Species extinction by Johnston

It’s gratifying to see the essay by Johnston getting the attention it deserves (at WUWT and JoNova) after Pielke brought it to our attention. Johnston reviews many areas of climate science in 82 pages of readable prose and concludes:

Insofar as establishment climate science has glossed over and minimized such fundamental questions and uncertainties in climate science, it has created widespread misimpressions that have serious consequences for optimal policy design.

Apparently somebody asked “What does a lawyer know about climate science?”. Well, firstly, he is an environmental law professor. Secondly, the areas he writes about where I am knowledgeable show surprising insight. His assessment of estimates of species loss (20-30%) due to global warming restates exactly what I said at the time in Biased Towards Extinction:

Given the extensive and foundational criticism by biologists of the methodology underlying the species loss probability prediction generated by Thomas et al., the IPCC’s publication of that probability without qualification seems dangerously misleading, and in any event clearly exemplifies the rhetoric of adversarial persuasion, rather than “unbiased” assessment.

Of five “problematic” uncertainties and complications that he raises (and there are many more I might go into) of the Thomas et al. study, one that I mentioned in the CO2 science editorial is particularly offensive:

v) Finally, and perhaps most strikingly to my layperson’s sensibilities, the methodology employed by Thomas et. al. will “inevitably detect extinctions. Negative changes in the size of a species’ range contribute to an increased extinction risk overall, while positive changes have no net effect on extinctions,” this despite the fact that
locally, “the net effect on diversity at any one locality might well be positive, as species spread towards the poles from the most species-rich habitats near the equator.”

Thomas and authors achieved this statistical slight-of-hand by ‘cherry picking’ all species whose home ranges were reduced by warming, and removing those whose home ranges increased. The change in the size of home range is assumed to affect the survival of the species.

When I questioned Thomas about this, his defense was that the method had been approved by a number of eminent conservation biologists who found it perfectly fine. He said that those species with reduced range were are greater risk of extinction from global warming, while those with increasing range were of course going to be OK.

However, it takes a layman’s sensibilities to see, apparently, that for every species that decreases its range another increases its range, therefore the overall rate of extinctions does not change. If overall rate of extinctions does not change, then no increase in extinctions could be expected from global warming.

I tried to explain this trivial point to the coauthors and three rounds of reviewers without success. The final straw was the assertion of one reviewer to the effect that “We know that global warming is going to increase extinctions, so your analysis must be wrong.” I concluded, as Jason Johnston did, that the field “exemplified the rhetoric of adversarial persuasion, rather than ‘unbiased’ assessment.” – i.e which is, I suppose, code for ‘green advocacy’.

So, read the summary of the state of play on species losses by Johnston. He mentions the article I helped prepare with 17 scientists in related fields rebutting Thomas et al. which has largely been ignored by the conservation field. He also touches on the murky origins of the iconic statement that:

“[a]pproximately 20-30% of plant and animal species assessed thus far are likely to be at increased risk of extinction if increases in global temperature exceed 1.5 – 2.5°C.”

In what could be called a Species-gate, this statement was eventually attributed to Thomas et al. by the IPCC, despite the fact that the Thomas et al. methodology and manuscript do not mention probability. The determination of species ‘committed to extinction’ is not quantified by probability.

As if anybody cares about accuracy and precision anymore. The sad part is that such papers as Thomas et al., and the minimization of fundamental questions and uncertainties even when legitimate problems are raised, lead people to believe that “the science is settled”, and take us further from knowing the real truth about climate change and survival of species.

