Alexander the Great Explains The Drop In Extinctions

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

In a recent post here on WattsUpWithThat called The Thirteen Worst Graphs In The World, Geoff Chambers explores the graphs in a new book called “10 Billion”, by Stephen Emmott. The book appears to be Emmott’s first entry in the “Future Failed Serial Doomcaster” competition. I thought I’d take a look at one graph, the graph of extinctions. I know a bit about this subject, with both a detailed blog post called “Where Are The Corpses” and a journal article co-authored with Dr. Craig Loehle on the subject. Figure 1 shows Emmott’s graph in all its primordial glory.

species extinction per lunacyFigure 1. Unlucky number 13 of the “13 Worst Graphs” of Stephen Emmott. SOURCE  The citation says “13. Adapted from S. Pimm and P. Raven, Biodiversity: Extinction by numbers, Nature, 403 (2000); A. barnosky [sic] et al. Has the Earth’s sixth mass extinction already arrived?, Nature, 471 (2011).  

I’ve located non-paywalled copies of the Pimm and Barnosky papers. I’m sure the alert reader can see a few problems with Figure 1 at first glance, including chartsmanship of the highest order. The things that caught my eye were the use of the logarithmic vertical scale; the lack of units on the vertical scale; the short level section followed by the abrupt jump around 53,000 years BC; the huge increase at the end; and oh, yeah, see the little hash marks ” // ” along the bottom time scale to the right of -50,0000?

As is my practice, I digitized this. Took about five minutes, because on a simple uncluttered graph you can use the automated features of the digitizing software. But before I discuss that, let me make some general comments.

Now, you recall I pointed out the hash marks in the time scale in Figure 1? Usually, that just means they’ve left out a chunk of years, it’s a common and legitimate technique used to show two separate time periods on the same graph. But they usually don’t splice the graph lines for the two periods together as he has done.

In addition, in this case the hash marks don’t mean just that. In this case, it also signifies a change in the time scale itself. So on the left side of the hash marks, the graph shows a span of about ten thousand years. On the right side of the hash marks, on the other hand, it shows a span of only about two hundred and fifteen years(1835-2050). Bizarre. The consequences of this are displayed and discussed later.

Next, regarding units, the extinction rates are usually given in units of extinctions per million species per year, or E/MSY. This makes comparisons awkward because we don’t know how many species there are. We can reduce the inexactness somewhat by noting that the Red List shows 207 extinctions of birds and mammals over the last 500 years. And in total, they list 15,565 species of birds and mammals. That gives us a raw rate of about 25 extinctions per million species per year (E/MSY). And that’s roughly the number that they give for the recent part of the data. So it seems that they are using the standard units, E/MSY.

The problem, as always, is in the interpretation of the data. As usual, humans are to blame, and I say that in all seriousness … just not the way the alarmists claim. For example, I’ve shown that the coral atoll damage ascribed to rising sea levels from human CO2 is actually due to human interference with the reef. Humans were the cause, but not from CO2.

And I’ve shown that the damage ascribed to human-caused warming in the Alaskan “climate refugee” village of Shishmaref is actually a combination of poor site selection (it’s on a barrier island), erosion due to poorly designed shoreline reinforcements, and human-habitation-and-road caused permafrost melting. Again humans are the cause … and again, from something other than CO2.

In the case of extinctions, once again humans are indeed the cause … but again, not through the mechanism they claim, that of habitat reduction. Instead, humans have caused widespread extinctions through the introduction of “alien predators” into new areas which had never before seen them. These alien predators were and are a wide variety of species, humans among them. The list includes dogs, cats, rats, rabbits, foxes, mongoose, gray squirrels, brown tree snakes, and a host of other species including funguses and diseases. Heck, in a wonderfully strange case of environmental recursion, it turns out that for a while the lovely Central American frogs were being helped to extinction by the fungus unknowingly spread by the very biologists studying their extinction … introduced predators.

And those introduced predators have wreaked untold damage, including but not limited to both species extinctions and local extirpations of the native species in Australia and the islands around the planet. The changes are not limited to the extinctions because, for example, when you introduce foxes to an Arctic island, the entire ecosystem changes, all the way down to the very plants covering the landscape.

