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Biodiversity loss is not evidence that climate change isn't real. I can't believe I have to say this

United Kingdom
Daily Telegraph
28/10/2010

Here’s an odd thing. A major new study by the Zoological Society of London has suggested that vertebrate species are going extinct left, right and centre, with as many as one in five vertebrate species under threat. A separate, United Nations-backed study earlier this month found that the rate of extinctions is the fastest since the end of the dinosaurs, 65 million years ago, and we haven’t even had a small asteroid impact to help us. Species are dying out 1,000 times faster than at any other time in human history. Generally, it’s fairly bleak news.

Yet, somehow, this has been taken in some quarters to mean that man-made climate change isn’t happening.

I can’t quite understand the reasoning behind this: it’s rather like saying that, because the fuel light on your car is blinking, your brakes don’t need servicing. But it’s clearly seductive. It’s more reassuring to think that the UN and London Zoo (!) are engaged in a huge global conspiracy to bilk cash out of sovereign governments – they’re probably in cahoots with the EU as well, everybody else is – than it is to think that tens of thousands of species are going extinct, largely but not exclusively through human actions.

This is, of course, a tragedy, in the same way as it would be a tragedy if a fire broke out in the Louvre or the British Museum: irreplaceable treasures of the world are being destroyed, forever. No more black rhinos, very possibly; tigers, pandas, turtles and African elephants also under threat, among thousands of other species. I don’t know about you, but I love the fact that magnificent creatures like these exist, and will be genuinely distraught if and when they no longer do.

From a more cold-eyed perspective, it is also a serious economic and scientific problem. The UN puts the cost to the world economy of environmental damage at $6.6 trillion (£4.2 trillion) – nearly half the GDP of the USA. There is also the old, but still valid, point that a significant percentage of medicines come from plants, and as plant species vanish – many of them undiscovered – we are reducing the number of medically useful, naturally occuring compounds available to us.

And, of course, this is not some bait-and-switch procedure to distract attention from climate change. Climate change is still merrily going on. Nasa (who, as I wearily have to say every few weeks, are not exactly sandal-shod Guardian-reading hippies) show on their Climate Change Evidence page that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are higher than they have been in 650,000 years: higher not just by a little bit, but by more than 25 per cent above the previous maximum (see chart, below). They also show that the 10 warmest years on record have occurred in the last 12 years, despite a weak sun throughout the 2000s. A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) study from July also shows that the decade 2000 – 2010 is the warmest on record.

(I don’t doubt that Watts Up With That has comprehensively shown both Nasa and the NOAA to be running-dog stooges of the global solar panel industry, or something, but nonetheless it’s something to think about.)

So biodiversity loss is a problem. An economic problem, a medical and scientific problem, a moral problem. It doesn’t have easy answers: there are more humans than ever and they’re being born pretty quickly. Since we all accept that humans are more important than animals, we may in some places just have to suffer the losses with gritted teeth. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to preserve it where we can, and it certainly doesn’t mean we can pretend it’s all made up, or that it means other, equally real problems aren’t happening.

El contenido de las noticias que se presentan en esta sección es responsabilidad directa de las agencias emisoras de noticias y no necesariamente reflejan la posición del Gobierno de México en este u otros temas relacionados.

    

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