  • Anonymous

    These fellows have a hard time even with the definition of “species”. In my hobby of growing rare ornamental plants, my colleagues and I have obtained fertile, healthy crosses between not only species, but also genera. Maybe the classification was wrong (unlikely), but certainly the definition of a species as being distinct from a like entity with which it will not cross, is eminently disputable. Then when we come to sub-species and races, the water gets even muddier, and worse again when DNA fingerprinting challenges botanical or zoological features of differentiation.It’s the textbook example of the variable hiererarchical dendrogram. Who knows which one is right?Likewise, the concept that a species extending its range is a sign that it is not due for endangerment can be challenged. (e.g. If it lives on a small island, it cannot change its range greatly). Most of us are familar with predator/prey mathematics, but they do not exclude the case where a predator, after expanding range, becomes extinct because its prey bucks the math and becomes more scarce or disappears completely, instead of increasing in the customary pattern.It tests credibility that extinction could result from a change in century-long ambient temp of a few degrees, when the summer-winter and day-night changes are much larger.But you know, I did hear a Tasmanian Devil cursing about the cold atop Mt Wellington one summer. I guess it died soon after.

    • Kuhnkat

      Nope, he’s living in LA now.

  • Anonymous

    There’s a great many species that don’t normally interbreed but will under cultivation. I did tend to find that closely related species have very distinct niches. This gets into the whole evolutionary biology arguments have have been going on forever about which came first, geographic or resource specialization, random drift etc etc.

    But yes there hasn’t been a mass extinction since the KT, and the glacial-interglacial swings of much larger range the present or projected warming probably caused very little extinction.

  • sherro

    These fellows have a hard time even with the definition of “species”. In my hobby of growing rare ornamental plants, my colleagues and I have obtained fertile, healthy crosses between not only species, but also genera. Maybe the classification was wrong (unlikely), but certainly the definition of a species as being distinct from a like entity with which it will not cross, is eminently disputable. Then when we come to sub-species and races, the water gets even muddier, and worse again when DNA fingerprinting challenges botanical or zoological features of differentiation.It's the textbook example of the variable hiererarchical dendrogram. Who knows which one is right?Likewise, the concept that a species extending its range is a sign that it is not due for endangerment can be challenged. (e.g. If it lives on a small island, it cannot change its range greatly). Most of us are familar with predator/prey mathematics, but they do not exclude the case where a predator, after expanding range, becomes extinct because its prey bucks the math and becomes more scarce or disappears completely, instead of increasing in the customary pattern.It tests credibility that extinction could result from a change in century-long ambient temp of a few degrees, when the summer-winter and day-night changes are much larger.But you know, I did hear a Tasmanian Devil cursing about the cold atop Mt Wellington one summer. I guess it died soon after.

  • davids99us

    There's a great many species that don't normally interbreed but will under cultivation. I did tend to find that closely related species have very distinct niches. This gets into the whole evolutionary biology arguments have have been going on forever about which came first, geographic or resource specialization, random drift etc etc. But yes there hasn't been a mass extinction since the KT, and the glacial-interglacial swings of much larger range the present or projected warming probably caused very little extinction.

  • Kuhnkat

    Nope, he's living in LA now.

  • Alex Harvey

    David,

    Thanks for the informative post and directing attention to the species extinction issue.

    I am not up to that section yet but I think the following text may be the clearest statement of the fundamental problem with advocacy science and its relationship with policy that I’ve seen:

    If policymakers are to craft the correct policy, then they must understand the nature of the threat posed. The rhetorical strategy that has come to dominate establishment climate science is not designed to promote such fine-grained understanding; it is designed instead to convince the public of what some, but by no means all, climate scientists have come to believe by conveying a very scary and also very simple picture of the state of the science. Such coarse understanding leads to a very coarse policy prescription: “Do something, anything, now!” Such a policy prescription justifies virtually any policy, however costly or inefficient, that can plausibly be argued to lead to ghg emission reductions at some point in the future.

    • Anonymous

      So you don’t think it is the infiltration of the WWF, ACF etc into the UN, CSIRO and Labor Party ;-)?

      • Alex Harvey

        And the Liberal Party too. Let’s not forget that Malcolm Turnbull would have let the ETS pass in the Senate and that two Liberals crossed the floor to vote with the government.