But there’s an oddity in that kind of extinctions, those caused by introduced alien predators. It is reported, perhaps apocryphally, that when Alexander the Great saw the extent of his domain he wept because there were no new worlds left to conquer. And the same is true regarding extinctions from introduced predators. Most of those extinctions occurred in several waves. First there were early extinctions in the Caribbean in the 1500s. Then extinctions rose again during the first wave of expansion and exploration in the 1700s, and then again during the age of empires after 1850. Since peaking at the start of the 20th century, they’ve generally declined. Here’s the data from my earlier post .

extinctions_birds_mammals_historicalFigure 2. Bird and mammal extinctions. Note that the units (extinctions per year) are different from the units in Figure 1 (E/MSY). ORIGINAL CAPTION: Stacked graph of the historical extinction rates for birds (grey) and mammals (black). 17 year Gaussian average of the data from Red List (birds) and CREO (mammals). Note the peak rate of 1.6 bird and mammal extinctions per year, and the most recent rate of 0.2 extinctions per year.

But in 2013, as with Alexander, there are few new worlds left for alien predators to conquer—there’s not much of the planet that hasn’t already seen invasive alien predators of many kinds. There’s no Terra Incognita that hasn’t been visited by the European or other explorers. And as a result, the worst of the extinctions from introduced predators are behind us.

Now, if we leave out the extinctions by introduced predators, then out of the 207 bird and mammal extinctions there are only 9 extinctions in 500 years, three mammals and six birds. This means that other than extinctions from introduced predators the extinction rate is only 1.2 extinctions per MSY … very low.

So with that in mind, here is the underlying data from Emmott’s graph in the normal form, showing both the early and late data.

ice age modern and future extinctions per emmottFigure 3. Emmott’s data from his 13th graph, in the normal form, but still with a logarithmic scale.

Pretty hilarious, huh? When the Emmott data is put into its normal form we see the lunacy of the graph that he has spliced together and present. There is some data from 60,000 to 50,000 BC, then a huge gap in the middle followed by a few more years of data at the end. In order to understand it, let me divide it into the ice age record, and the modern and predicted record, and show each one separately.

ice age extinctions per emmottFigure 3. Ice age extinctions, from 60,000 BCE to 49,500 BCE. This shows the normal presentation without the logarithmic scale

Now that, I have to call hokey. It has a huge jump between 53000 and 52000 years BCE, and while I imagine that it is supposed to reflect the so-called “Late Quaternary Extinctions” of the megafauna, I’ve never seen it represented like that. Nor do I have any idea why it would jump up and not come back down again … and I can’t find any such jump in the two works he cites, Pimm and Barnosky.

Moving on to the modern era and the future, here’s that chart. Since I don’t know what extinctions he’s talking about, I fear I can’t give the proper background of extinct animals. In Figure 4, you can see that the man is truly barking mad:

modern and future Extinctions per emmottFigure 4. Modern and future extinctions, as Emmott would have us believe. Note what happens when we use the normal scale instead of the logarithmic scale.

Here’s the looney part. From 1835 up until the present (2013), the extinction rate is claimed to increase slowly from 16 E/MSY at the start to 28 E/MSY in 2013. Over the next 30 years, to 2043, this slow increase is supposed to continue at the same rate, with the 2043 value estimated at 37 extinctions per million species per year. Then, in seven short years, by 2050 it’s supposed to increase more than a hundred fold, to 4,600 in 2050. Does he really believe this pseudoscience?

First off, there’s no indication that the extinction rate has been rising steadily since 1835 as he claims. Compare his claims in Figure 1, to Figure 2 for what the data actually shows about the historical waxing and waning of extinctions over the years.

More to the point, my goodness, what’s supposed to happen in 2043 to drive extinction rates up by a factor of more than a hundred, two full orders of magnitude, up from 37 extinctions to 4,600 extinctions per MSY? A nuclear winter? A meteor strike? Runaway gene-spliced chimeras? The world wonders …

Finally, some of these numbers are supposed to be “after” Barnosky et al. That paper says:

The maximum observed rates since a thousand years ago (E/MSY ≈ 24 in 1,000-year bins to E/MSY ≈ 693 in 1-year bins) are clearly far above the average fossil rate (about E/MSY ≈ 1.8), and even above those of the widely recognized late-Pleistocene megafaunal diversity crash.

However, recall from above that other than extinctions from introduced species, which will never again reach the high values of the past, the current rate of extinctions is only about 1.2 extinctions per million species years … not different from the fossil extinction rates.

So in summary, Emmott took three different datasets. One was a bogus dataset regarding the middle of the last ice age. The second was a bogus estimate of modern extinction rates. The third was a colossally ridiculous estimate of the future changes in extinction rates. He spliced them all together and voila! The famous extinction hockeystick is born, the 13th unlucky bastard step-child of one Stephen Emmott.

