Climate Change and Biodiversity 1

earth from space

earth from space

Boy, I sure wrote a lot over at Bart Verheggen’s place. Here’s some more.

I think that recent efforts to mitigate the potential impacts of climate change are important, but more because potential global warming can serve as a ‘last straw’ for certain portions of a beleaguered environment if it happens too fast.

However, 99% of stress on environments has other causes, most man-made, and addressing global warming in a mad and expensive rush without ameliorating our other impacts is madness, like treating a woman with cancer using a facial cleanser.

The environment has thrived at times in warmer climates, and if warming happens slowly enough it could do so again.

Just as the activists forget (functionally, when talking of impacts and mitigation) that the climate always changes, some seem determined to ignore that our biosphere constantly changes too. For some species, warming will be a blessing, especially if warming happens to come in at a lower sensitivity of the atmosphere to a doubling of CO2 concentrations. For some it will not. But that kind of lottery has been occurring for a couple of billion years.

My main concern is exemplified by activists hijacking iconic examples of negative effects caused by human activity and attributing the stress felt by or threats to, for example, polar bear populations and saying the major problem is global warming or climate disruption.

Climate is disruptive. It always has been. But species either adapt to the changes or make way for others that can. Our contributions to the disruptive nature of climate will not be welcomed by some species. However global warming is the least of their worries now, and is likely to remain so for the next century.

So how we use this century is critical. And my policy preferences are, just as with the human element affected by global warming, to make communities more resilient and able to withstand climate changes that we cannot control, to get off their backs with thoughtless development, pollution and dramatic changes in land use without environmental consideration.

The point in dispute quite simply is the relative degree of harm caused by anthropogenic climate change vs. other activities of man.

I submit that the ratio right now is 1% to 99% respectively. I further submit that if we do not address the other human impacts on our biosphere first and extensively, that there will be relatively little biosphere to feel the impacts of climate change.

I’m not presenting a false choice. I’m arguing for prioritization of efforts and clarity of goals.

If the ‘pilots’ are trusting Hughes, Ehrlich et al regarding extinction, if they are trusting Steig et al for Antarctic temperatures, if they are trusting Mann regarding temperature history, if they are trusting Prall, Schneider et al regarding the expertise of those supporting versus opposing the consensus, my conclusion is that the pilots are not using the correct navigational instruments.

But scientists are not piloting spaceship Earth. Politicians are. The debate I am interested in influencing is not scientific–I am not a scientist. It is political. I am a member of the polity.

We have a serious problem with biodiversity. It is caused by four factors: habitat loss, invasive competition, hunting and pollution. Global warming is not yet a factor. Is it likely to be in the future? Yes, as a ‘straw that breaks the camel’s back’ for vulnerable species.

If we phrase it in qualitative terms rather than phony quantitative garbage, we have a chance of persuading people. Making stuff up works just long enough to get people to check on how you arrived at the statistics. And they don’t hold up.

If some want to tease out changes to phenotypes and think you can attribute some of it to global warming, as opposed to pollution and habitat loss, go do it and good luck.

As for species’ tolerance of change, remember that it varies widely from species to species. As for climate inertia, it’s an interesting concept and plausible. Now that the tools are coming online to actually measure effectively, we’ll be able to see over the next 30 years.

As I have always said, I believe global warming is occurring and that we need to both address the causes and the effects. I’m aware that the process of species loss occurs in slow motion, as well. Which is why it’s clear that anthropogenic climate change to date can only be held partially responsible for loss of species, because it is so new.

Meanwhile, the abandonment of scientific perspective by some in order to join the crusade to climate Jerusalem gives tacit permission to continue to those who are causing the real damage via habitat loss, pollution, lax procedures that allow invasive species to be introduced inappropriately, and over-hunting.

Anthropogenic contributions to climate change are recent. Anthropogenic pressures on biodiversity have been going on for millenia. You do the cause of environmental protection no favors when you jump on the bandwagon of mistaken attribution. I have no doubt that we can chart many species already feeling additional pressure because of climate change. That’s a given, because that’s a constant. The climate always changes and it always puts pressure on vulnerable species. Anthropogenic climate change will do the same.

Global warming will have a negative effect on some species, perhaps many. Species loss is currently a real problem. The two facts don’t have much to do with each other.

My thoughts about preserving the biodiversity remaining on this planet are fairly simple:

1. Policy that encourages urbanization density. Right now, over half the people on this planet live in cities that cover 3% of the land surface. This should be considered a good beginning, especially as most projected population growth is expected to be absorbed by the cities. However, given that only 2% of the population is required for modern agriculture, there should be room for improvement. Policies that make 3rd world cities more liveable, safe and sanitary can decrease pressure on the land.

2. It is time to renegotiate the law of the sea. Fortunately we have a good excuse that will appeal to conservatives in rampant piracy. Let’s take advantage of this to finally appoint conservators for individual fish species that have czar-like abilities to establish fishing regulations that keep the health of the fish paramount. Establish a multinational compensation fund that helps countries wean themselves off of their over-supplied and over-mechanized fishing fleets and just put them out of business slowly.

3. Focus some element of scientific research on creating best practices and standards for sustainable fish farms. Create sustainable certification standards and labeling. Focus more on rewarding winners than punishing losers–many bad fish farm practices are the result of poverty more than anything else.

4. Introduce best of breed agricultural practices to insure that needed agricultural product comes from better practices, not more land coming under the plough. Start at the geographic margins and work inwards, as it is at the margins that expansion of farms into new territory happens. Refine the food distribution system to reduce wastage, introduce GMOs liberally, etc.

If you want to protect other species, you must start by removing the need to harm them by improving the lot of the species that is threatening them. That would be us.

Original Article on The Lukewarmer’s Way

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