other aspects of the natural and human-controlled world. They’ve just come out with the executive summary of their contribution to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change‘s fourth assessment report. Heavy rains likely in some places, heat waves in others. Some parts of the world may enjoy a better climate for producing food, but for how long is unclear. Other places face serious threats to food.

They consider the threat of extinction (which I’ve written about here, here, and here) particularly dire. “Approximately 20-30% of plant and animal species assessed so far are likely to be at increased risk of extinction if increases in global average temperature exceed 1.5-2.5 degrees C.”

It’s a bit frustrating to read a stark statement like that and not be able to jump directly to the sources on which it is based. I assume it’s based on studies like this one, but it’s worth bearing in mind that these extinction estimates are a subject of pretty stiff debate. See for example, this recent review. We’ll have to wait for the full report, I guess. But even if extinctions turn to to be just half of what’s projected here, it would still represent a major event, particularly when you bear in mind that species face many other pressures, from biological invasions to seawater acidification.


  1. #1 Deech56
    April 7, 2007

    I find it interesting to read about the controversy surrounding the efforts to dilute some of the more serious findings. Am I the only one who is eagerly awaiting the entry about this? I will also be interested to see the inevitable attacks from the AGW skeptics.

  2. #2 Pat
    April 8, 2007

    The IPCC is a political organization. It is a branch of the UN, the most corrupt political organization in the history of mankind. Oil for food, anyone? Pedophiles in Africa, anyone? Peace anywhere, anyone?

    Be that as it may, estimates of species being wiped out by global warming, such as we have suffered recently in Cleveland, are grossly overblown. Most species survived the Holocene maximum, which was warmer than the IPCC estimates for 2100. Most species survived the last ice age, too. That’s what species do. They survive climate change, amongst other challenges.

    What they don’t survive is land use changes. A friend’s niece is off to Indonesia to study Gibbons in the wild. She’d better hurry. The Indonesians are burning off their rain forest at a great rate and neighboring countries are complaining about massive air pollution.

    In 2001, I met the captain of an oil tanker who sailed Indonesian waters. He had photos taken from the bridge of his ship where you could not see the bow. This was during the burn-off season. They don’t have an EPA.

    Such massive destruction of nature’s realm no longer happens in the Western world, but it still does in the third world.

    Global Warming is not the problem. Global poverty and the resultant abuse of natural resources is the problem we should be addressing. Providing cheap electricity to the third-world poor is much better for the planet than leaving them with no recourse but to burn dung and wood stripped from living trees.

  3. #3 Mencius
    April 8, 2007

    Steve McIntyre at Climate Audit has put together a nice little collection of some of the gems he’s picked up in the last few years, solely in the subfield of paleoclimatology.

    Anyone who doesn’t find this list interesting – even if purely as a starting point – is either (a) not interested in science, (b) not interested in journalism, or (c), of course, both.

    We now return you to your previously scheduled “framing.”

  4. #4 Deech56
    April 8, 2007

    “The IPCC is a political organization. It is a branch of the UN…” So is the WHO. The IPCC merely represents the totality of climate research.

    “Most species survived the Holocene maximum, which was warmer than the IPCC estimates for 2100.” But land use (as you pointed out) is much different than it is now, making habitats more patchy, and the rate of change is also what’s troubling this time around.

    “That’s what species do. They survive climate change, amongst other challenges.” They also go extinct.

  5. #5 Pat
    April 8, 2007

    Deech56, we can do as little about global warming/cooling/climate change on Earth as we can on Mars, which, coincidently, is also experiencing global warming. Land use or mis-use is something that can be affected. The hard part is convincing the third world and the rapidly industrializing behemoths of India and China that preserving the natural world is important. One hopes that increased wealth will bring about environmental awareness as it has in the West.

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