Fake news for a good cause is still a bad thing

October 1, 2017

Sometimes one is overwhelmed by the sheer tedium of ubiquitous irrationality, especially if you read about anything to do with the environment or climate change in the liberal press. The capture of the important pillars of liberal opinion – such as the Guardian and the Observer newspapers – by green ideologues means that one is constantly confronted not just by rigorously promoted untruths but untruths which could be fact checked by a just a few minutes of simple research.

What prompted me to write this was opening the Observer Review today and reading “Progress can cause profound suffering” a gushing review of John Akomfrah’s latest art work, Purple, which is an immersive, six-channel video installation that attempts to evoke the incremental effects of climate change on our planet. The whole article is littered with the usual climate untruths and wild exaggerations but what stood out, and what was deemed so important it was given an entire sub headline inside the body of the article, was this comment by John Akomfrah:

“When I stand on a street in Accra, I can feel that it is a city that is literally at boiling point. It is way hotter than it was in the 1960s or even the 1980s.”

 

The implication of this statement is clear, Accra’s increased heat is the result of climate change. So I did what any halfway decent journalist should have done which was check the validity of this statement, it took me about five minutes to get hold of some actual data about the climate record in Ghanna, something that was not done by Sean O’Hagan the writer of the article. I went to the Climate Change Knowledge Portal a very useful online collection of global statistics to do with climate change maintained by the World Bank, and I downloaded the monthly temperature record for Ghana from 1901 to 2015. I then then plotted the temperature record on a simple graph and came up with this graph. As you can there has been essentially zero change in Ghana’s average temperature since 1901.

What has changed in the city of Accra is its population, in 1960 the population was 491,817, in 2000 it was 2,905,726 (a five fold increase), and currently the Greater Accra Metropolitan Area (GAMA) has about 4 million inhabitants, which makes it the 11th largest metro area in Africa. When cities get bigger and more built up their temperature increases, this has nothing to do with climate change. It may be unfortunate if the city temperatures rises but urbanisation is an essential step along the path of economic development, and economic development is what actually improves peoples material well being. The fact that it is a bit hot and sweaty in the city seems a small price to pay for modernity and stuff like extended life expectancy, decreases in child mortality and improvements in nutrition.

Where are the corpses?

Another example of what might be termed ‘ Big Green Lies’ was the article entitled “Sixth mass extinction of wildlife also threatens global food supplies” that appeared in the Guardian on the 26th of September written by the green ideologue Damian Carrington (otherwise known as the Guardian’s Environment editor).

Leaving aside the simple fact that global food production has been increasing, and global human nutrition levels are vastly improved on the levels seen only two or three decades ago, this article once again repeated one of the most popular and widely believed Big Green Lies, which is that the earth is suffering some sort of mass extinction event. Again a simple fact check of this extraordinary claim would reveal that there is no extinction event underway. Any fact check should start with the simple question ‘Where are the corpses?’.

Mass extinctions have occurred in the earth’s geological record and are periods in Earth’s history when abnormally large numbers of species die out simultaneously or within a limited time frame. The most severe occurred at the end of the Permian period when 96% of all species perished, one of the Big Five mass extinctions, each of which wiped out at least half of all species.

There are currently approximately 8.7 million species on Earth (it is estimated that perhaps more than 80% of species are still undiscovered). If a mass extinction event were actually underway then one would expect to be able to find list of tens of thousands of species that were already extinct. There are no such lists. Even if one characterised a loss of just 5% of species as a mass extinction then at least 175,000 species would have gone extinct. Don’t you think someone might have noticed and that maybe there might be a list of the extinct species somewhere?

Claims that mass extinctions have been happening or are about to happen have been circulating for many years. The problem with these claims is that there are no real world examples of actual species actually going extinct in any significant numbers. Doom is always looming but never seems to arrive.

