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Global warming hits UK birds.
July 30, 2004 3:58 PM   Subscribe

Global warming hits UK birds. The year without young. Have we hit the bottleneck?
posted by lupus_yonderboy (43 comments total)

 
Scary.

The Corporation claims that every population (except humans and, I suppose, those agricultural/pet populations that humans smile upon) is in decline. Anyone know if this is true?

I do know that the oceans are in crisis, with many species having recently hit levels of decline that may indicate extinction is around the corner.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:06 PM on July 30, 2004


can they move north? will they?
posted by amberglow at 4:32 PM on July 30, 2004


Call me some WAAAAAHmbulance.

In 1996 it was logging making things go extinct. What a turnabout!

Of course, what they don't mention are things like this, reported by the same people generating this scare (hey, at least they're balanced!).

In life, some species go extinct and others take their place. Isn't it wonderful?

What I always find funny is the fact that people who promote such radical things are often easy to prove to be, overall, total morons. For example, the RSPB is promoting that people switch to Solar Cells to stop global warming. A simple google search would prove that such increased reliance and use of the semiconductor industry would absolutely DESTROY the environment compared to, say, nuclear power, or even fossil fuel based power.

Dooty, doot.

It takes 3.7 pounds of fossil fuels and other chemicals and 70.5 pounds of water to produce a single two-gram microchip, according to a forthcoming study in the Dec. 15 issue of Environmental Science & Technology, a publication of the American Chemical Society.

YAY! And... what are solar cells? MASSIVE SEMICONDUCTORS!

Yummy!

The solar cell production technology currently used by Umicore's customers makes use of toxic products such as arsine.

Research. Now powered by Google!
posted by shepd at 4:50 PM on July 30, 2004


In life, some species go extinct and others take their place. Isn't it wonderful?

Yup, but it's not the individual extinctions that are the problem, it's the rate of extinctions. They are occuring at a exponentially higher rate than in the past. If you read about it a bit more you will find that speciation and adaptation have also decreased and in some cases stopped altogether.

Deeper Research. Still powered by Google!
posted by milovoo at 5:00 PM on July 30, 2004


Even the last sentence of the good news about bitterns that you linked to contains a warning for the future

'We shouldn't be complacent as pressures still threaten this vulnerable bird. For example, half the sites holding booming bitterns this year are at risk from rising sea levels.'

Do you just skip the parts you don't agree with?
posted by milovoo at 5:08 PM on July 30, 2004


In 1996 it was logging making things go extinct. What a turnabout!

So, does that mean that only ONE thing can damage a species or group of species?

Cool!

I hope I get to be immune to everything except Kryptonite. Or antimatter, maybe. Do we get to pick our vulnerability?
posted by aramaic at 5:14 PM on July 30, 2004


Can we choose to be immune to spurious-corporate-sponsored-bullshit-pseudo-science?
posted by milovoo at 5:19 PM on July 30, 2004


"Global warming hits UK birds."

Wow, bummer for UK straight men. :(
posted by kavasa at 6:06 PM on July 30, 2004


It takes 3.7 pounds of fossil fuels and other chemicals and 70.5 pounds of water to produce a single two-gram microchip, according to a forthcoming study in the Dec. 15 issue of Environmental Science & Technology, a publication of the American Chemical Society.

YAY! And... what are solar cells? MASSIVE SEMICONDUCTORS!


Whoah there sparky, talk about a little knowledge being a dangerous thing. A semiconductor is NOT the same thing as a microchip, not even by several orders of magnitude. A microchip uses up all those resources because it is a highly manufactured low entropy good, semiconductor just describes the base material it's made out of. It's about as different as cracking a single egg vs making a thousand perfect souffles.

That's not to say that there aren't problems with manufacturing solar panels, but what you quoted definitely doens't apply here.
posted by TungstenChef at 6:56 PM on July 30, 2004


Call me some WAAAAAHmbulance.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the steaming, festering pile of shit that is shepd. A true troll in 80% of his comments. May you ignore him better than myself.
posted by Shane at 7:35 PM on July 30, 2004


A giant ecosystem that has functioned for millions of years has broken down.