  • Alex Harvey

    David,Thanks for the informative post and directing attention to the species extinction issue.I am not up to that section yet but I think the following text may be the clearest statement of the fundamental problem with advocacy science and its relationship with policy that I've seen:

    If policymakers are to craft the correct policy, then they must understand the nature of the threat posed. The rhetorical strategy that has come to dominate establishment climate science is not designed to promote such fine-grained understanding; it is designed instead to convince the public of what some, but by no means all, climate scientists have come to believe by conveying a very scary and also very simple picture of the state of the science. Such coarse understanding leads to a very coarse policy prescription: “Do something, anything, now!” Such a policy prescription justifies virtually any policy, however costly or inefficient, that can plausibly be argued to lead to ghg emission reductions at some point in the future.

  • davids99us

    So you don't think it is the infiltration of the WWF, ACF etc into the UN, CSIRO and Labor Party ;-)?

  • Alex Harvey

    And the Liberal Party too. Let's not forget that Malcolm Turnbull would have let the ETS pass in the Senate and that two Liberals crossed the floor to vote with the government.

  • Pingback: sam waltonman

  • Pingback: free background check

  • Pingback: somanabolic muscle maximizer review

  • Pingback: iherb promo code

  • Pingback: clik here button

  • Pingback: Wat Arun Bangkok Thailand wallpapers

  • Pingback: nose jobs nyc

  • Pingback: highline residences condo singapore

  • Pingback: kenosha dentist

  • Pingback: permaculture

  • Pingback: URL

  • Pingback: www.EscalateInternet.com

  • Pingback: buy cialis

  • Pingback: sex on cam

  • Pingback: Cheating spouse

  • Pingback: ??????????? ??????????? ? ??????

  • Pingback: premature ejaculation tablets in india

  • Pingback: Throne Rush Gems free

  • Pingback: prostate cancer

  • Pingback: Start

  • Pingback: company logo design

  • Pingback: Health

  • Pingback: clean

  • Pingback: bathmate hydromax pump

  • Pingback: Finance

  • Pingback: capture his heart

  • Pingback: Liberty

  • Pingback: hairy anus

  • Pingback: Trading

  • Pingback: congo gold is best

  • Pingback: Business

  • Pingback: iherb coupon

  • Pingback: workout obsession

  • Pingback: mark cobb

  • Pingback: download mp3 music

  • Pingback: Supernatural Roleplay - For roleplayers in the supernatural genre

  • Pingback: Camp

  • Pingback: kolorowanki dla dzieci

  • Pingback: Vieux Nice

  • Pingback: how to detox your body naturally

  • Pingback: Tech

  • Pingback: Custom Commercial Signs Dallas TX

  • Pingback: carter conlon

  • Pingback: Diindolylmethane

  • Pingback: Clothing

  • Pingback: Stereoscope microscope

  • Pingback: ionized water

  • Pingback: Fuck

  • Pingback: stamina pills for men

  • Pingback: Splinter Cell Blacklist Trainer

  • Pingback: browse around here

  • Pingback: book fo ra

  • Pingback: free movies online without download

  • Pingback: ppi claims

  • Pingback: Sarasota SEO

  • Pingback: cigar e-liquid

  • Pingback: Slotomania Free Coins For Iphone

  • Pingback: roofing Athens

  • Pingback: Outdoor Patio Remodeling in Austin TX

  • Pingback: plano roof repair

  • Pingback: Financial

  • Pingback: ????? ?????

  • Pingback: how to stop from premature ejaculation

  • Pingback: Get Free Facebook Likes

  • Pingback: Movemynt Products

  • Pingback: wpc india

  • Pingback: Click here

  • Pingback: get free bets

  • Pingback: in naples fl

  • Pingback: Downers Grove IL Real Estate

  • Pingback: alkaline water

  • Pingback: geo news live

  • Pingback: like this

  • Pingback: kangen water machine

  • Pingback: Houston Dental Implant

  • Pingback: www.blucarpet.com

  • Pingback: Medical Daily

  • Pingback: Frank Lloyd Wright Designs

  • Pingback: package vacations

  • Pingback: szkolenia bhp Dabrowa Górnicza

  • Pingback: clash of clans hack

  • Pingback: hotels in costa rica

  • Pingback: Energy Booster