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Exploring the 'oceans crisis'

Richard Black | 14:50 UK time, Thursday, 14 April 2011

Humbpack whale

Just how .......d are the world's oceans?

I've put the dots in that sentence so you can insert the word of your choice.

According to a high-level seminar of experts in Oxford earlier this week, there's one word starting with the letter S that would fit quite well, a longer option beginning Kn - and a few more that are even stronger in meaning.

The S option, by the way, is not "secured".

Scientists are famous for staying in silos and never peering over the edge at what's going on in the world around them.

What marked this week's event - convened by the International Programme on the State of the Ocean - as something a bit different was the melange of expertise in the same room.

Fisheries experts traded studies with people studying ocean acidification; climate modellers swapped data with ecologists; legal wonks formulated phrases alongside toxicologists.

They debated, discussed, queried, swapped questions and answers. Pretty much everyone said they'd learned something new - and something a bit scary.

Warnings on the impacts of issues such as overfishing, pollution and habitat loss aren't new. With some of them, scientific findings have translated into a pressure for change, and indeed to actual change - as seen this week, for example, with the European Union's adoption of new rules on illegal fishing.

Decapitated sharks

But the various threats tend to be considered in isolation.

By contrast, the idea behind this project is to look at what happens under a combination of threats, and ask what this more comprehensive picture demands in the way of policy changes.

It's fairly well-known now, for example, that the impacts of climate change on coral reefs can be delayed by keeping the reef healthy - by preventing local pollution, keeping fish stocks high and blocking invasive species.

So a policy to reduce climate impacts can mean curbing fishing or pollution, which might in turn mean changing farming practices to prevent fertiliser run-off.

In places, filter-feeding fish are apparently living in sediments containing so many particles of plastic that it makes up half of each mouthful. Other pollutants such as endocrine-disrupting ("gender-bending") chemicals gather on the plastic surfaces - which obviously can be harmful to the fish.

So a "healthy fisheries" policy might again involve regulating pollutants.

If the ways in which these various threats combine was a central theme of the seminar, another was the way in which trends appear to be speeding up.

Many researchers noted that in their field of study, the pace of decline and degradation exceeded even the worst projections made just a few decades ago.

The conclusions of the seminar will be released later this year. One of the aims is to get some serious commitments on ocean issues at the Rio+20 summit next year.

And here lies the biggest challenge for this project - especially in a world where the number of "other Cassandras", to use a phrase from the JM Kaplan Fund's Conn Nugent, appears to have grown way beyond the public's appetite for messages of doom.

Turtle swimming

Turtles are among the animals facing multiple threats - fishing nets, habitat loss, pollution...

For scientists, the route from research findings to policy change can appear simple.

They tell politicians and the general public how it is, the public gets concerned, and politicians then reform the system so as to halt the destruction - partly because it's the right thing to do, partly because the public is telling them to.

Barry Gardiner MP, a leading light in the Globe International organisation of environmentally concerned parliamentarians and recently appointed as Labour leader Ed Miliband's special envoy on climate change, gave the scientists a condensed and forceful lesson in political realities.

Of 650-odd MPs in the UK Parliament, he said, there are perhaps 50 who would have any reason to pay attention to global tales of ocean decline; and only perhaps 10 who would find a political motive for taking up such an issue in the House.

"There has to be a level of political engagement, and that engagement has to be not by scientists coming with the best analysis there is and wagging your fingers and saying 'now go and get this sorted out', because no politician listens to this," he said.

"You've got to listen to the politician and what his problems are, and them come with solutions."

This full-frontal assault on assumptions provoked some shocked scientific faces around the table; and Jelle Bijma, a biogeochemist from the Alfred Wegener Institute in Bremerhaven, Germany, said it...

"...makes you feel like a moron... what keeps politicians from operating with proper minds?"

But to people used to the cut and thrust of lobbying, some who have spent 40 years working for environmental progress, it wasn't such a surprise - Josh Reichert, head of the Pew Environment Group, likening the current situation to...

"...driving towards the edge of a cliff while taking copious notes along the way.

"For years the science has gotten better, and the problem has become worse. Better science will enhance our understanding of the dilemma we face but will not resolve it - we depend on government to do that, and the challenge we face is getting government to act."

When the final report is written, its conclusions are likely to include (however worded) a warning that the oceans are in deep trouble, that decline is speeding up, and that impacts of this are already being felt.

It will probably outline many dimensions of the issue, and make a comprehensive set of recommendations for politicians - and perhaps, for the public and the corporate sector.

The major challenge, as always, will be getting the message heard and acted upon.

For all the understanding of links between various threats out there in the oceans, the most important link is still between scientific findings and political action - and it's the one where progress remains most conspicuously lacking.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    I won’t take your climate change bait Richard, you are flogging a dead horse there, but I will comment that the depletion of the oceans recourses highlights the need for out politicians to tackle our population size, something that they are very reluctant to do.

    By the way, we seem to have lost Jane somewhere along the way.

  • Comment number 2.

    Whatever my other faults, at least I don't eat seafood...

  • Comment number 3.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    "There has to be a level of political engagement, and that engagement has to be not by scientists coming with the best analysis there is and wagging your fingers and saying 'now go and get this sorted out', because no politician listens to this," he said.

    "You've got to listen to the politician and what his problems are, and them come with solutions."
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    In other words our political representatives are self-interested morons, ignorant of real wordly issues. No change there then!

  • Comment number 4.

    3. At 18:39pm 14th Apr 2011, Brushcutter wrote:

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    "There has to be a level of political engagement, and that engagement has to be not by scientists coming with the best analysis there is and wagging your fingers and saying 'now go and get this sorted out', because no politician listens to this," he said.

    "You've got to listen to the politician and what his problems are, and them come with solutions."
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    "In other words our political representatives are self-interested morons, ignorant of real worldly issues. No change there then!"