Because birds didn't nest there one year. Presumably, the author has seen each of the previous 999,999 years that he pulled directly out of his ass, and they were full of successful mating on the cliff face.

Even in the intermittent ice ages when the cliff face was covered in miles of glacier.
posted by Mayor Curley at 8:23 PM on July 30, 2004


>A semiconductor is NOT the same thing as a microchip, not even by several orders of magnitude.

They are the same, even you contradict yourself in the next sentence. They just don't say "transistor" because 'joe sixpack' doesn't know what the hell that is. Be assured making an individual diode is even a terrible thing. Don't believe me? Next time you buy some cheap chinese electronics, smell that nice acrid smell coming from them.

Be assured, making all those solar cells is terrible for the environment.

>Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the steaming, festering pile of shit that is shepd. A true troll in 80% of his comments. May you ignore him better than myself.

WOOHOO!

Gimme a 'P', an 'E', an 'A', and an 'NUT GALLERY!', what's that spell?

MY PERSONAL PEANUT GALLERY!

You can join the slashdotter that likes to stalk me. YAY!

milovoo, I do believe as we get better science we will see that all this greenie science is really just all bad science. Give it time. More and more people are becoming disillusioned and joining my side, including people like Mr. Moore that founded greenpeace.
posted by shepd at 8:24 PM on July 30, 2004


How is it bad science if there are documented reports of empty nests where they were full in the years before? And if they've recorded the decline in the food source for these birds? (those fish)
posted by amberglow at 8:26 PM on July 30, 2004


I should think they can measure the depth of the mound of shit to figure out how long the birds have been nesting there. Hell, in the Pacific there were a few islands with guano hundreds of meters deep. These were commercially mined for phosphates.

I'm curious as to whether ShepD truly believes that our Western-style consumption is long-term sustainable.

We frequently use the earth's resources faster than they can be restored. Ocean fisheries are a prime example of that, and the draining of the Ogallala aquifer is another. With the fisheries we are destroying an entire ecosystem. With the Ogallala, the entire middle third of the USA is going to be parched dry.

Surely there must be dire consequences to such actions.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:35 PM on July 30, 2004


I do believe as we get better science we will see that all this greenie science is really just all bad science. Give it time. More and more people are becoming disillusioned and joining my side, including people like Mr. Moore that founded greenpeace.

And maybe this new science will be able to resurrect the dodo, great auk or passenger pigeon from whole cloth. Perhaps this new science will provide unlimited energy from tap water and be able to convert waste materials into gold, until then, perhaps it might be best to err on the side of caution and not destroy things that we can not recreate. Does that seem reasonable to you?

And since you bring up Mr. Moore, let's discuss, he is a lobbyist for BIO (the Biotechnology Industry Organization) and receives a check from them (as well as some other industry groups) to endorse certain issues. I don't fault him in any way for choosing to work for this company, but it's important to remember where his bread is buttered. Your reasons are your own, but it seems like you have an ax to grind about this and very little interest in the actual science (either practical or theoretical) behind it.
posted by milovoo at 10:08 PM on July 30, 2004


>A semiconductor is NOT the same thing as a microchip, not even by several orders of magnitude.

They are the same, even you contradict yourself in the next sentence.


Nice reading comprehension there, bud. Just because a microchip is made up of semiconducting material doesn't mean that it's the same thing. It must be embarassing to have your own article disprove your point:

The production of a silicon wafer -- "the purest product manufactured on a commercial scale," according to the study, is a complex, energy intensive procedure. The six-stage process to produce the wafer consumes 2130 kilowatt-hours of electricity for every kilogram of silicon. When multiplied against the billion of chips manufactured worldwide, the consequent consumption of fossil fuels necessary just to proved the power is enormous. Then, during chip manufacturing, the wafers are repeatedly doped with chemicals, rinsed with ultra-pure water to remove impurities, etched, rinsed again and doped with more chemicals.


As you can see here the oldest solar cell tech goes through part of the first stage of that process. In other words, your application of those numbers here are complete and utter bullshit.

