Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Documenting the Local Effects of Climate Change

Species Reduction


Red-breasted Nuthatch at Calgary’s Fish Creek Provincial Park, is among the species a new study has deemed locally extinct in some parts of Canada due to climate change.
Photo Credit: Marcy Stader
Source: CBC News

An article, by Brandie Weikle, for CBC News says that scientists are already seeing and documenting the local effects of climate change, one of which is species reduction in local geographic areas. In “It's already happening: Hundreds of animals, plants locally extinct due to climate change” (December 8th 2016), Weikle writes:
The study, authored by John Wiens, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, was published Thursday in the journal PLOS Biology. Wiens compared survey results of 976 species of plants and animals documented around the world 50 or 60 years ago to data on those same species gathered 10 years ago, he told CBC News.
He found that 47 per cent of those species — a representative sampling from around the world — were already locally extinct in the warmer parts of the regions where they were initially documented. “The striking thing is that this has occurred with only less than a one degree [Celcius] increase in global medial temperature and it's going to get much worse,” said Wiens. ” There's going to be an additional one to five degrees on top of that.”
Local extinction could lead to global extinction of some (or many species we now see) in worst-case scenarios or at the very least a large reduction in their populations. Almost 13,000 animal or plant species are on the endangered or critically endangered list of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), an international organization based in Switzerland. (In a quick Google search, I found articles that cite the reduction in Polar Bears & Peary Caribou, in Canada, as well as in the number of giraffes in the Savannah regions of sub-Sahara Africa.) 

Some are skeptical of such scientific stories, and see in such claims a conspiracy to hoodwink the public for some nefarious reason; and yet such persons might remain skeptical despite any evidence given, chiefly related to a lack of trust or trustworthiness of the source of information. Equally important, one can easily question the conclusions reached as a result of such information, perhaps as a way to not deal or face the worst-case scenarios. 

Undoubtedly, one can also point out that there are trust and credibility issues with some scientific news stories, particularly those that resort to increased use of hyperbole, which can make one numb or insensitive to the information. The Science is only as good and credible as the scientists doing the science and publishing the reports. The public in return places their faith in the honesty and credibility of the scientists making such claims. It is really as simple as this; anything else is a denial of reality. Scientists, it must be said, are not immune to the lures of fame and fortune, or for that matter to cognitive dissonance or the pressures of scientific conformity.

So, yes, there are trust and confidence issues that need discussing, not only by the layman public but by the scientists themselves. Despite this shortcoming, it seems that the evidence collected in regards to climate change does not directly suffer this problem. Quite the opposite. It is persuasive; it is factual; and it is undeniable. So, in this case, the denial of scientific facts only postpones the acquisition of good knowledge, which is often the precursor to good action.

More to the point, the scientific documenting of what is taking place with local species reduction will help us later on should the situation turn from bad to worse, which seems likely with a high degree of probability should one take a business as usual approach. It is always better to have some kind of record. Some think that we as a planet will never reach this point; I on the other hand do not know, but would like to think that we act intelligently and morally to counteract such a dire possibility.

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For more, go to [CBC News]

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