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Yes, but this IS the reality of politics and saying it's stupid and wrong won't help us. Gardiner was absolutely right. Scientists are ludicrously naive if they think they can hand politicians a load of data and expect them to simply do the right thing. That has never happened and never will. If scientists truly want to effect change, they need to learn how to motivate politicians.

  • Comment number 5.

    Yawn. Sorry hippies, greenies, watermelons and associated ne'erdowells, but the fun times are over.

    The days when you could shout 'crisis' and have everybody worried are now over. You've used the term far too often for it to have any meaning. So many crises have been cheerfully announced by green radicals, (rubbing their hands in schadenfreude over the prospect of Armageddon unless we return to a medieval lifestyle and do precisely what they tell us) and then came to nothing, got debunked or turned out to be not nearly as much of a crisis as they led us to believe.

    So how big of a crisis is this Richard?

    Is it a hive death size crisis?
    A polar bear "tipping point" size crisis?
    An AGW size crisis?
    A sinking Maldeves size crisis?
    A vanishing Himalyan glacier size crisis?

    Just how big of a crisis is it THIS time?

  • Comment number 6.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 7.

    Maybe the best way to get through to Politicians is to focus on ramifications they can relate to- effects on jobs, commodity prices etc. With an example outside of scientific data showing an outcome improved by intervention and an example where lack of intervention created real practical difficulties for humans. That the financial cost in a preventative approach is a more palatable option than the alternative, with a clear range of options they can act on.

  • Comment number 8.

    #6 - The flaw with your argument, and this whole article, is that it is based on a pretend world where all science is objective and not politicized, when that is clearly false.

    All humans are political and economic animals including the ones working in real science. Simple rule: the more you see a scientific or pseudoscientific question in the media and potential social and/or economic impacts it may have the more politicized it is. Thus for a pseudoscientific social and economic engineering project like AGW or anything related to the One World project, expect the worst.

    Is James Hansen a politician or a scientist?

    Does real science need a massive propaganda campaign to support it?

  • Comment number 9.

    Richard,

    How about a story on this crisis?

    "The Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans estimates the harp seal population this year is about nine million animals, or about four times the size it was in the 1970s."

    http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/apr2011/2011-04-13-02.html

    You can try to explain why this is happening and how it could be affecting the northern cod stocks.

    I'm sure you can even get some Sea Sherpherd Society member to explain why every seal is sacred (a la Monty Python) and why climate change is going to make them all die by next Thursday and thus all the polar bears are going to die.






  • Comment number 10.

    Every time we mess with anything on an industrial scale it will be damaging to the environment. The way to go forward is by learning from mistakes and doing the right thing but unfortunately money exists and as long as it does politics and big business will have the power and nature, the world we live in our home will come in second. This isn't tree hugger stuff just the plain truth, 99.9% of our existence we have been hunter gatherers in line with nature and in the last 1% we have demanded of it more than it can adjust too and in the end we are the ones who will suffer.

  • Comment number 11.

    There is a solution to the myriad stresses that the human race is putting on the planet - reproduce more slowly and reduce our population! (Unacceptable still to the Catholic Church etc.)

    If we do not decide to do this the planet will most probably do it to us anyway - it is either a one child policy, strictly enforced, or watching millions or even billions die of hunger and disease. The choice is ours!

  • Comment number 12.

    Over 35 years ago I ran a final year undergraduate course on political expediency and administrative inertia in the management of the environment.

    The issues were the great environmental issues of our generation and the approach was to take apart and examine the track of actions/inactions, and then analyse the motivations and blockages in the various systems that stopped effective action.

    We then took similar 'disasters' that happened subsequently and showed that lessons learned were documented but rarely enacted when each class of disasters repeated.

    There are always 'good reasons' for failing to react, correct, fund, legislate, protect, etc, etc, but when - for instance - the costs of clean-up are compared to the costs of control, the financial advantage *always* attaches to timely corrective response to each major class of major environmental 'disasters'.

    It is always cheaper for society to stop an accident happening, but what politician ever got elected for creating a non-event.

    Why do politicians and government departments fail EVERY TIME? We here all know the answer(s) to this question.

    Perhaps we have to create a new class of leader/manager - who are not controlled by the time-frames of conventional politics, who do not have to tow the party line, who can look and act beyond the narrow constraints and perviews of their 'own department'. Who get paid the biggest buck for what they prevent happening, or conversely what they make happen.

    Culpable political expediency is unforgivable, but administrative inertia where action is desired and necessary is equally bad; combine the two and we have the holy grail for continuous environmental destruction.
    By God, we are so good at combining the two.
    The human species is more successful at destruction than anything else the species does on this one earth. An outside observer might conclude that, peversely, this is the prime directive of man.

  • Comment number 13.

    "History has proven again and again that whenever mankind interferes with a less developed civilization, no matter how well intentioned that interference may be, the results are invariably disastrous." 'Jean-Luc Picard', Symbiosis [via Wiki]

    Whether the species is a giant panda, a hammerhead shark, a green turtle, a honeybee, a brain coral, a North Atlantic cod, a Blue Fin Tuna, a green tree frog, the Easter Island Palm, there is a terrible inevitability about it all. Kill/use/abuse, protect, fail.

    And when it comes to man's treatment of his own species, the greatest allegory of all time applies: "I'm a human ; it's my nature."

  • Comment number 14.

    #13 - Geoff,

    Using the giant panda in your doomsday list is off the mark. That is actually one of the most positive conservation stories recently. The WWF needs a different logo to maintain their fearmongering.

    The 'inevitability' you note is only evident if you carefully pick the worst case cherries and ignore all the good ones.

  • Comment number 15.

    Lighten up, dude.

    None of these scary stories ever happens. Have a great weekend.

  • Comment number 16.