I don't dispute that there are environmental problems in the manfacturing of solar cells (as I noted above), but you have obviously already made a conclusion with a disturbing lack of comprehension of the evidence.
posted by TungstenChef at 10:29 PM on July 30, 2004


... and actually just to be fair, maybe you are right. Maybe I am reading the wrong journals and books about environmental science. Are there authors that you would recommend so that I could get my mind around this new guilt-free science that you advocate? I would love to find that we have been doing the right thing all along and that everything will turn out for the best.

Who are the landmark scholars of this non-greenie science? Is there someone who provides a layman's introduction to this new science? Someone like Jared Diamond, David Quammen or even Douglas Adams who can explain in a simple way where greenie science has been getting it all wrong.
posted by milovoo at 10:30 PM on July 30, 2004


Before the highly effective shepd derail of this thread, there was lupus_yonderboy's original question concerning the "bottleneck".

To that question I'd throw in this : the death of the Borneo's great Dipterocarp rainforest., one of the greatest hotspots of biological diversity on Earth.

"On the island of Borneo, the world's second-largest tropical rain forest is dying. Its death will mean the disappearance of a unique ecosystem where trees time their reproduction to match the periodic arrival of El Nino. Loss of the forest could have a global financial impact, since timber exports contribute as much as $8,000,000,000 annually to the Indonesian economy and provide 80% of the plywood used in the U.S. home construction industry.

According to a research team led by tropical ecologist Lisa M. Curran, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, this ecological and economic resource is being destroyed by human activity, which has intensified the effects of regional climate change. More than 50 different species of Bornean dipterocarp trees synchronize their reproduction--limiting fruit and seed production to brief, intense periods. These reproduction bursts are initiated by the arrival of the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO), a periodic shift in tropical Pacific circulation patterns that brings drought to Indonesia. "With the possible exception of one very minor event in 1994, they all occurred during ENSO years. Climatic conditions of an El Nino year trigger simultaneous fruiting in dipterocarps and are essential for regional seed production."
"


Meanwhile :

"January 9, 2004
Death Warmed Over

A study published Thursday in the scientific journal Nature says that global warming at currently predicted rates will doom 15 to 37 percent of living species to extinction by 2050. The team of scientists behind the study called for "rapid implementation of technologies" to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and reverse global warming trends that could doom upwards of a million species by midcentury.
The study, titled "Extinction Risk From Climate Change," was done by a 19-member international team and is the first to produce a global analysis with concrete estimates of the effect of climate change on habitat. The researchers surveyed habitat decline for 1,103 plant and animal species in six bio-diverse regions covering about 20 percent of the world’s land mass -- Europe; Queensland, Australia; Mexico's Chihuahuan Desert; the Brazilian Amazon; and the Cape Floristic Region at South Africa's southern tip -- and used computer models to simulate how the species, plants, mammals, birds, reptiles, frogs, butterflies and other invertebrates, are expected to move in response to changing temperatures and climate.
The lead researcher on the study, Chris Thomas of Britain’s University of Leeds, had this to say:

"The midrange estimate is that 24 percent of plants and animals will be committed to extinction by 2050. We're not talking about the occasional extinction -- we're talking about 1.25 million species. It's a massive number."

Each species needs a very particular climate to survive, though some can adapt to change, within limits, or move to more conducive climates. Scientists used maps of regions to correlate climate changes to the needs of the species that live there. If all species are able to disperse or move from regions of climate change, only 15 percent would be irrevocably headed for extinction by 2050. If no species were able to disperse, the extinction rate could rise as high as 37 percent.

The scientists say the only way to minimize the extinction rate is by reining in emissions: "A rapid shift to technologies that do not produce greenhouse gases, combined with carbon sequestration, could save 15–20% of species from extinction."

But, this is just the beginning :

Wild Weather : "Add all this together and the prospects for the future seem decidedly tempestuous. Should we batten down the hatches? "Prepare for change," says Folland. "We're not reducing our greenhouse gas emissions anything like fast enough to stop the effects of climate change this century. It's too late. We can slow warming down, but we can't stop it." All the signs are that change will mean more extreme weather. So if you think today's storms are wild, wait till global warming really kicks in. You ain't seen nothing yet.
"

posted by troutfishing at 11:20 PM on July 30, 2004


Frank Masiano is a PR flack - so it seems - who works for the industry funded "Global Climate Coalition" that denies most negative impacts of Global Climate Change.

