The Global warming extinction

Hi Grit

Whilst I accept that one has to be nice to the environment, I have some problem with the Global Warming train. As you mention, everyone is now complaining about the rate of extinction of species. However, there is so much contradictory evidence that one has to wade through. Bjorn Lomborg wrote a book called “The Sceptical Environmentalist” in 2002. In it he dealt with the question of species extinction. There are a number of questions raised in this book and he has quoted many renowned scientists and experts on various environment subjects. Let’s concentrate on the species problem.

1) How many species are there in the world? Estimates range from 3 million to 100 million. No-one has come up with an accurate estimate. In addition, around 15 thousand new species are being found every year. (Marjorie L. Reaka-Kudia et. al.)

2)  What is the rate of extinction? No-one actually knows. (Myers)

This actually begs the question, how can anyone possibly know how many species are becoming extinct if the number in existance is not known in the first place? Trying to count the number of species that exist in a rain forest for example, would be an impossibility. Similarly, with new species being found every year, is it not possible that there is a natural evolution working here? How can the scientists argue that this might not be natures way of replenishing the species of the earth, bringing in new species that can cope with the current environment to replace the older species that are no longer capable of doing so? The dinosaurs became extinct and that was not a man-made phenomena. But they were replaced by other aninmals and species that, whilst having similar characteristics, were more capable of surviving in the post dinosaur environment.

Secondly, on what basis do they calculate that a species is in danger of extinction? Human beings of course, are fairly disciplined in that they will complete census and other traceable documents. Thus one can easily calculate numbers and positioning. However, with animals, insects and other organisms the same is not true. If one counts a species today, by tomorrow they may all have moved to a different place. Therefore, it is difficult to state with certainty that a species or group of species is becoming extinct. What I have learnt through my business life is that you can’t build an argument unless you have solid facts upon which to base it.

Still on this subject, what I found really peculiar was a recent TV programme in the UK. In this programme they invited eight celebrities to argue the case for saving a particular creature, which they said was in danger of extinction. At the end of the programme, they invited viewers to vote on which creature should be saved, using money from the phone calls to provide funds for this purpose. Firstly, if this is a serious subject, how can one justify an auction on it? Secondly, who gives the media and scientists who were backing this programme, the right to play God with other creatures lives?

Whilst I would agree that we need to be careful with manmade culling, I do find that the problem with the scientific arguments tend, in many instances, to be clouded by predetermined opinion. However objective they might try to be, there is always the difficulty that they start with the premise of trying to prove a set viewpoint, which can lead to misjudgement and inaccuracy.

the Brit

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8 Responses to “The Global warming extinction”

  1. kehan Says:

    Some sense in your arguments, but there are thousands of scientists working worldwide trying to document what _is_ out there and also working out each species’ habitat/niche. Now with global warming, even if you have species protected in national parks etc, what happens when the climate changes in those ‘Protected Areas’. After that the species’ niche gets moved outside the protected area, and suddenly you have all of the species that were ‘protected’ without a home. If you don’t believe me, take a look at how much of the earth’s surface has been completely changed by mankind’s presence – a copy of google earch should allow you to do this.

    Enjoy your conspiracy.

  2. kehan Says:

    http://www.deh.gov.au/biodiversity/abrs/publications/other/species-numbers/pubs/number-living-species-report.pdf

  3. tamino Says:

    The argument that because we don’t know how many species exist we can’t have any good idea how many are going extinct, reminds me of the debate in the early 1800s over the limits of scientific knowledge. The philosopher Auguste Comte, in 1842, went so far as to say that there are certain things we could never know about the universe. His prime example: the chemical composition of the stars.

    Ironically, at that’s the time that Kirkhoff and Fraunhofer and others were discovering the science of spectroscopy, which enables us to determine, of all things, the chemical composition of the stars. In fact we even discovered the element helium on the sun before it was identified on earth (that’s why it’s named “helium”).

    I’m not a biologist, and I don’t know what means they use to attempt to census species diversity. But I’ll bet they know a lot more about it than I do. And I’ll wager that some of their methods are downright ingenious. Would I trust them without reservation? Never! But neither would I dismiss them based on simplistic arguments.

  4. britandgrit Says:

    Hi Kehan and Tamino

    As I said, I do not dispute that man is having an adverse impact, nor that scientists are endeavouring to achieve accuracy. What I do find difficult is that a) the facts are not being put in a manner that the layman can understand and analyse for themselves, and b) that there is still some dispute about the results of scientific research that no-one seems to be able to draw into definitive arguments.

    I also find difficulty with the media treating it all as a circus.

    the Brit

  5. tamino Says:

    When you say, “the facts are not being put out in a manner that the layman can understand and analyze for themselves,” well, I couldn’t agree more! That’s one of the big problems with all scientific-related issues. Scientists usually make poor communicators to the lay public (there are exceptions, but the contrast only serves to prove the rule), and the press generally does an abysmal job — like you say, a circus.

    The story your post refers to makes and excellent example. Of course most people will wonder, how is it possible to measure these things? I wonder myself. But no attempt is made to explain how this can be. This is doubly unfortunate, as the ingenuity applied to observe our world is sometimes as interesting as the observations themselves.

    Possibly worse, some public statements tend to reinforce the myth that the lay public simply doesn’t have the education or brainpower to comprehend the subtleties. This is true only in a very few areas; quantum field theory is not gonna make it in the public consciousness. But even the large-scale structure of space and time can be made comprehensible to a large degree, when scientists expend the effort to do so (as Dr. Hawking’s A Brief History of Time testifies).

    Which famous scientist was it — Faraday perhaps? — who said that any sensible scientific theory should be comprehensible to a bright 9-year-old. Not strictly true! But a good guiding principle for us scientists who want to be taken seriously by the voting public.

  6. britandgrit Says:

    Hi Tamino

    I agree totally with your analysis of the situation.

    the Brit

  7. kehan Says:

    I agree with you both regarding public understanding of science, and also the fact that the data is not accessible (although it is ‘out there’ – there’s just too much of it!) The problem with anything like climate change is that there are way too many stakeholders who have lots to make out of it not being true. There is a brilliant book which details extinction rates in the words of a layman and if you have time I’d really suggest delving into it – it’s called ‘The Sixth Extinction’ by Richard Leakey – published in 1989 but it really puts humanity into perspective.

    Cheers,
    Kehan

  8. britandgrit Says:

    Hi Kehan

    Thanks for that. I will certainly try and look up that book.

    Regards

    the Brit

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