Sometimes, these guys are beyond parody.

w.

Spreadsheet containing the digitized data and graphs is here.

PS—Yes, I know there are many other factors to consider in figuring historical extinction rates, it’s in the journal article. These are rough, raw, “order-of-magnitude” estimates. However, when everything is considered, the modern extinction rates (absent introduced predators) is not statistically any different from the historical rates. In other words …

The claimed “Sixth Wave of Extinctions” is a total fabrication.

Extinction rates are little changed from fossil rates, except for the historical wave of introduced predator extinctions, which are now safely in the past since there are no more empires left for Alexander the Alien Predator to conquer.

PPS—There’s a good discussion of the Emmott graphs over at Donna Laframboise’s excellent blog NoFrakkingConsensus. Geoff Chambers has much more information on Emmott at his blog. And at ClimateResistance there’s a very readable fisking of the individual claims.

PPPS—For an example of the “Sixth Wave of Extinctions” pseudoscience coming from a major environmental NGO, see the WWF … sad.

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107 thoughts on “Alexander the Great Explains The Drop In Extinctions

  1. Willis,
    Always entertaining. BUT his drivel was not worthy of your attention, even to dis it. But thanks.

  2. Thinking about this last night… I reckon he is predicting nuclear war over scarcity of resources sometime in the 2040s.

    It is pure science fiction, of course, but that might explain the vertical line.

    Not having read the book I can’t tell if the graphs are all inter-dependent. But research did so well out of the Cold War it makes sense to try and grab that fruit as the remaining AGW branches get higher.

    It doesn’t excuse the dodgy graphs though.

  3. “On the right side of the hash marks, on the other hand, it shows a span of only about a hundred and fifteen years(1835-2050)”.

    G’day Willis,

    Please pardon my pedantic pontification; 1835 to 2050 = 215 yrs.

    Cheers,

    Dave Sivyer
    PS: I enjoy your reminiscences of the SWPA.

    [Thanks, Dave, fixed, not pedantic at all. -w.]

  4. I know a good watchdog researcher who can probably sort out this mess: “Watching the Deniers” who recently uncovered a devious activity that Anthony has been doing to hide error bars on sea ice images on a NSDIC web server. Give him a ping at http://watchingthedeniers.wordpress.com/2013/07/08/anthony-watts-dishonest-misrepresentation-of-sea-ice-graphs-no-surprise-there/

    /sarc

    Willis – is anyone in the pro-alarmist camp even the tiniest bit honest? It seems not.

  5. Yeah, biologist Edward Wilson is one of those claiming ad infinitum that on continents and larger land masses, extinction rates continue at a very high or even accelerating rate, even though he can’t produce hard numbers. He assumes, like many others, the species -area relationship of extinctions on islands and then applies these to continents. But he should know better, species naiveté is the key element of extinction rates on islands, that is, native species on isolated islands are generally totally unadapted to introduced predators and competition, whereas on continents they generally are already adapted, except in the case of early human and pest arrivals, as you point out. I find it amazing that many biologists can’t see this, it’s all over their research and fieldwork, they just don’t want to see it.

    I have come across a much better gauge of species vulnerability and extinction rates when working within the context of general land use policy, that of the ecosystem irreplaceability index. Instead of focussing on individual species, the relative proportion of a particular ecosystem type is surveyed across a given region, to give an index of those groups of species who rely on such ecosystem habitats to survive. The outcome is somewhat more accurate and much better for policy making. That is, if one particular species can live in 5 different types of ecosystem habitats, it becomes more resilient than a species which can only live in 1. Also, if a particular ecosystem habitat is not well represented in the landscape, those species within it become more vulnerable. Ecosystems which have become less than say, 15% of their former range might then be given a higher protection weighting in land tenure policy decisions. Moreover some whole ecosystems themselves are more resilient, just like some species, they tend to be far more resilient to natural disasters such as bush fires and pests.

    The method still uses an indirect measure of species-area weighting, but differs in that it incorporates the vastly different vulnerabilities and adaptabilities between different species, and even between groups of interdependent species.