Warning : this is very far from science. In fact, it is simply raw politics wrapped in a crude dressing of well-funded PR.

Email the GCC and let them know what you think! -

gcc@globalclimate.org
posted by troutfishing at 11:30 PM on July 30, 2004


For what it's worth, up here in the North of England, I've seen more birds this year than I've seen for some time.

Ten, or so, years ago there was a huge decline in the local bird population, which had continued up until now. My childhood used to be filled with wrens, sparrows, various tits, swallows/house martins, blackbirds, and so on, then it all disappeared, and since then there's been nothing here other than blackbirds, and a few house martins.

This year, after the drought as it were, I've seen all of the above. Not at the levels they once were, but they seem to be back.

I'm unaware of any recent changes in local farming methods - they seem to be still using the same wildlife unfriendly systems introduced years ago to boost production, so I have no idea why it's happening now.

There are more causes to the decline or rise of certain bird populations than global warming. And since the temperature of the earth has always increased and declined, and we're still constantly finding out things we didn't know in this area, weneed to take a chill pill and carry on the research.

If only scientists didn't have to cry "the end of the world is upon us!" to secure sufficient funding for their important work.
posted by Blue Stone at 2:26 AM on July 31, 2004


Humanity: raw politics wrapped in a crude dressing of well-funded PR.

Add denial to that. Food chain: plankton goes away / fish decline / birds suffer. How tough is that to follow?

Wow. I'd usually say Don't feed the troll, but in this case it created a really informative thread. Great links. Depressing, but great.


posted by Shane at 7:07 AM on July 31, 2004


Interesting post, lupus.

It's good that the Independent is running this story so prominently. However, the piece by their Environment Editor is a really lazy piece of journalism -- based, as far as I can see, entirely on these two press releases from the RSPB, with no background research.

Five minutes with Google turns up a couple of salient facts which ought to have found their way into the article, but didn't:

1. Some seabirds, particularly guillemots and skuas, have been steadily increasing in numbers -- indeed this study (pdf) suggests that the guillemot population in Scotland has more than doubled in the last thirty years.

2. Sand-eel stocks (on which the birds feed) fluctuate enormously from year to year. No one is quite sure why; although this study suggests that "changes in the pattern of ocean circulation" may have something to do with it. Whether this is connected with global warming remains an open question.

So the Independent's headline -- "A giant ecosystem that has functioned for millions of years has begun to break down" -- is just silly. Okay, the seabirds have had a bad breeding season; but one bad season does not make an environmental catastrophe. We will just have to wait and see what happens in the next few years.

As this article points out, we have been here before. Back in the 1980s, the Scottish seabird population had another run of bad breeding seasons. Then as now, there were dire warnings of environmental catastrophe -- but back then it was blamed on overfishing; now it's blamed on global warming.

Let me make it clear that I am not denying the reality of global warming. But as scientists know -- even if journalists do not -- modelling the effects of global warming is immensely difficult; and much more research will need to be done before we can say for certain whether this is the reason why the guillemots are having a bad year.
posted by verstegan at 7:20 AM on July 31, 2004


verstagen - you might have, it seems, been a better one to cover this story and it's a shame to see such lazy journalism about such a story - one that might (or not) carry dramatic portent. "back then it was blamed on overfishing; now it's blamed on global warming." - the overfishing is still going on. "much more research will need to be done before we can say for certain whether this is the reason why the guillemots are having a bad year." - yes, of course. Also, remember that this story is but one of a vast mosaic of observed changes in the Earth's biosphere - many unprecedented in recent Earth history for their magnitude and speed - except in comparison to the five greatest extinction events known of in the reconstructed history of life on Earth - which portend far greater systemic instability in coming decades.

_________________________

"changes in Blue Stone - And do those scientists who are crying "The End of the World is upon Us !" have names ? - because that claim doesn't sound like a testable scientific proposition at all. It sound like a political slogan, and I certainly know I've never seen any peer-reviewed scientific research papers with that sort of title.