    Rockies,
    I could have easily used the IUCN Red List but that would have been too easy.
    I chose a group with a mix of characteristics and a mix of human abuses (the panda was a ringer!)

    and whilst we are unlikely to kill off the very last honeybee or the very last bluefin tuna, our abuse of the planet will inevitably show us humans to be the most uncaring of sentient species (OK, I agree, we REALLY DO care about the cudddly panda; and there are not too many sentient species for us to compete against for the title)

    The issue isn't one of pedantry, it's one of attitude.


    I would be easier for us to change our attitude if the species in question could say:

    "Hey, back off you humans, you're killing me and my family off in so many different ways.
    You got my dad with toxic pollution,
    my mum was eaten by your sister,
    and I've just been made sterile by one of your employer's chemicals with more side-chains than I can shake a stick at
    . . . . . and to cap it all, you've taken all my Krill and left me with no food to eat"

    Flaps a last fin, gasps out the final verse of Gordon Bock's 'Last of the Great Whales', and slides pregnantly up the stern ramp of The Great Ship In The Sky.

    (Light enough for you, Jack?)

  • Comment number 17.

    Canadian Rockies, ever the advocate for infinite economic growth and resource exploitation. His algorithm for pseudo science is if the analysis points toward government action or limitations on exploitation, it must be pseudo. If it argues for burn it up, use it up, chop it down, dig it up as fast as possible, its real credible science. Just read his posts, they are all pretty predictable, (low entropy in the information theoretic sense).

  • Comment number 18.

    5. At 19:45pm 14th Apr 2011, Brunnen.

    Oh yes, the best of all possible worlds. How could anybody have a care. Just don't look under the rug or move your finger along the mantel piece. Everything is better and better every day. How could anyone say otherwise?

  • Comment number 19.

    #16 - Geoff,

    You seem to be using the Black method. Gross overgeneralization built on selected evidence.

    The problem is that there is only a Red List and not a Green List. In North America the Green List is too long to list. When was the last time you saw a media story about any of the multitude of positive conservation stories? Do you think that might influence your and public perceptions? Do you think Richard would ever write about anything other than his assigned doomsday message?

  • Comment number 20.

    #17 - Well Walleye, that comment reaches new lows in false representations and dishonesty... but now I know who you work for so no surprise.

  • Comment number 21.

    20. At 04:41am 15th Apr 2011, CanadianRockies wrote:

    "#17 - Well Walleye, that comment reaches new lows in false representations and dishonesty... but now I know who you work for so no surprise."

    Oh? Show us otherwise? Thought you might like some rhetoric like you throw at James Hansen, Al Gore or other people you consider too "environmental". Surprise me if you can!

  • Comment number 22.

    19. At 04:40am 15th Apr 2011, CanadianRockies wrote:

    "The problem is that there is only a Red List and not a Green List."

    If some one breaks into your house and steals a chair do you say no problem, I still have 7 chairs left or do you try and get your chair back and your door fixed?

  • Comment number 23.

    Rocky, Other than your ideological blinders I suspect your failure to see any AGW crisis is augmented by your failure to understand hysteresis. Give this link a try:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hysteresis

    An appreciation of non-linear systems would also be a help.

    Of course you can just keep railing against NASA and James Hansen -- it appears to be your thing.

  • Comment number 24.

    The answer is to put engineers, statisticians, QA's etc. in-between the politicians and scientists. Problem solved.

    However, in the real world these folks get in the way of political agendas and scientific extravagance. Politicians and scientist feed on each other and the last thing they want is an engineer or statistician messing up the party. They are only useful when it comes to clearing up the mess.

    Life is so simple to understand if you just apply basics. It's changing it that's the challenge. Vote for more engineers to save the world.

  • Comment number 25.

    Rocky,
    You missed an important detail, I don't work on NASA contracts at the present time and haven't for several years. And I know Bowmanthebard will appreciate this, I make more money and even get bonuses for my technical work --- makes up for the fact that the work is less interesting and engaging than the NASA work. was.

  • Comment number 26.

    The oceans have been overfished and used a dumping ground for industrial & biological waste so its hardly surprising that the ecosystems of the oceans are collapsing under the pressure.

    Countries need to be setting up fish farms on land not only as a food source for their people but as a means of growing the number of fish before they become extinct. New ways need to be found for disposing of waste that do not pollute the environment and it does need to be a system operated by everybody.

    Unfortunately, the big blot on the landscape is the profit motive which will ensure that the greedy amongst us will continue to desecrate our environment unhindered.

  • Comment number 27.

    Thanks again for a huge range of educational links. I haven't got the time to really go through everything on offer but what I did read, was very enlightening.
    I also look at World Disaster Map, which shows events happening around the planet in real time. When I see indications of mass die offs I wonder what is the cause of such events. When I see biological events where creatures are in the wrong place in the wrong numbers doing things that they don't usually do, I wonder why. One explanation suggests that fishermen dump fish of the 'wrong sort' into the sea and that is why sometimes, large numbers of fish are found dead and washed up on shorelines. What if the explanation is wrong? What if the fish deaths are caused by sudden extreme environmental stresses? If there is an increase in fresh water into the oceans through ice melt, what effect does this have on creatures that live in a specific concentration of salt water? If there is an increase in volcanic and seismic activity around the planet, how will that affect ocean acidity? Undersea volcanoes spew out acidic materials don't they?

    Talking of disposing of waste sounds negative. Exploiting the potential of waste to create something new sounds much better. UP-CYCLING here we come.

  • Comment number 28.

    '27. At 09:45am 15th Apr 2011, sensiblegrannie
    Exploiting the potential of waste to create something new sounds much better.


    Music to these ears. Sadly, advocacy designed-in reuse seems to struggle when recycling (whilst usually better than most waste solutions) has nice targets, which can lead to nice box-ticks, which lead to hefty bonusses.

  • Comment number 29.

    Speaking of crises and extinctions, and just shy of its anniversary, as one seeks avenues to ponder ethical environmental issues...