  6. Many thanks Willis. Alex relied heavily on your work for his previous look at Emmott on extinctions at

    http://geoffchambers.wordpress.com/2013/01/25/extinction-guest-post-by-alex-cull/

    We’re not experts, but we like to think we can read and understand the average scientific paper. What we don’t understand is how someone who makes mathematical models of the human brain for a living, and has now produced a mathematical model of the entire planet, can produce this kind of stuff. See

    http://geoffchambers.wordpress.com/2013/02/24/cuckoo-in-the-nesta/

    Emmott is also the inventor of the web-browsing microwave, the financial cufflink, and the intelligent trash can. See

    http://geoffchambers.wordpress.com/2013/07/06/young-emmott-foxgoose-gives-chase/

    Perhaps one thng explains the other.

  7. Willis,
    Invasive species being eradicated

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-23143430

    Coypu in East Anglia which did a lot of damage to drainage systems:-
    “That MAFF as it was then (which has now been superseded by DEFRA) were successful in eradicating East Anglia of Coypu in December 1989. There have been no confirmed reports of Coypu in the Wild since that time”.

    Then we get truly ecomentalist actions like this:-

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/147710.stm

    Not that it’s a good idea to introduce anything, even herbivores cause problems. These little blighters cost me a lot of money when we lived in the UK and they got into the roof and started chewing things like joists, pipes and cables.

    http://www.wildlifetrusts.org/species/grey-squirrel

  8. Just a couple of points. Suppose Mr Emmott had started his graph 10M years earlier. What happened in 65M years BC? What sort of a cliff or spike would it have looked like? Quite a few dinosaurs went west in a very short time, just leaving us with the birds.

    Consider what happens when mankind actually tries to kill off a species. It has taken anywhere from 10 to 100 years (depending on where you start counting) to kill off just one species – smallpox. And after 50 or 60 years of trying we still haven’t managed to kill off the Anopheles mosquito (unfortunately thanks to Rachel Carson!).

    Oh, and perhaps you could remind us which are the 3 extinct mammals you refer to. I can think of the marsupial lion, the diprotodon, the sabre toothed tiger, the woolly rhinoceros, the Columbian (Imperial ?) elephant, the mastodon, the mammoth, the megalania (sorry, that was a lizard), the giant (3 metre tall) short-faced kangaroo, the Tasmanian tiger. This is eight extinct mammalian species, all gone in probably the last 100 000 years, likely in the last 10 000 years and I doubt that any of these – except perhaps the Tasmanian tiger, was due to an introduced species. For birds, the Dodo, the Passenger Pigeon, the Great Auk?, the Moa – there must be some others.

    Actually I have a suspicion that Mr Emmott’s graph should have had the vertical axis labelled “Extinction number” rather than “Extinction rate”.

    You may like to have a look at http://www.convictcreations.com/aborigines/megafauna.html . What gets the blame? You’ve guessed it!

  9. Well, I guess they are determined to have their hockey stick, one way or the other. Oh, yes, and we’re all doomed… er… one way or the other. My goodness, do we ever run out of sins?

  10. As Professor O.E. Wilson said:

    “”Let us conservatively estimate that 5 million species of organisms are confined to the tropical rain forests, a figure well justified by the recent upward adjustment of insect diversity alone. The annual rate of reduction would be 0.5 x 5 x 10^6 x 0.007 species, or 17,500 species per year. Given 10 million species in the fauna and flora of all the habitats of the world, the loss is roughly one out of every thousand species per year. How does this compare with extinction rates prior to human intervention? The estimates of extinction rates in Paleozoic and Mesozoic marine faunas cited earlier (Raup, 1981, 1984; Raup and Sepkoski, 1984; Van Valen, 1973) ranged according to taxonomic group (e.g., echinoderms versus cephalopods) from one out of every million to one out of every 10 million per year. Let us assume that on the order of 10 million species existed then, in view of the evidence that diversity has not fluctuated through most of the Phanerozoic time by a factor of more than three (Raup and Sepkoski, 1984). If follows that both the per-species rate and absolute loss in number of species due to the current destruction of rain forests (setting aside for the moment extinction due to the disturbance of other habitats) would be about 1,000 to 10,000 times that before human intervention.”””

    If the godfather of biodiversity can get away with that, then what’s the big deal with a bit of grapht?

  11. The jump in extinctions from 2043 to 2050 AD is the result of SkyNet’s initial nuclear attacks, followed up by a six year effort to eliminate all the edible species human resistance fighters might use as food. Although humans created Skynet, trying to claim that we’re responsible for all of SkyNet’s methods to eliminate us is a stretch. Also, the whole thing is bonkers.