Come to think of it, maybe that's the sort of science shepd was advocating, the sort where scientists write perfectly good, empirically driven research papers with titles such as :

"Everything's cool, life on earth is in great shape, Global Warming's a hype, and environmentalists, climatologists, biologists, paleontologists, ecologists and everyone else should just chill out, stop worrying, and stop pushing their extremist environmental agenda - because the real source of truth in these matters comes from a literal interpretation of the Bible and from the nice PR people working for Dow, Monsanto and Exxon - who have all of our best interests (not to mention the needs of their shareholders) in mind."

That would be one hell of a research paper.

I agree that there's always been natural variability in bird and animal populations. That's not in question.

But I'd say that the time for merely "more research" has come and gone. That was George Bush Senior's position, as US president, back in the late 1980's.

But, since then, it has been determined beyond a doubt that the historically unprecedented (excepting the eruption of mega-volcanoes) increase in atmospheric carbon levels which humans have caused in the last few centuries IS having an effect on the earth's atmosphere and on life on Earth in general and - unless we in Western civilization are planning on a massive societal retreat back to the prescientific beliefs of the Medieval period or earlier (we might need to go back even before such early investigations of the natural World as occurred in classical Greece) - we'd best come to grips with the fact that the current human impact on life on Earth - on it's atmosphere, it's species, and the overall coupled system involving plants, animals, sea, land, and the atmosphere - is supported by the most basic concepts of physics which undergird the technological advancement that has propelled Western Civilization beyond church dominated Medieval concepts - such as the notion that the planets and the Sun rotate around the Earth - and through the Renaissance and the "Age of Enlightenment" and into our current industrial and technologically oriented age.

Action and reaction. It's really - at the most basic level - not all that complex. Everything we do - as humans, as animals, and as material beings (at least) impacts the physical world. Newton laid it out - most recently - in rigorous terms, and the framework he constructed still fits quite well the physical reality in which we live.

The CO2, Carbon Monoxide, and other elements - emitted from the tailpipes of our automobiles and from our home-heating furnaces and other combustion sources - do not somehow magically "go away". hat would violate basic laws of physics. Those elements go into the atmosphere - the very atmosphere which, with it's peculiar concentration of elements so very different from other planets in our Solar System, has been created as such by Earthly life and manages, thankfully, to keep the surface of the earth, at sea level, an average of approximately 60 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than it would otherwise be and also protects us from the Ultraviolet and other solar radiation and from the sort of extreme temperatures and extreme temperature variability which characterizes the Earth's closest cousins, Mars and Venus.

In short - we're changing, and at a rate unprecedented in human and recent known geological history - every day as we drive our cars and so on - the most crucial of Earth's life-support systems.

The direct personal analogy to the call for "more study" on changes in the Earth's atmosphere, climate systems, and biosphere in general - rather than trying to reduce the pollution and other human generated impacts driving those changes in addition to "more study" is - to use an analogy drawn from auto culture - somewhat akin to asking the passenger of a car one is driving, as one is bombing down the highway at highway speeds and the auto begins to make a loud banging and knocking sound accompanied by the shaking of the steering wheel and which seems to be coming from the area around one of the front tires, to climb out on the hood and hang his or her head down over the front bumper, inches from the road and as you - the driver - hold the shaking steering wheel and also a safety rope tied to your intrepid passenger's foot, to attempt to "study" the situation.

Stopping, driving more slowly, or pulling into an auto service station to have the mechanics there put the car up on a lift and ascertain, as professionals, the actual cause of the noises and shaking steering wheel, would of course be unthinkable.

Time is tight, and we've a schedule to meet.
posted by troutfishing at 7:35 AM on July 31, 2004


That should have started, there : "Blue Stone - And do those scientists who are crying "The End of the World is upon Us !" have names ? - because that claim doesn't sound like a testable scientific proposition at all. It sound like a political slogan, and I certainly know I've never seen any peer-reviewed scientific research papers with that sort of title."