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ethicalman/2010/05/are_we_doomed_by_democracy.html

    RIP.

  • Comment number 30.

    Anybody who bothered to put their mind to it could understand science for themselves and asses data and allow for any bias inherent in the collection method. I read "the oceans are in crisis" as - there is a heavy trend towards the nullification of long established life cycles - i.e. the planet looks like it is dying, a bit like getting consumption - there's a suffocating influence on the lungs that will tell in time, but how much time ? Don't know.

    Many human beings continue to smoke after they've been diagnosed with cancer, or emphysema because no level of threat will give them the mental self discipline to abandon their self-gratification.

    What I describe has an exact parallel with the way humans behave towards the planet. Our energy consumption is too high, the load each of us put on the resources is too high, there are too many of us, we are used to chucking our cr*p at the planet and having the eco system take care of it for us. No one wants to give up their self gratification - many don't care that we are all going to die and some still refuse to believe it.

    There is some hope that we can build idealised model fish farms and slowly make them bigger, plant forests and farm sustainable wood, the efficiency of solar panels is on the climb and finally engineering effort is being focused on renewable energy sources for propulsion. It is fascinating the speed of change around us. We are living in a fast moving energy revolution that we may emerge from or not.

    Fundamentally, necessity is the mother of invention - if it all goes wrong, it won't go wrong in a day... it may even look like it's all going right for many years before the whole eco-system goes flatline and we resort to canabalism in the last dying throws of our civilisation.

    I'd like to see a project to carve all our learned knowledge in to stone tablets that will still be there to be dug up and deciphered in future millenia. Most traces of current civilisation won't last more than 150 years - paper rots - computers return to sand etc

  • Comment number 31.

    The Environmental Movement has been crying wolf so many times that when a real crisis comes along (overfishing), nobody will listen.

    Sadly, the greens have lost all credibility due to their adoption of wacko theories and extremist positions on so many "planet threatening" issues.

    The truth of the matter is that the Oceans are indeed vulnerable to the "tragedy of the commons" and commercial fishing techniques are so sophisticated that many fish stocks (valuable sources of food/protein) are being depleted and would benefit from more stringent catch quotas and better enforcement.

    But how to get the message out there when you have loons predicting catastrophic climate change from trace gases?



  • Comment number 32.

    Richard Black

    what is a legal wonk?

  • Comment number 33.

    11. John_from_Hendon wrote:

    There is a solution to the myriad stresses that the human race is putting on the planet - reproduce more slowly and reduce our population! (Unacceptable still to the Catholic Church etc.)

    If we do not decide to do this the planet will most probably do it to us anyway - it is either a one child policy, strictly enforced, or watching millions or even billions die of hunger and disease. The choice is ours!
    ...............................................................................................................

    Strictly enforced eh?

    Doesn't take much for the Greenies to turn fascist.

  • Comment number 34.

    #22. HungeryWalleye wrote:

    19. At 04:40am 15th Apr 2011, CanadianRockies wrote:

    "The problem is that there is only a Red List and not a Green List."

    If some one breaks into your house and steals a chair do you say no problem, I still have 7 chairs left or do you try and get your chair back and your door fixed?

    ---------

    Well Walleye, you did at least hint at the actual ratio of species that would be on a Green List if such a thing existed, although that ratio would actually be much higher.

    To answer your chair analogy, I would suggest that if someone focused entirely on the missing or broken chairs they would have a false impression of the state of their chairs. And they would not learn why they still had seven... or in the real world, how seven have been repaired or taken care of so well that they are now in better shape than ever. That is the case in North America.

    Speaking of which, I see they have finally downlisted the gray wolf to reflect its recent population explosion. If you want to see politicized pseudoscience you ought to look at that story.

  • Comment number 35.

    DrBrian "Doesn't take much for the Greenies to turn fascist."

    I think most Greens may take offense at that remark. How can you suggest that they were anything else before turning Green?

  • Comment number 36.

    #33. DrBrian wrote:

    "Strictly enforced eh? Doesn't take much for the Greenies to turn fascist."

    The Chinese have managed it. However, 9 billion is too many people for the planet to support so is it better to choose to agree collectively to limit the population or to stand by and watch while disease, starvation and general pestilence or even war reduces the population? Doing nothing is abrogating responsibility and condemning many of our species to a long drawn out lingering and painful death and that is the only destination for your gutless solution!

    Tell that to 'Il Papa'! When he stands before the gate and asks St. Peter for entry remind him he will have to account not only for his actions, but his inactions. There is no absolution at the final judgement.

  • Comment number 37.

    CanadianRockies wrote @ #19: “#16 - Geoff, You seem to be using the ‘Black method’. Gross overgeneralization built on selected evidence. The problem is that there is only a Red List and not a Green List. In North America the Green List is too long to list. When was the last time you saw a media story about any of the multitude of positive conservation stories? Do you think that might influence your and public perceptions? . . .”

    Of course I could have used a Green List, the global biodiversity record is pretty good and, here in Brasil, the Amazonia db is extremely good and informative. Young, enthusiastic graduate conservationists here are very proud of it, they work hard to record and protect, and are constantly in the South American media spotlight.

    The North American Red List is powerfully influenced by destruction already done by Americans, and has made continental large mammal faunal diversity pretty depleted.
    The postglacial expansion of humans across the two continents was incredibly effective at species eradication.
    Ursids and Bovids hang on, but, as a result of human activities, they are arguably remnant populations, as is the Labrador Banks (etc) Gadoid group of species.

    However, the Black message here is one of scale and perspective.

    We have become so habituated to counting the number of angels on pin-heads, and the ppms of CO2 they eliminate, that we have lost sight of holistic ecology.

    Richard’s message here is that we need to examine ALL influences IN COMBINATION.

    If you think AGW is difficult, try this (anthropogenic) holistic ecology agenda!

  • Comment number 38.