The vast bulk of extinctions that have actually happened in the last few centuries are of species that live in relatively small numbers in very restricted areas on islands. Almost all those extinctions were the result of the introduction of alien exotic species by early explorers and thus the rate of extinction has been declining since a peak period associated with the period of global exploration and empire building after 1500.

Since 1500 only 80 species of mammals have gone extinct. Of those 80 species 58 were island species. Even including the peak period during the age of global expansion the rates of extinction of mammals on the large continental land masses has been remarkable low. Of the 4,428 known mammal species (Red List 2004) living in Asia, Europe, Africa, North America, South America, and Antarctica, only three mammals have gone extinct in the last 500 years. These were the Bluebuck antelope, South Africa; the Algerian gazelle, Algeria; and the Omilteme cottontail rabbit, Mexico.

Since 1500 only 190 species of birds have gone extinct. Of the 190 extinct bird species, 123 of them were island extinctions. Of the 8,971 known continental bird species (Red List 2004), only 6 have gone extinct in the last 500 years.

Out of the hundreds of thousands of insect species only 58 are known to have gone extinct.

Of course its possible we may have missed a few extinctions, because the data was hard to gather or the species concerned not well known and hard to observe in the wild, but is it remotely plausible that we have somehow failed to document hundreds of thousands of actual extinctions? Especially given the desire of the very widespread and well resourced green movement to talk up this whole issue.

What can we conclude from this record of extinctions?

1) When European species met isolated local species, a number of the local species died out. The Australian and island species were extremely vulnerable to pressure from imported humans, mammals, birds, plants, and diseases. Most of the recorded bird and mammal extinctions are island or Australian species.

2) When the European species arrived, Australia and most islands had been separated from the other continents for forty million years or so. The initial introduction of European species into island habitats was a one-time event. While alien species will always be a problem for islands, this massive onslaught of the first coming of the European species will never be repeated — there are no places left with forty million years of isolation.

3) Total habitat destruction drove one bird to extinction. There is almost no evidence to support the claim that habitat destruction is a strong mechanism for driving extinctions.

4) While habitat reduction has been claimed as contributing (in an unknown degree) to three continental bird extinctions, to date no continental mammal or bird has been seen to go extinct due to habitat reduction alone.

It is also worth pointing out that during the last five hundred years we have seen the earth’s climate pass through the coldest period (The Little Ice Age) since the last ice age. No species are known to have been driven to extinction by that severe climate event. All the earth’s species survived and none were driven to extinction during the last ice age when temperatures changed by far more than the 4 degrees of warming that is being projected in absolutely worst case climate scenarios. This is particularly telling given that the overwhelming bulk of the earth’s species are tropical and thus would experience a greater threat from cooling than warming.

The warm interglacial before this one, before the last ice age, was significantly warmer than the current interglacial climate by several degrees for several thousand years. All the earth’s species currently alive today survived that warming episode which was warmer than the one projected in worst case climate scenarios.

There is ample evidence from the ice core studies that have reconstructed the recent climate past with a fine grain of detail that many big climate shifts, bigger than the one projected in worst case climate scenarios, have happened very quickly, sometimes in periods of just decades. The Younger Dryas period of rapid cooling, which led to a very cool period between approximately 12,800 and 11,500 years ago, is one such rapid climate shift as are the numerous Heinrich events during the last ice age. All the species alive today survived those big and rapid climate shifts.

There is absolutely no evidence that previous big and rapid shifts in climate have driven species to extinction in the past or that it will in the future.

Fake news for a good cause is still a bad thing

The liberal media, including the Guardian, loves to berate right wing spreaders of fake news but itself has been actively spreading fake news about environmental issues for many years. A progressive press dedicated to printing the truth based on facts (even idealogically inconvenient facts) is very important and making stuff up, even if done for what is believed to be a good cause, is very dangerous.

Ilse October 1, 2017

How come our windscreens are largely insect-corpse free nowadays? Where have all those insects gone that used to require frequent windscreen cleaning back in the day?

Tony October 1, 2017

I don’t know but its not because the insects have gone extinct

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