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Planet Earth Under Threat

Message from Jan - Peut Researcher

  • Jody Bourton
  • 31 May 06, 05:04 PM

Jan on a beach

Joining the Planet Earth Under Threat team is very exciting – this is a huge and important subject that I’m delighted to get my teeth into, if a little over-awed by the sheer volume of information. How to choose what we include?? One of the first things on my long to-do list is to line up some stories in the Americas for Howard Stableford to cover for us. A trip to the far north seems likely to look at the changes in the ice and permafrost and the resulting effects on polar bear and caribou populations. But hey, isn’t this all a bit familiar? Haven’t we all seen the pictures of stranded polar bears and submerging Pacific Islands? The BBC is currently running a Climate Chaos Season and on all sides there are signs of doom and gloom fatigue. So how can we engage with this subject so that we don’t all turn off, but are in equal parts inspired, informed and motivated?

In that spirit, one of the themes of this series will be the durability and inventiveness of nature. That’s not to say that we won’t also look at what needs be done about climate change – and fast - but we also want to celebrate the amazing ways in which plants and animals are responding and adapting. I came across a story about population outbreaks of mountain pine beetles in Canadian forests. They are doing very well, thank you very much, but in the process are apparently decimating large areas of lodgepole pine forest. I’m intrigued to ask the scientists where there’s there any such thing as long-term beneficiaries of climate change, or are such outbreaks destined to be short-lived before they wipe out their food species?
Meanwhile … do you know of any new and interesting stories in the Americas, north, central and south? I’d be very grateful to hear!

Comments  Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 05:26 PM on 31 May 2006,
  • Euan Gray wrote:

Why don't you investigate the fact that the overall polar bear population is actually INCREASING?

Or that the overall ice cover in the Antarctic is also increasing?

Or that all those islands supposedly swamped by the hideous effects of rising seas have not actually been swamped despite the apparent big increase in temperature over the past centuries?

In short, how about discarding the hysteria and man-is-evil preconceptions and looking at the facts - all of them, not just the ones that suit the environmentalists' agenda?

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  • 2.
  • At 07:35 PM on 31 May 2006,
  • Erwin de Wolff wrote:

Nobody will deny, probably, that the subject of human influenced climate changes is complicated. Even with the facts we know and putting all our understanding in the form of mathematical models, using the fastest computers to simulate and try to make consistent predictions, it is already disappointing to see that the effects that are observed one year later (like the growing of the overall ice cover) are not expected.
To claim, though, that "the overall ice cover in the Antarctic is also increasing" is the same as to say, "look how cold it is today, how can you say that the temperature is rising?". It is all about fluctuations and long term trends.
It is a very difficult subject, so simple observations are not conclusive. Finding a few contra examples doesn't mean that all the measurements done over the past decades are useless. Although, the facts as posed by Euan are interesting and we can only hope that more sophisticated models will give us better results, or in other words, that our understanding of global climate will increase, to convince more people about the urge to undertake something. (See also the article The Flipping Point in June Scientific American by former environmental sceptic Michael Shermer).

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  • 3.
  • At 11:27 PM on 31 May 2006,
  • Euan Gray wrote:

Or possibly to convince them that, just maybe, either nothing needs to be done or (more likely) the whole question very much more complex than the simplistic environmentalist thesis posits and quite possibly nothing humanity can do will make a lot of difference either way?

One of the major turn-offs of the environmental lobby is the widespread view that we should return to some more primitive lifestyle, generally accompanised by a socialist view of society and economy. That this will not work economically is obvious, but that it is unethical, dirty, environmentally unsound and extremely inefficient as well as completely unnecessary seems not to be widely appreciated.

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  • 4.
  • At 09:42 AM on 01 Jun 2006,
  • Erwin de Wolff wrote:

That the Global Climate issue is misused by politics as you mentioned is besides the point, in my view. I think it is only used by sceptics to hide the real reason for their fight against the growing volume of factual data, that is the argument that they don't want to give up their wealth (read: car).
I agree with Euan Gray that as a population we would have to do a lot of effort (i.e. money) to see only a small improvement. Probably we have to live with whatever global warming will bring us. Investment in research in a transition to a hydrogen economy would be an economically and environmentally challenge.
The polar bear population is recovering, but that has nothing to do with the climate, there is a International Agreement on the Conservation of Polar Bears from Oslo, which prohibit hunting them that seems to be succesful. (Richard Lawson, http://www.polarbearsinternational.org/)

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We should take a look at areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina to see how man made changes affected the landscape there.

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  • 6.
  • At 04:07 PM on 31 Jul 2006,
  • MARK COX wrote:

The position we find ourselves in, in terms of the macro-political and environmental situation, is akin to whether or not you trust or believe weather forecasts simply because it didn't rain in your street when a flood was predicted. This leads to people not preparing themselves, moving your valuables upstairs or stopping building on flood plains, and then lots of hand wringing after the fact. We have time to change the impact if not the fact of global change.
If you have children you hopefully bring them up to be fair-minded and honest, and the world situation is neither at the moment.

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