    #37 Geoff

    Really. Back to the Pleistocene... not exactly relevant EXCEPT to emphasize that the fairy tale about hunter-gatherers 'living in harmony' is, of course, the First Big Lie of the eco-crisis industry.

    "Ursids and Bovids hang on, but, as a result of human activities, they are arguably remnant populations..."

    Since the black bear, brown (grizzly) bear, and polar bear are at all time historic and almost certainly prehistoric highs, that is of course ridiculous. The range of the grizzly bear has shrunk but there are now far more on their current range than there ever were before. The myth says otherwise of course but, for starters, next time you see the alleged historic range map of the grizzly, compare it with a map of the actual habitat and you will begin to see why it is so absurd.

    As for the "Bovids," if you mean bison that is true but that is the price we pay to be able to export wheat to India, etc. That said, there were less than a thousand bison in about 1900 and now there are over a million. (And, like they were for the plains people, bison is my favourite meat.)

    And compared to the bison population in Europe...

  • Comment number 39.

    34. At 20:39pm 15th Apr 2011, CanadianRockies wrote:

    "Speaking of which, I see they have finally downlisted the gray wolf to reflect its recent population explosion. If you want to see politicized pseudoscience you ought to look at that story. "

    You should be doubly happy that those experts in biology that are members of the Republican caucus removed all protections for the grey wolf as part of the continuing resolution for 2011. Interesting that while the Republicans profess concern about the budget they still give away the taxpayer's wealth through giveaways enshrined in a 19th century mining law. Continue to lease taxpayer owned public lands at below market rates to ranchers and continue to give access clear cutting in National Forests at below market rates.

  • Comment number 40.

    38. At 02:47am 16th Apr 2011, CanadianRockies wrote:

    "Since the black bear, brown (grizzly) bear, and polar bear are at all time historic and almost certainly prehistoric highs, that is of course ridiculous. The range of the grizzly bear has shrunk but there are now far more on their current range than there ever were before. "

    As some one who is so concerned about AGW data quality, perhaps you could share with us the source of data for estimating prehistoric bear populations? Was it a Fraser Institute study or did you get it from whatsit.com or the Washington Times. Did the Native Americans do catch and release studies, or bear banding studies we haven't heard of?

    You say "alleged historic range map of the grizzly". Do you have a better map? What are your sources of data for the prehistoric/historic range of the Grizzly?

    Of course the hunter-gatherers lived in harmony with "nature". When food was low or absent, they starved, when water was short, they died of thirst, when there were outbreaks of disease they died of those and sometimes all three at once. They also had a penchant to kill and sometimes eat each other when competing for resources. They lived in harmony with nature because their technology didn't allow them to do otherwise. There was considerably less hysteresis for human populations in prehistoric times. With modern technology we've managed to overshoot the planet's carrying capacity (by using soil to convert petroleum into food) by quite a bit which allows the delusionals to claim all is right with the world except for those pesky water melons as you like to call them.

  • Comment number 41.

    34. At 20:39pm 15th Apr 2011, CanadianRockies

    So what are you saying? Are you suggesting we don't need to worry about Kirtland's Warbler because we have lots of house sparrows and starlings?

  • Comment number 42.

    The oceans will be saved by simple economics. As the demand goes up and supply goes down, the prices will rise--pricing most people in the world out of the seafood queue. Already, I stay away from moderately priced seafood restaurants because
    THEY ARE NOT MODERATELY PRICED, ANYMORE.

    All over the world food prices are going up, because of population increase and more people being able to afford meat--or so they thought. As "PARITY" increases and globalization (a fact now with these BRIC nations up and coming) continues, the party is over. We are all going to be eating vegetarian diets.

    *I'm going to reread Jane Fonda's old book about healthy living where she tells what beans and sprouts and stuff have protein in them. *Now Talk About Desperate Times!!!!!*

  • Comment number 43.

    Here live on this :)))) (Marilyn)

    http://youtu.be/WMIcXZCnyUk

  • Comment number 44.

    A few thoughts:

    During the HINI pandemic, a huge number of the world's population were vaccinated against 'swine flu.' Think of all of that vaccine being excreted! What is the effect in the environment of such concentrations of vaccine? Do river and marine creatures suffer any ill effects from vaccine pollution or do they also gain immunity to SF?

    Some of you are talking about human population control. Does the birth control pill exert any effect on ecosystems? Out of all of the birth control methods, of which women have to endure, is the implant. Why can't they make the implants less traumatic? The implants that I have seen, leave the poor girl/woman with painful bruising and unpleasant side-effects. And yet, out of all the birth control methods, the implant doesn't rely on human fallibility to administer it. Is the hormone dose less than if administered by oral medication?

    From what some scientists are suggesting, all of the plastic waste in the environment is unleashing its hormone effect and making some creatures less fertile. Is the plastic effect also going to make humans less fertile?

  • Comment number 45.

    HungeryWalleye #40 wrote:

    "With modern technology we've managed to overshoot the planet's carrying capacity"

    I wonder what you or anyone else means by "carrying capacity". In the past, the population was at a lower level than today because "the planet" couldn't "carry" any more. The population is larger today because "the planet" can "carry" more than it could in the past. If some new source of ultra-cheap energy such as fusion came along, "the planet" could "carry" a lot more than it can today.

    You seem to be doing a sort of futurology, in which you have an insight into how cheap energy (and hence food production) could ever be, in principle.

  • Comment number 46.

    Current news suggests the Japanese crisis is not lessening. Sea water is being used to cool the reactors and as it does, deposits of salt must surely start clogging up the works, as has been suggested by some. We all know what happens when we fill a bath or clean the car or empty the paddling pool. The waste water has to go somewhere. How much water is leaking out of the pool and how much of it is returning to the sea? What are the current projections of the rate of spread of this waste water, into various ecosystems? If this crisis is currently forecasted to last for at least 3 months, that is a 'hell of a lot' of waste water. Surely this must be affecting river and marine stocks? The crisis is an ongoing event and other factors can increase or decrease the level of impact. Is there a plan B or are the nuclear clean up operators improvising in their aim for recovery? What world-level plans are in place to mitigate worst case outcomes? The 'four horsemen' springs to mind when I am in a pessimistic mood. Cheer me up someone.

