Grauniad again, of course:. Its obvious b*ll*cks, at least as measured by my own experience: most of the damage is caused by roads, buildings, farming practices, and so on. Can it really be true that 90% of env damage is due to T change?

Probably not. The source appears to be Attributing physical and biological impacts to anthropogenic climate change in Nature. To quote the abstract:

Significant changes in physical and biological systems are occurring on all continents and in most oceans, with a concentration of available data in Europe and North America. Most of these changes are in the direction expected with warming temperature. Here we show that these changes in natural systems since at least 1970 are occurring in regions of observed temperature increases, and that these temperature increases at continental scales cannot be explained by natural climate variations alone. Given the conclusions from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report that most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-twentieth century is very likely to be due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations, and furthermore that it is likely that there has been significant anthropogenic warming over the past 50 years averaged over each continent except Antarctica, we conclude that anthropogenic climate change is having a significant impact on physical and biological systems globally and in some continents.

The Grauniad continues In 90% of cases the shifts in wildlife behaviour and populations could only be explained by global warming, while 95% of environmental changes, such as melting permafrost, retreating glaciers and changes in river flows were consistent with rising temperatures. So (and here I’m guessing) that the studies authors are only looking changes not already explained by, say, building. And that the study is looking at “changes” and the Grauniad has assumed that they are all “damage”. Ho hum.

And now, back to your scheduled train wreck, in which we cheer on John V’s bold attempt to pin RP down to something – or indeed, anything. Or just skip straight to JA.


  1. #1 Tim Worstall

    Saw that myself: the paper looks at changes that might be caused by temp change and finds that, yes, those changes which might be due to temp change are in fact due to temp change.

    The Grauniad extends this to all environmental damage. Wot, like over fishing? tropical deforestation? Pshaw!

  2. #2 guthrie

    The Scotsman headlined it:
    “Effects of global warming on nature ‘already significant'”

    THe first comment by a reader was (Snipped for length):

    “My understanding is that there is a dramatic difference between a natural warming period and “Man-made warming” which has NOT been established, despite the claims that `it was “very likely” that global warming was man-made’. There is not much conceret evidence in this article as in so many such similar scare stories.

    I frankly don’t think that we can place much confidence in the IPCC, a political rather than scientific animal, which produced an executive summary of a recent report BEFORE the report itself was completed, claiming that the report would be amended only to bring it into line with the summary. In other words, they knew what they wanted to find; they still had to massage the report to produce that result.”

    The next anti-science commenter said:

    “Slack-mouthed junk science speak for: we were given a grant to look for this link and right on the money, here it is. Note the use of words such as “expected”, “very likely” and “significant”. This is not science but tripe dressed up as science. And #3, keep taking the tablets and follow the advice of your therapist to the letter.”

  3. guthrie:

    More hilarious than the Grauniad is the fact that some idiots still insist on getting their science from newspapers. Including Marohasy.

  4. #4 guthrie

    By now, bi, it isn’t hilarious, just tragic.

  5. #5 Hank Roberts

    > the study is looking at “changes”

    Well, consider. Think for a moment about semiconductors, of which most of your favorite equipment are full.

    I talked long ago with someone from Silicon Valley who really understood why they request/require such explicit, careful antistatic precautions when opening and fiddling with the insides of electronic gear — and understood why almost nobody believed their precautions were needed.

    Here’s why. Each semiconductor has a threshold. On one side it’s an insulator; on the other side it’s a conductor.

    Each one is specced within a narrow tolerance range.

    What electrostatic discharge does in carelessly handled electronic equipment is slightly change thresholds wherever it goes.

    That’s all. You can open up your laptop repeatedly without doing anything proper about an antistatic mat and wrist ground strap, and not notice anything immediately fatal.

    I got into asking about this because I went back behind the counters at three different local shops that did computer repair on the premises. None had antistatic mats on their workbenches, or grounded wrist straps. Each place, when I asked, they pooh-pooed the notion ESD precautions mattered. Why they’d been doing repairs without them and never killed a computer yet.

    Yes, they did get a fair amount of return business, and yes, these old computers did eventually fail, but that wasn’t their fault.


    I’ve got the antistatic mat, the wrist strap, and I still have several Powerbook 150s and 180s working, after many dives into them, component swaps, cold solder joints fixed.

    Ecologies are like assemblies in which each part can go several different ways and a balance works out over time.

    The new — like the Great Lakes, only some 10,000 years old — ecologies are very thin, very few animals and plants in them, a mix that’s worked out, or is being worked out, but slowly. They’re very susceptible to being wrecked by small changes. Zebra mussels, say, that have made the Great Lakes water crystal clear, beautifully clear, because they’re such efficient filter feeders. So clear that the sunlight reaching the bottom has produced beds of algae that wash up, stinking and toxic.

    The old — the areas that weren’t under the last glaciation and have been inhabited by life for more tens of millenia — are or were more complicated.

    Warming is pushing the thresholds of almost everything alive or chemically active or weather-related, and pushing the changes faster than anything nature’s handled on a global scale.

    The fact that rapid changes are happening _is_ damage, to a biologist/ecologist. Rate of change is the key problem.

    Earth abides. But Earth doesn’t abide unnaturally rapid rates of change, and mismatched changes, without losing complexity, losing interrelationships in ecologies, losing some of the close relationships that make life beautiful to contemplate as a flowing together.