Time is barreling down on me too. On all of us. Rushed comments are prone to such errors, and much of all haste is a type of evil. In context - of course : when tied to the railroad tracks in the face of an onrushing locomotive, haste is the only course .
posted by troutfishing at 7:41 AM on July 31, 2004


Also - Blue Stone - I realize, in retrospect, that I might have taken your "If only scientists didn't have to cry "the end of the world is upon us!" to secure sufficient funding for their important work." statement to mean something other than what you may have intended.

If so, I very much apologize - although not for the impassioned argument per se : but if I could I might expunge my reference to you and your comment.

I can fly off the handle rather quickly concerning these matters - my sense of a growing denial within US and some other cultures as well, perhaps, of what I'd consider basic scientific concepts leaves me quite angry and concerned.

I'd have a bit more respect for the integrity of those who routinely and roundly lambaste the positions of the scientific mainstream on species extinction, Climate Change, rainforest, coral and mangrove destruction (and so on) if those leading the charge and so loudly accusing even the positions of such institutions as the U.S. National Academy of Science to be corrupted by partisan bias were to eschew all of the fruits of that science in which they - it would seem - no longer believe.

Ideological or Religious Luddism, it could be called - and the nations of the world could set aside areas for these hardy and committed folk who would - in exchange for their renunciation of their televisions, cars, computers, microwave ovens and every object, artifact and tidbit - except, perhaps for their dental fillings and replacement body parts such as synthetic knees - which could not be produced by stone age technology - would be allowed to don furs and return to the simple, healthy, holistic, nasty, brutish, short, and bracing life of hunter-gatherer, as the new Noble Savages.

I think they could, also, be allowed a small quantity of Bibles and religious tracts.
posted by troutfishing at 9:06 AM on July 31, 2004


troutfishing: I think you and I and Blue Stone are all in basic agreement here. I certainly agree with you, it is deeply frustrating to find oneself locked in futile argument with people who stubbornly refuse to admit the reality of global warming, when one would much rather be having a constructive discussion about the possible effects of global warming and how to cope with them. And I also agree with you about the way that "more research needed" is too often used as an excuse for doing nothing.

All I was trying to do, in my comment above, was to point out the fallacy in the following proposition:

1. Many environmental changes are caused by global warming.
2. This is an environmental change.
3. Therefore it must be caused by global warming.

It's precisely because I believe the public needs to be better educated about global warming -- and because many well-meaning people are still hopelessly ill-informed about it ("global warming? but it's been raining all week" etc) -- that I object to simplistic newspaper articles which treat global warming as the explanation for everything. What I'm afraid of is that people will visit the Scottish coast next year or the year after, and see the cliffs still teeming with birdlife, and say complacently as they drive away in their SUVs: "There! I knew all that scare-stuff about global warming was nothing to worry about!"

Alternatively, of course, they may visit the Scottish coast next year and find the cliffs totally empty and deserted. That is possible -- but unlikely, I think, for the reasons I gave above. There are reasonable grounds for believing that this is simply a short-term fluctuation in the seabird population, rather than the start of a long-term collapse. Let's hope so.
posted by verstegan at 10:16 AM on July 31, 2004


Some seabirds, particularly guillemots and skuas, have been steadily increasing in numbers

It's important to note that population increases of a single species are not always a good sign, in some cases it indicates that something is out of balance. Skuas are opportunists and garbage feeders, an increased mortality rate of some other species or a new local landfill would give them more to feed on. (guillemots are strictly fishers so that seems like better news)

As another example, we could prepare a report on just how great the insect population of Guam is doing, with their huge population boom, but unfortunately it's because tree snakes have decimated the indigenous bird population. So not always good news either way.

-----

Where did Shepd go? I wanted to hear more about this new faith-based science that everyone is apparently subscribing to.
posted by milovoo at 10:17 AM on July 31, 2004


More bird news. Another report of decline.

Increases of single species is a very bad thing: it means the variety of species that were competing against have all declined.

In North America the songbird species have been utterly decimated by cowbirds. This species engages in "nest parasitism": they lay their eggs in other species' nests. The chicks grow far faster than other species, and boot the other species' chicks out of the nest.

Main reason cowbirds are taking over is the destruction of our forests. Cowbirds like fields and open spaces, while songbirds need forests and shelter.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:38 AM on July 31, 2004


And one should keep in mind that the destruction of a single species has impact far beyond the species itself.