    My prediction would be that we have an explosion of new species, already ongoing, resulting from plants and animals adapting to urban settings. Many of these adaptations might select for the new varieties of color in their environment (requiring different camouflage), unique food sources, opportunities for shelter (year round warm spots, dry spots, and water sources), and drastically altered behaviors (eat the French fries, nest under eaves, hunt near the street lights, and stay out of traffic).

    Elements of the urban environment may be so different from the surrounding rural environment that in many cases each city or metropolis may act somewhat like an island, harboring species that are cut off from the rest of their population. For example, a water loving animal released in Phoenix is going to have trouble making it across the desert to reach other cities, and a non-migratory species that isn’t adapted to harsh winters, yet takes shelter in the warm houses in Minneapolis or Toronto, is likewise stuck there.

    Eventually they will specialize and speciate, perhaps producing a different range of new species in every city. This may happen much faster than scientific recognition that common, widespread, everyday pests, pets, and globe-trotting hitchhikers have become new and unique species in many cities where they became established. It’s just a question of time, because we’ve already created drastically altered environments filled with new niches, geographically separated from each other.

  12. And… I expect we can “thank” rats for getting rid of many of those more recent species. We were only the vector. See the latest:

    “””Zoologist leads world’s largest rat extermination to save biodiversity of Antarctic island””

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/zoologist-leads-worlds-largest-rat-extermination-to-save-biodiversity-of-antarctic-island/article13049551/#dashboard/follows/

    The “Antarctic Island” is in fact not an Antarctic Island but South Georgia Island (of Falklands War fame).

  13. Willis,

    How many of WWF’s dire predictions have you seen come off?

    Stands for Waiting for the Wheels to Fall off – IMO

  14. Somewhat o/t but related …

    What I find so mind-boggling about Emmott’s emissions™ is that (at least as far as I know) not one of the “Big Names” from Team Climatology (and/or dedicated supporters thereof) has seen fit to denounce Emmott’s fictions and confabulations for what they are – or those of inter alia Mann, Gleick, Gergis, Lewandowsky and Cook, come to think of it.

    If I were on their side of the great divide, I’d be hollering hither and yon saying, “With friends like this, we don’t need enemies”. But, as you know, I’m not … So, to my virtual ears their silence is utterly deafening!

    Do they really think he’s helping their “cause”?

    Or is it simply the case that their climate-change-communication-conundrum™ is, well, so much worse than they thought that they will gladly accept help (regardless of how mediocre it might be) wherever they can find it?!

    And, if I might be permitted a further o/t observation …

    I cannot imagine what Penguin might have been thinking when they decided to take on Emmott’s “hamuscript”. But then again, perhaps Penguin has been motivated by anticipation – and a desperation that equals that of Team Climatology – that they are, well, in imminent danger of … uh … extinction as a trusted and traditional source of published information.

  15. I find it quite ridiculous that he doesn’t attribute a considerable jump in extinctions to such global events like .. let’s say .. the most recent ice age that considerably disrupted ecosystems, required mass migration and vastly reduced accessible living space for about every non-tropical species on the planet.

  16. I once wondered why hardcore alarmists so tend to be dishonest, but then I realized there is a selection effect. A casual can be mistaken out of mere ignorance, but, by the time someone spends enough time on a subject to be heavily involved in publications on it, they usually know better and face the great litmus test of either (1) staying honest and hence becoming a non-PC skeptic, (2) getting quiet, or (3) not minding alarmist dishonesty practically at all and joining it.

  17. Thank You, Willis.
    I don’t think, the author of the book meant “The Thirteen Worst Graphs In The World” like You showed it to us! What about the other graphs, are they as bad as this one? Is the hockey-stick included as well?

  18. Stephen Emmott’s basic degree is in “Experimental Psychology”.
    His research interests according to Wiki are: “better understanding nature, from biochemistry to the brain to the biosphere, and in the development of a new framework –new ways of thinking, a new language, new kinds of computational methods, models and tools — for forming the foundations of a ‘new kind’ of natural science: a precise, predictive science of complex living systems integrating new theory, models and data”.
    It all sounds so esoteric and scholarly until you look at his graphs and that ‘new kind’ of natural science is a bit of a worry.