    Roads? Construction? Little, linear damage through bigger areas, but they can grow back. Wholesale removal? Much worse. Timing changes that make flowering, bug hatching, and bird migration fail to overlap? Big losses that cascade.

    Point of the study is perhaps not explained well. It’s the rate of change itself that is the damage observed, and that correlates in very large part with the changes expected with warming of the planet. Wholesale.

  6. #6 guthrie

    Hank, have you ever thought of getting a blog?

  7. #7 Adam

    “Hank, have you ever thought of getting a blog?”

    Good grief! The poor bloke would never eat.

  8. #8 Hank Roberts

    I can’t imagine what I’d find to talk about (grin). Well, I’ve got a botany restoration with a mess of maps and pictures I’m trying to put together, maybe I’ll do that eventually. But mostly, I read, not do.

    If I ever again in my life get access again to academic library and online access privileges for unlimited reading of journals, I’ll be in hog heaven.

    As a kid I guess I wanted to grow up to be an Encyclopedic Synthesist. I think I’ve gotten somewhere into about the letter “C” of the encyclopedia, and sometimes can pull together syntheses up to three-link chains (sigh).

  9. #9 guthrie

    Och, I just thought that your last post would be perfectly good as a blog post. I’ve noticed you quietly posting up useful stuff and actually being intelligent on this topic for ages.
    I too would love access to journals etc, it would make life much more fun, and winning arguments about science so much easier.
    An encyclopaedist synthesis? Don’t you mean a Nexialist?

  10. #10 Hank Roberts

    > Nexial

    Well, the fictional ones maybe. Not the real ones who live in Colorado nowadays.

    Van Vogt’s Nexialists are much like Heinlein’s ‘Encyclopedic Synthesists’ — both mentioned here in Panshin’s book.

    And there’s relevance. Van Vogt understood one possible answer to the Fermi Paradox: if we use up all the easy resources and _don’t_ transcend earthbound life, if we fall back into low tech — we won’t have any cheap fuel and metal for a second attempt to rise. Maybe intelligence is rare because of how it fails to bootstrap off the planet successfully before using it up.

    “it’s not only Europa’s recoverable metals that will be used up in a thousand years, but also the metal resources of the entire Solar System. That’s why we must have an equitable distribution now, because we can’t afford to spend the last hundred of those thousand years fighting over [resources]. You see, in that thousand years we must reach the stars…. — and in that last, urgent hundred years we must have their co-operation, not their enmity. Therefore they must not be dependent on us for anything; and we must not be under the continual mind-destroying temptation of being able to save ourselves for a few years longer if we sacrifice them.”

    Same thing for real, now — except we’re trying to get it together just to have easy access to low earth orbit, the very first toehold.

  11. #11 Adam

    Actually Hank, you could have a blog that was more in the line of a collection of links with quotes and notes (it’s the original meaning of the word weblog). The odd extra posting like above would pad it out. But you post useful stuff all over the place that sometimes when I ant to find it again, I can never remember where it was. At least if you had a blog we’d be restricted to one site. You’d get benefit of it too (though I’m guessing that you keep private copies of all this stuff).

  12. #12 Hank Roberts

    Nah, I write ephemera, mostly to urge people to look up ideas for themselves and find current good science to inform what they believe. Any example is outdated.

    There’s a Zen story — the monk who takes the novice out in the garden in the evening under the cherry blossoms just after sunset. He reaches his arm out toward that glowing horizon, one finger extended, saying “Look!”

    The novice peers closely at the monk’s finger, his eyes almost crossing to inspect the thin white crescent of fingernail in the fading light.

    And the monk whacks him and says “No, ninny, the crescent moon!”

    I write ephemera, just pointers.

    “The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” – Kafka

    Well, nowadays, I doubt it’s ecstasy we’re observing — it’s stress from very high rates of change in the interactions and cycles we call natural systems.

    Read E.O. Wilson, recently. None of us get old enough to see this kind of change in our own lifetimes, but the ecologists document them and say we’re in a great extinction event. Word to the wise.

  13. #13 guthrie

    Yes, I read Panshin’s book a few years ago. I’d forgotten about Heinleins Encylcopaedic synthesists though- Heinlein is the kind of author you grow out of, van Vogt, well, not so sure about him.
    There was a lot of that sort of thing about at the time, not to mention General Semantics.

    And teh point about resources is one I thought of as well, it is a bit worrying…
    Except not worht worrying about.

  14. #14 Hank Roberts

    This sort of study may help explain why the ecologists are pointing to warming as a major cause of change — because of a change in the rates of change, it’s becoming useful to consider external “forcing” as well as the multiple interactions between living organisms.

    Sound familiar?

    I understand and quite agree with William’s comment that what he sees is caused by development. Again, we see that better than we see slow widespread changes.

  15. #15 guthrie

    I find it surprising how many people I speak to seem to have an idea that things are changing, i.e. spring earlier, less snow in winter, yet have trouble seeing that things are changing for a reason. Or their default is that it is nothing to do with them. Or that it’ll get worse once they are safely dead. Or they havn’t noticed anything different at all. Or they feel too powerless to say or do anything.

    Its like here in central Scotland, I seem to be the only person to actually bring up the odd fact we have been havign more and more wind from the East and north east in summer in the past decade. This brings cold winds from the east, and long periods of more stable drier weather. It was never like this when I was growing up, and when I point it out to people they agree, but never seem to have noticed it themselves.

New comments have been temporarily disabled. Please check back soon.