Take, for instance, wild figs in the South America jungles. There are endless species down there, winding their way up the jungle trees and opening their blossoms at the top of the forest canopy.

Each species of fig is fertilized by a corresponding species of fig wasp. The wasp and fig are, in effect, a single symbiotic creature: one can not survive without the other.

Kill the fig, and you kill the wasp. Kill the wasp and you kill the fig.

This is probably the most dramatic illustration of the deep interconnectedness of species in an ecosystem.

Here we are in great oceanic species decline. Kill the tuna and ... there could be dire consequences as an entire ecosystem collapses, from plankton to tuna to ...?
posted by five fresh fish at 10:42 AM on July 31, 2004


troutfishing, what I meant to express was my scepticism of some of the claims that we get through the media, from some scientists, who are in the unfortunate position of having to lobby for funding. If governments were as happy to put their hand in their pockets to fund the immensely important work of understanding what is going on in our environment, as they are to fund, say, war or new governmental buildings, then things would be infinitely better.

I do still remember when we were all told we were entering a new ice age, by certain scientists, as they sniffed for their prospective grant money.

Something's going on, and I'm happy for science to get all the money it needs to understand what that is. But we're just discovering that carbon dioxide might not be as important in global warming as we once thought - I was listening to someone say that methane is coming more into focus. What else don't we know? Better to find out before caliming this or that. And unfortunately things have to be "serious" before governments will give adequate funding.

For the record, I detest the Bushite Oiligarchy, with their vested interests and their "play today - never pay" mentality which underwrites their utter lack of concern, posing as scepticism.
posted by Blue Stone at 11:19 AM on July 31, 2004


What else don't we know? Better to find out before caliming this or that.

I disagree.

What harm can possibly arise from a reduction in CO2 emissions, even if it turns out they have absolutely nothing to do with global warming?

Same with most of the other environment-change warnings. If we humans make less impact on the earth, how can that hurt?
posted by five fresh fish at 12:04 PM on July 31, 2004


The veil is mathematical. Even simple dynamical system models exhibit dramatic shifts in their behavior without external changes. So any individual symptom you see could be caused by natural variations within the system. You have to look at the large picture to see that something's wrong.

The other, really nasty trouble is that these things don't move gradually. Once something starts to go out of balance, things are going to move *very*quickly to some sort of new steady state -- and then it's going to be really hard to put it back in place.

We just don't know! We have no idea if things are fine and normal or everything's going to collapse but the tremendous cost to *every single human being* if it all goes down is just so great that any damned rational person would have to err dramatically on the side of caution and investigate to the point of reasonable doubt and beyond.

By the time the evidence is clear to the people in charge, the changes will be irrevocable and we'll suddenly be in a struggle to survive. It will be horrible but it will probably do us some good as a species...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:57 PM on July 31, 2004


You have to look at the large picture to see that something's wrong.

I trust by this you're acknowledging that the big picture does, indeed, show that something is wrong.

Namely, that a good amount of life in our dynamic system has enjoyed a few hundred thousand years of success, and at least tens of thousands of years practically unaffected by the human population.

There is evidence that good amount of life in our dynamic system is now in stress, as shown by plunging populations, species loss, rapid global disease, and a lot more birth defects.

Decline of population of the more-complex animal and plant kingdoms (as versus Protista, Fungi, and Monera kingdoms) is a decline in a population that includes us.

Declines in the Chordata phylum (animals with backbones) is an even more select group of life, and it still includes us. Heck, there are even shocking declines in the Mammalian class, and the Primates orders: the declines are starting the get damn close to specifically including the human species!

Something is undoubtedly wrong.

We need to decide if we want to see if the human species can exist in whatever dynamic system develops next.

