Climate Change has ascended to the throne, Death, the Destroyer of Worlds. Does it deserve the title?
If like me you have become sensitized to the appearance of climate change stories just about everywhere, you may have seen the phenomenon blamed for all manner of ills.
If you’re as cynical as I am, you might have also noticed what I call the Tag Along effect–where the climate concerned add climate change to a list of contributory causes, often jumping the line into first place, or at least primus inter pares.
I think I noticed it first in discussions about biodiversity, where climate change was being listed as the cause of extinction of just about everything except weeds and cockroaches. I was participating in a discussion over at Bart Verheggen’s site with, among others, Jeff Harvey, who we most recently saw libeling Susan Crockford for having the temerity to notice that polar bears are thriving despite climate change.
Harvey was ranting, as is his wont, about how climate change was going to single-handedly decimate the biome of everything we hold near and dear. I took the rather obvious opposite view, that humans were indeed causing extinction on a wholesale scale, but through the more tried and true mechanisms of habitat destruction, over-hunting/fishing, introduction of alien species and pollution.
Harvey and others of his ilk acknowledged that they played a role, but still agitated for climate change as the real threat.
I light-heartedly wrote that climate change may indeed contribute, but at about a 1% level.
Then up popped a fellow blog-named Sidd, who wrote,
“Mr. Bernard J. kindly posted a link to Hoffman et al. In the paper.From the abstract:
“…main drivers of biodiversity loss in these groups: agricultural expansion, logging, overexploitation, and invasive alien species. ”
To check Mr. Fuller’s guess about 1% loss to climate change:
fig S7 allow one to estimate the fraction of deteriorating species (of the IUCN list of 25780 endangered species) due to climate change or extreme weather and fire regime changes, as well as several other factors:
For birds: total number of deteriorating species=433, those due to climate change or severe weather, 8, those due to fire regime change, 1
The corresponding numbers
For mammals:: 171,3,7
For amphibians: 456, 5,1
Slightly above 1%”
Since then, I have seen the same game played on a variety of fronts, from Pakistani floods (You decide–climate change or a trebling of population living in river deltas?) Sea level rise in places like Florida and Louisiana (Choose again–contributions of 3.2mm per year from melting ice and steric expansion… or subsidence of up to an inch a decade from rebounding tectonic plates… or aquifer depletion… or pumping millions of barrels of oil out of the ground?), to a spate of wildfires in California (Okay, one more time–drying out of the climate due to our emissions of greenhouse gases… or mistaken forest management practices for 70 years… or an influx of residents building wood frame structures too close to forests that have always been vulnerable?), to Syrian civil war (last time, now… climate change due to our fossil fuels… or repression by an Alawite government that enraged a population of Sunnis and Shias… or a doubling of population… or an agricultural policy that impoverished the land?)
Now, don’t just choose your favorite. Acknowledge that each of the factors listed for each of the disasters may have contributed. Go back to your figures and assign percentage of responsibility for each. Feel free to do some research to inform your work.
I’m sure readers can add to the list. And I hope you do in the comments section. If you lack inspiration, you can also refer to the IPCC’s estimate of impacts due to climate change in their Fifth Assessment Report, found here.
I don’t blame the scientists. Not very many of them are saying stuff like this–truly, Jeff Harvey and Michael Mann are exceptions, not representative. Most of this drivel comes from NGOs, careless and complaisant journalists and a host of foolish blog commenters.
Whatever the future holds, anthropogenic contributions to climate change amount to an asterisk in present day attributable impacts on our environment–and I’m pretty sure that most of the climate concerned are aware of that, which is why the solutions adopted to date are such weak tea.