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Biodiversity: Losing which species?

By Dennis T. Avery 
web posted November 8, 2010 

The UN has held another Green Summit in Nagoya, Japan to save the wild species—again. The planet's temperatures have failed to increase for 12 years, and the public is losing interest in man-made global warming. So, back to the cuddly wild animals as the excuse for shutting down the modern world.

The UN's problem is that we aren't currently losing species, or very few. The current wildlife extinction rate is the lowest in 500 years—according to the UN Environmental Program's own World Atlas of Biodiversity.

The old wooden-ship explorers have already spread Norway rats, cats, and weed seeds all over the world. The extinctions on the little islands have mostly happened already. The last flightless Dodo bird was roasted in 1681. Ancient primitive hunters have already wiped out the wooly mammoths and the cave bears.

Modern Global Warming's predicted "million lost species" haven't been lost, or even endangered. Numerous studies have shown that, far from the birds and butterflies going extinct, they are expanding their ranges and adopting new food habits during the modest warming of the past century.

We've lost the Golden Toad of Costa Rica, which is sad. But the peer-reviewed studies don't blame global warming. R.O. Lawton of the University of Alabama-Huntsville found that the clearing of the forests below the Golden Toad's cloud-forest home had changed the hydrology of the cloud forest.

A more recent study used stable isotopes from the cloud forest's own trees to reconstruct a century of its dry-season moisture history. The greatest bio-stress comes during the El Niño's. Anchukaitas and Evans found the extinction of the golden toad "coincided with an exceptionally dry interval caused by the 1986–87 El Nino event."  They specifically state: "There is no evidence of a trend associated with global warming."

Worried about the polar bears?  Recent studies show that the polar bear population has increased from around 5,000 to 25,000 since 1970. Basically, it's the result of more responsible hunting. A new paper used paleoclimate records to model the Arctic's ice history over the past 10,000 years. The authors conclude that during the much-warmer centuries of the early Holocene (6000–8000 years ago) the Arctic probably was completely ice-free in some periods. The polar bear, as a species, goes back about 200,000 years. How did it weather the Holocene Warming?

What about the cute little pika, the smallest member of the rabbit family, which likes high-altitude rock-piles and harvests grass for winter fodder?  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently told us—to howls of rage from eco-activists—that "the best available scientific information indicates that pikas will be able to survive despite higher temperatures. Pikas will have enough suitable high-elevation habitat to prevent them from becoming threatened or endangered." 

Remember, too, one of the pikas' favorite territories is the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. John Christy recently found "there has been no change in summer nighttime temperatures in the adjacent Sierra Nevada Mountains. Summer daytime temperatures in the six-county area have actually cooled slightly since 1910." ESR

Dennis T. Avery, a senior fellow for the Hudson Institute in Washington, DC, is an environmental economist. He was formerly a senior analyst for the U.S. Department of State. He is co-author, with S. Fred Singer, of Unstoppable Global Warming Every 1,500 Years. Readers may write him at PO Box 202, Churchville, VA 24421. or email to cgfi@hughes.not.

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