  • Comment number 47.

    #GeoffWard

    you post was interesting especially as i had just read an article by michael mccarthy in the independent (man is a destroyer but can fix things too).

    what struck me was just how difficult it is to recreate an ecosystem to anything approaching 'healthy'. it's possible to reintroduce the great bustard to the salisbury plains but keeping it there takes continuous effort.

    personally i'm in the pessimistic group. the solutions to the problems are almost entirely straightforward and beneficial to the majority but political and economic forces are too powerful and self-interested for any real ground to be made.

    as regards the panglossians, i came across an enlightening quote recently by a british intelligence officer who retired in the 1950s after 40+ years service. it was something like 'over the years worriers and fretters claimed war was about to break out. i always denied it and was only wrong twice'. here we can't even be wrong once!

  • Comment number 48.

    rossglory #47 wrote:

    "just how difficult it is to recreate an ecosystem to anything approaching 'healthy'."

    It depends what we mean by "healthy" -- most of the time we mean healthy for humans and life forms that we humans approve of. Because it's pretty easy to make an industrial waste pond filled with green slime, or a sewer system run with rats, or a no-mans-land hell filled with dead bodies but heaven on Earth for tetanus bacteria...

    "Health" is generally what one type of living thing gains at the expense of another type of living thing. What we call "healthy" is bad for green slime, bad for rats, bad for tetanus bacteria.

    The idea that an ecosystem could be "healthy" is a metaphor, of course, as you carefully signal with quotation marks, but I wonder if you can spell it out in more literal terms?

  • Comment number 49.

    @rossglory:

    That (brilliant, I think) photograph of a whale above: Is it a picture of "health"? -- I'm not sure if the barnacles on the whale's face are technically parasites, but I'll bet they're pretty annoying for the whale.

    No doubt there is a sort of "balance" going on with "just the right amount" of barnacles on its face. But that balance was probably settled on by how much food was available for the barnacles -- if there are too many of them crowded on its face, the extra ones drop off or starve; if too few, some extra ones can join up and tag along for the ride.

    That is mostly how balances are arrived at in nature. It's not a "delicate balance" produced by a cunning design that might be lost forever, but rather the "swings and roundabouts" of gain and loss ending up wherever they happen to end up.

  • Comment number 50.

    Walleye

    You might want to look into the wolf issue a little bit before making too many comments. You seem totally blinded by your right-left view of the world.

    As for the historic range maps being used in popular mythology - that is everywhere - just look at the habitat they cover. You do understand that species are adapted to live in certain habitats don't you? Do you think bears are adapted to live in deserts? Etc.

    In any case, it seems rather pointless to attempt any intelligent discussion with yoy because you are so obviously blinded by your simple bias.

    Oh yes. The Kirtland's Warbler. You do know about its narrow habitat requirements I assume. You do know how much has been done to maintain and create that (post-fire) habitat don't you? You do know about their problems with brownheaded cowbirds and what is being done about that, don't you? If you know any of these things, and know anything about the current state of that species, you will also know how utterly stupid and meaningless your question is.

  • Comment number 51.

    Wait -- I just caught this!

    HungeryWalleye #17 wrote:

    "Just read his posts, they are all pretty predictable, (low entropy in the information theoretic sense)."

    Now, Mr Statistician, would that be "information" in the Shannon and Weaver sense, or information in the semantic sense?

  • Comment number 52.

    #49 - bowmanthebard - I think they are starfish... or maybe Globull Warming has caused barnacles to grow into giant mutants, and that is displacing so much water that it is causing sea levels to rise!!!

  • Comment number 53.

    46. sensiblegrannie wrote:

    "Current news suggests the Japanese crisis is not lessening... Cheer me up someone."

    I'll try. See your words... "Current news." Since you are a grannie, you can probably remember the "current news" about Three Mile Island when it was happening.

    How did that turn out? More people died in Ted Kennedy's car than ever died in any US nuclear accident. And Three Mile Island was the Greatest Disaster That Never Happened.

    More recently, recall the "current news" about the BP oil spill, when it was happening. Remember... the whole Gulf was going to die, blah, blah, blah.

    How did that turn out?

    How about the Great Swine Flu Epidemic Scare that the WHO and their Big Pharma partners whipped up to sell billions of dollars worth of vaccines?

    The list goes on...

    So before you jump off a bridge, you might wait until the fog of hysteria clears. No doubt that accident is going to have some effects but chances are they will not be nearly as bad as the Chicken Littles are screaming about - especially when some these Chicken Littles have a very vested interest in scaring the public about nuclear power.

    Here's a little perspective that might help you tell the difference between a wolf and a poodle:

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/02/16/going-bananas-over-radiation/

    And here's yet another case of the UN Climate Scare gang telling tall tales:

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/04/15/the-un-disappears-50-million-climate-refugees-then-botches-the-disappearing-attempt/

    Fear is the most basic method used by manipulators to herd sheep. Why be a sheep?




  • Comment number 54.

    #51 - Yes bowmanthebard. That one was so baseless that I just ignored it. And since Walleye's content-to-ideology ratio is so low I thought the hypocrisy was too obvious to bother with.

    Of course, I am just saying this because the Koch Brothers - Walleye's 'Goldstein - told me to.

  • Comment number 55.

    CanadianRockies #52 wrote:

    "I think they are starfish"

    Oh, OK! I didn't think of that, as the few starfish we have around here wouldn't be able to get any sort of grip. Another thing I had at the back of my mind was that barnacles are crustaceans, and therefore symmetrical... "Barnacles are crustaceans": a fact that bowled me over as a chid in the same way as the fact that "tomatoes are fruit".

