Year 3, Month 1, Day 10: I, For One, Welcome Our New Blattarian Overlords

The Christian Science Monitor (which has never yet printed one of my letters, but a boy can dream, can’t he?) notes the work of a Dr. Mark Urban, who has some bad news for lovers of our Earthly flora and fauna:

As climate change progresses, the planet may lose more plant and animal species than predicted, a new modeling study suggests.

This is because current predictions overlook two important factors: the differences in how quickly species relocate and competition among species, according to the researchers, led by Mark Urban, an ecologist at the University of Connecticut.

Already evidence suggests that species have begun to migrate out of ranges made inhospitable by climate change and into newly hospitable territory.

“We have really sophisticated meteorological models for predicting climate change,” Urban said in a statement. “But in real life, animals move around, they compete, they parasitize each other and they eat each other. The majority of our predictions don’t include these important interactions.”

Ahhh, yes — but has he taken into consideration the effect of hybrid sharks?

Sent January 6:

It’s inevitable: the results of the University of Connecticut study will be used to reinforce the notion that since scientists’ work on planetary climate change is often affected by error, the problems of global warming have been rendered nugatory. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

As anyone who’s worked on a committee can confirm, consensus-driven documents are inherently more conservative than the views of the individual authors. Conversely, lone specialists or unidisciplinary teams may apply deep levels of insight to their research while neglecting contributing factors that lie outside their areas of expertise. Both problems are common in published work on climate change, and lend fuel to a “don’t worry, be happy” interpretation that fixates on the existence of errors without noting the simple fact that almost without exception, climate scientists have erred by being too timid. As Dr. Urban’s study confirms, the problem is worse than we thought.

Warren Senders

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