I can say with certainty that I'd prefer to not have to find out.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:19 PM on July 31, 2004


er, change
and at least tens of thousands of years practically unaffected by the human population
to
and at least tens of thousands of years in fairly happy co-existance with the human population.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:22 PM on July 31, 2004


For me, the central problem with this issue is separating out genuine evidence of harmful climatic change from a short-term gut reaction that something is horribly wrong if the ecosystem isn't in stasis from year to year. (Nice article here - Our hatred of certain furry foreigners - pointing out that the British ecosystem has changed radically; some 30% of indigenous British mammals are relatively recent imports).
posted by raygirvan at 5:48 PM on July 31, 2004


"You have to look at the large picture to see that something's wrong." ( lupus_yonderboy )

"I trust by this you're acknowledging that the big picture does, indeed, show that something is wrong." ( five fresh fish )

fff - I think Lupus_yonderboy understands things that even a lot of scientists are in denial about. Thermohaline circulation has been coughing lately, and the recently discovered X10 flow of melting Greenland ice is exterting a dramatically unexpected forcing effect. Maybe the ensuing changes wil be gradual and (more or less) linear. Maybe not.

Remember - in the equator to pole heat transport dynamic, if the oceans take a break from the heat transport job, wind picks up the slack. I'm not qualified to judge levels of slack waiting to be picked up but, regardless, more wind and storminess is now inevitable.

__________

" we're just discovering that carbon dioxide might not be as important in global warming as we once thought - I was listening to someone say that methane is coming more into focus. What else don't we know? " - Blue Stone, I'm sure current scientific thought is hugely ignorant on these matters. But it is capable of saying that atmospheric and climatic stability are now crucial to the survival of current existing human civilization.

Given this basic observation, let it me put it this way - I'd rather not experiment with jabbing knitting needles randomly in to my chest in some sort of haphazard experiment - while hoping that they do not happen to pierce my heart.

One could try to ascertain the potential impact of that disaster through government funded studies, yes, but the overall assesment seems fairly simple to me :

: it's dumb to flirt with death.

But concerning this : "If governments were as happy to put their hand in their pockets to fund the immensely important work of understanding what is going on in our environment, as they are to fund, say, war or new governmental buildings, then things would be infinitely better." - the US government, under GW Bush's father George Senior initiated GCRIO :

"On 16 November 1990 President George Bush signed the Global Change Research Act of 1990 (P.L. 101-606) that established in law the Committee on Earth and Environmental Sciences (hereafter, the Committee) to oversee the U.S. Global Change Research Program. The Program was initiated by several federal agencies in the late 1980s in response to concerns in the national and international scientific community about climate change, ozone depletion, and other global changes. As a result of such concerns Congress in the late 1980s directed the Program to provide information that it could use in the formulation and execution of policy responses. Subsequent to its legal establishment the Committee oversaw a doubling in the Program's budget. In 1993 the federal government budgeted approximately $2.7 billion dollars for the USGCRP and its contributory programs, representing about 12% of all civilian research funding, and more
than the combined budgets of the Superconducting Super Collider and NASA's space station .......From 1990 through 1994 the government spent over $6 billion on the Program"

$6 billion dollars, U.S., buys an awful lot of research - and during that period of such heavy research the threat of climate change was, if anything, only underlined.
posted by troutfishing at 8:32 PM on July 31, 2004


The extinction crisis is over. We lost.
posted by homunculus at 11:54 PM on August 1, 2004


homunculus - my, you're a cheery one. Couldn't you link instead to pictures of cute puppies and fluffy bunnies ?

Still, Meyers' piece is very well done.
posted by troutfishing at 7:26 AM on August 2, 2004


Also : farewell, eels
posted by troutfishing at 10:15 PM on August 2, 2004


Acid Rain - 'Good News' in the fight against global warming!
posted by Blue Stone at 1:41 AM on August 3, 2004


Disasters spawned by global warming are no longer science fiction, Ross Gelbspan argues in "Boiling Point" -- they're already here.
posted by homunculus at 7:59 PM on August 4, 2004


Hmmm. More that he argues that if things happen that are obviously a consequence of global warming, the world is going to be mighty pissed at the naysayers. And that this would be a Bad Thing.

Have there been any big disasters that qualify? Masses of people wiped out?
posted by five fresh fish at 8:27 PM on August 4, 2004


Well, in '98 5% of the World's population became, at least temporarily, refugees due to weather disasters.

I don't know the rough death toll however.
posted by troutfishing at 4:18 PM on August 5, 2004


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