  • Comment number 56.

    51. At 20:23pm 16th Apr 2011, bowmanthebard

    Shannon-Weaver

  • Comment number 57.

    50. At 20:23pm 16th Apr 2011, CanadianRockies wrote:

    "Oh yes. The Kirtland's Warbler. You do know about its narrow habitat requirements I assume..."

    Actually, I am quite aware of all of those things plus another issue, they are smacking into wind turbines that have sprouted up along their migratory path. So you support the efforts aimed at keeping it from going extinct?

    Any regrets on the passenger pigeon? What about the Ivory Billed Woodpecker? Or is it good enough there might be a few still hanging out in Cuba?

  • Comment number 58.

    Walleye - You ought to learn more about the passenger pigeon story. It would help you understand the big historical picture. The huge flocks of history were the product of the elimination of Native North American farmers by smallpox. It was a freak unnatural event... now turned into a fake poster child.

    As for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker there are none left. The Cuba story is a dream. And that faked story about them possibly being rediscovered in the States recently all makes sense (agenda wise) when you look into it.

    There's about 700 species of birds north of Mexico. Seven or probably eight have gone extinct since the historical record began, and none for more than 50 years.
    One of those - 'heath hen' - was only a subspecies.

    So, considering what has happened in that period, that is a pretty good record. Thanks to the real conservation movement which began during the real extinction crisis around 1900.

    As to your comment about wind turbines, I agree. Not only are they an insane waste of money and a blight on the landscape they also have major impacts on birds and bats in some areas. Yet fake environmentalists and others working purely for money still promote them.

    As for whether I care... since I am retired from a career in that field, and contributed to some things you would cheer about, yes I do. But I also saw the faked crisis and hysteria crowd take over and I don't appreciate self serving liars and fear mongers and understand the consequences of crying wolf.

  • Comment number 59.

    53. At 20:45pm 16th Apr 2011, CanadianRockies wrote:

    "...More recently, recall the "current news" about the BP oil spill, when it was happening. Remember... the whole Gulf was going to die, blah, blah, blah..."

    I guess not every one has the same view.

    http://bpoilslick.blogspot.com/

    There are also reports of a large dead zone covered with sludge about the blow out, finding higher levels of heavy metals and crude oil components in marine life (higher than before the spill). Of course there is an other contributor to this blog who appears to believe "if you can't see it, it doesn't exist".

    Then you say: "How about the Great Swine Flu Epidemic Scare that the WHO and their Big Pharma partners whipped up to sell billions of dollars worth of vaccines?"

    Don't you think the good luck of not having it mutate into something very contagious was the main factor?

    But rest assured that I don't think you should get any of those useless flu shots. A real waste of money I am sure.

  • Comment number 60.

    HungeryWalleye #56 wrote:

    "Shannon-Weaver"

    So you're accusing someone of some sort of arithmetical mistake? An arithmetical mistake connected to thermodynamics? Or what?

    All Shannon's "theory of communication" is talking about is statistical co-variation. Shannon himself warned about mis-interpreting that as semantic information, which is something entirely different.

  • Comment number 61.

    58. At 23:43pm 16th Apr 2011, CanadianRockies wrote:

    "You ought to learn more about the passenger pigeon story. It would help you understand the big historical picture. The huge flocks of history were the product of the elimination of Native North American farmers by smallpox. It was a freak unnatural event... now turned into a fake poster child. "

    So your saying the passenger pigeon evolved after the small pox outbreak? What is your source for estimating the pre-European passenger pigeon population? Its pretty amazing how you are able to make such confident statements about pre-historic population levels of various types of wildlife.

    I was always of the impression that the passenger pigeon went extinct because of over hunting and the destruction of a critical source of food, the eastern hardwood forest. What's your explanation?

    So you support the efforts to save Kirtland's Warber?

    Also noting your preference for buffalo meat, I saw a small herd of them in a factory farm feed lot in eastern Colorado -- might check your source if you want grass fed buffalo.....

  • Comment number 62.

    Walleye - Just investigate the passenger pigeon story, and who Native North Americans in the eastern US really were before smallpox... so you don't sound so ignorant. "evolved" LOL.

    Kirtland's Warbler? Yes I do. And since I obviously know a lot more about it than you do I am not losing any sleep over it.

    I know exactly where the bison we eat comes from. We see them alive, eating grass. Yum, yum.

  • Comment number 63.

    60. At 23:49pm 16th Apr 2011, bowmanthebard wrote:

    "So you're accusing someone of some sort of arithmetical mistake? An arithmetical mistake connected to thermodynamics? Or what?"

    No, I am saying that they are conveying little new information. The message is expected. You know the message that environmental issues are all made up. There are no disasters, all's right with the world -- anyone who says otherwise is either a dupe or a conman. You know the message from CR. Richard Black writes an article about some environmental issue and CR says its all based on fake data, or its nothing serious, or it was caused by environmentalists, eco-tourists, conservation biologists or all three in the first place.



  • Comment number 64.

    Walleye - I have recommended this book before here, for those who still believe the green fairy tales about 'pristine' North America.

    '1491' by Charles Mann.

    It explains the passenger pigeon story among many, many other things. Once you understand real history you will never see things the same again.

    Which reminds me. Kirtland's Warbler. It is specifically adapted to young post-fire jackpine forests.

    Guess why its habitat has shrunk (unitil recently when they started deliberately burnibng forests to create habitat).

    Guess why there was so much burned forests back in the 'pristine' era. If you were going to guess lightning, you are wrong.

  • Comment number 65.

    Nice try Walleye. I see myself as trying to provide balance to the Black doomsday message. And since that message involves a non-stop stream of cherry picked examples and hysterical exaggerations, I sometimes do use rhetoric and over-simplified examples that do take my arguments to equal extremes.

    As anyone and everyone should know, the truth is always in the middle.

  • Comment number 66.

    62. At 00:17am 17th Apr 2011, CanadianRockies wrote:

    I don't loose any sleep about imaginary conspiracies by NASA scientists or environmentalists.

  • Comment number 67.

    HungeryWalleye #63 wrote:

    "No, I am saying that they are conveying little new information."

    You're making almost exactly the same mistake here as with the "null hypothesis", namely, confusing a semantic and non-semantic sense of a single word.

    The word 'probability' can refer to relative frequency (usually a limiting value thereof) or "credibility". Example of first kind: "in the long run, one sixth of dice rolls are doubles". Example of second kind: "Gaddaffi will probably still be in power next week". Statistics only deals with the first sort of probability.

    Similarly, the word 'information' can refer to reliable co-variation (usually a statistical matter) or potential knowledge (i.e. information THAT something is the case -- this is the everyday sense of the word). Shannon's formalism only deals with the first sort of information, indeed he warned (in a foreword he entitled "The Bandwagon") of the dangers of over-extending this non-cognitive concept (i.e. it applies to things that are neither true nor false) with the everyday concept (which applies to things such as declarative sentences, beliefs etc. that are true).

    Please note that the confusion in both cases is between things that do not bear a truth-value with those that do.

  • Comment number 68.

    CanadianRockies #52 wrote:

    "I think they are starfish"

    Actually, I think they are barnacles after all.

  • Comment number 69.

    Thank you CandadianRockies
    I found the banana comparison quite funny some considerable time ago. I neither sheep, nor wolf or lemming. I am a hungry mouse-sized lioness hunting for information that I can digest at my diminutive scale. Honeypots are good for a cup of tea, a slice of cake and a bit of photographic scenery but they only offer temporary interest. Grockles are always herded away from the SSSI sites in case they trample all over what is being protected, as you well know CanadianRockies. The truth is hidden between two lies, like a burger bap with its disappointing contents.
    bowmanthebard
    We are all barnacles clinging on for life and grabbing what scraps we can. To wish to be a starfish, is to dream of greener grass on the other side.

  • Comment number 70.

    #69 'We are all barnacles clinging on for life and grabbing what scraps we can. To wish to be a starfish, is to dream of greener grass on the other side.'

    Hi Grannie,
    back from a long time away - bereavement.

    I am finding some solace in more etherial musics, and your words led my ITune finger to Cripple and the Starfish by Antony and the Johnsons. Incredible vibrato voice and sound studio work.
    To 'grow back like a starfish' is to replace the things we have lost. Life does not give us this option.
    'You are my Sister', again by Antony, 'Fix You' by Coldplay, 'Tender' by Blur, and, especially, 'I Would Give Everything I Own' by Bread.
    My Facebook images show my loss, and these musics define my state.
    Oh, to be a starfish.

    Meanwhile, we have a world to save.



  • Comment number 71.

    @ GeoffWard

    I'm sorry to hear of your bereavement, and I'm glad you're back.

    "History has proven again and again that whenever mankind interferes with a less developed civilization, no matter how well intentioned that interference may be, the results are invariably disastrous." 'Jean-Luc Picard'

    In case anyone thinks I'm an across-the-board optimist, I may as well say that I'm pessimistic about what extraterrestrials will do to us and our planet when they finally get hold of and decipher Carl Sagan's "golden record cover" on the Voyager spacecraft (which tell them where we live and what a bunch of cuddly pushovers we are).

    Ah well -- it probably won't happen for many generations to come.

    To paraphrase 'Jean-Luc', "Biology proves again and again that whenever one life form interacts with another life form, no matter how well intentioned that interaction may be, the results are invariably exploitation."

  • Comment number 72.

    #69 - grannie,

    Sorry... was just trying to cheer you up. Still think it is not wise to pay much attention to what the news says in the midst of things... the quality of reporting is too low, the tendency to hysteria and sensationalism is too high, are the facts are unknown.

    Just in case you are also worried about The Great Flood, looks like that scary story continues to fall apart:

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/04/17/doing-it-yourself-the-latest-global-sea-level-data-from-jason-shows-a-sharp-downtick-and-downtrend/

  • Comment number 73.

    #68. bowmanthebard

    Well some of them must be gigantic starfish shaped barnacles then. The wonders of convergent evolution, or something.

  • Comment number 74.

    Good grief! If anyone ever wondered why the EPA is not and should not be trusted to do anything, take a look at this testimony from one of their incompetent clones.

    With this admission that so called economic analysis by the EPA does NOT consider the impact on jobs, this video is going to be seen far and wide:

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/04/16/face-palm-epa-bureaucrat-tap-dances-during-testimony/

    Too bad the UK wasn't more democratic. A hearing or two like this and you wouldn't be trapped in your AGW economic suicide pact.

  • Comment number 75.

    GeoffWard
    I am so glad you are back and I also very sad for you. CanadianRockies, you never need to say sorry because I think I understand you well enough by now. Hey, we are a pretty good gang don't you think? By the way where is JaneBasingstoke?
    bowmanthebard
    Aliens?
    To paraphrase 'Jean-Luc', "Biology proves again and again that whenever one life form interacts with another life form, no matter how well intentioned that interaction may be, the results are invariably exploitation."

    I think that every time I hear about massive bonuses paid out to some, while redundancies are 'done' to others.
    I wonder why every wild creature on this planet, tries to run away or hide from us humans?

  • Comment number 76.

    Looks like I may have missed the boat on this blog!

    Anyway; Geoff Ward, the answer to your course (35yrs ago-date) a baseball bat!

    Politicians, like most people will not do/act on anything unless they are made responsible for their inactions. Scientists must find a way of presenting a projection/thesis that includes a section that states 'who' it was presented to. In other words, the gov of the day, the minister(s) involved so that future scientists/the public know who it was that 'played the fiddle while Rome burned'!

 

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