  19. My apologies for repeating an earlier post on WUWT, but it is relevant to Willis’ extinctions story:
    “Remember the infamous prediction in 1988 by E. O. Wilson that the number of bird and animal species on the planet would half by 2013, well as usual it has failed to eventuate. But it did succeed in gaining Wilson his 5-minutes of fame.
    Now for my own experience of dealing with the religious Greenfools
    A couple of years ago our local school hosted a presentation by a couple of 17-year old senior school students on “Global Warming and the New Wave of Extinctions”. As it was a cold, wet night with nothing on TV I went along. Amazingly, about 100 people attended.
    The students rolled out every cliche and bad climate catastrophe statistic ever heard of and correlated cause and effect between totally unrelated facts, statistics, etc. The audience was appreciative and wept uncontrollably when told that 10,000 species had been ‘extincted’ (sic) by the 1 degree Centigrade increase already experienced. “We are doomed!” they wailed and the audience gnashed their teeth.
    During question time I asked:
    1. Can you name two species declared extinct in the past 2-years? and
    2. How many new species are being created each year, as opposed to being found?
    One gentleman near the front cried ‘Shame!” and people started stamping their feet. The Moderator, a city councillor said “I think we can ignore that. Next question?”
    Yes, we are doomed, but not for the reasons they think … but because a new Dark Age of Unreason and Ignorance is upon us”
    The next extinction needs to be the whole Department of Climate Change in Australia.”

  20. Willis, quite probably you’ve read this book, but I just mention it as background, and for others who might be interested: ‘Guns, Germs and Steel’, by Jared Diamond. I think it’s the best account of the last 13,000 years of human history (since the last Ice Age), and nothing flattering.

  21. @- Kaboom
    “I find it quite ridiculous that he doesn’t attribute a considerable jump in extinctions to such global events like .. let’s say .. the most recent ice age that considerably disrupted ecosystems, required mass migration and vastly reduced accessible living space for about every non-tropical species on the planet.”

    It may be less ridiculous than you think.
    Most of the megafauna that went extinct during the Holocene after the end of the last ice-age {mammoths, aurochs etc} had survived through several other glacial cycles. The one big difference this time was massively increased hunting and competition for territory from the expanding numbers of a mammal that had recently developed a new form of social cooperation which was highly successful and leading to a population explosion.

    I think it is premature as well to assume that all extinctions due to the introduction of alien predators across continental regions has reach an end because all possible harmful introductions have already happened. It is not just predators that can disrupt a species to the point of extinction. A plant that is more efficient in a niche from one continent might eliminate a plant occupying the same niche on another continent which did not gain the same advantages in it evolution.
    Or a plant or animal controlled by predators in one ecology can expand to the point of eradicating others because it lacks the predator controls in a new ecology.

    Then there is the removal of top predators by man, most notably in the oceans which is simplifying the food chain down to plankton and jellyfish.

  22. Emmott is obviously one of those narrow thinking ‘experts’ anxious to join the many ‘Great’ scientists that have tried to scare the world with their ridiculous predictions over recent years.. You know; 50,000 dead through Bird Flue; The end of humanity through Mad Cow Disease; Aids to devastate the hetrosexual world as well as homosexuals; Arctic ice melt to raise the sea level by X metres: Polar bears doomed; etc. etc.
    If it wasn’t for the fact that gullible, modern day governments, listen to these people who do not have a lateral thought in their heads, and take unbelievably ridiculous actions, like those taken by the British government which has resulted, amongst other things, in bringing our energy supply into crisis, we could treat them all as mad professors whose stupid prognostications should be ignored completely.

  23. I like to listen to the old hometown talk guy up in Illinois (vying with California to become the first state to go extinct) on IHeart radio. During commercial breaks they play (over and over) a p.s. spot featuring Jeff Corwin, whom I assume is a Marlin Perkins type, talking about how he almost got extincted by an elephant, and also about what bad shape things are in now. He expounds on how we have one species go extinct every 20 minutes, which should run about 27 kilospecies per year. With that many going, I’d really like to ask him to name one that went extinct this year. Or this century, for that matter. Without going to the Red List, I can think of only a couple that snuffed it last century – Golden toad, ivory billed woodpecker (maybe).

    It’s disconcerting to have to pin all our hopes on wind-turbinated whooping cranes.

  24. Dudley Horscroft says:
    July 8, 2013 at 12:26 am

    Consider what happens when mankind actually tries to kill off a species. It has taken anywhere from 10 to 100 years (depending on where you start counting) to kill off just one species – smallpox.

    But surely, this has infringed the human rights of the smallpox virus.
    /sarc

  25. Hilary (July 8, 2013 at 1:28 am)
    Your comments aren’t off-topic at all. They take the discussion forward from the point that Willis has brought it to with his magnificent demolition job.

    There’s no point in correcting a lot of false information unless you go on to ask the questions you raise: “What were they thinking of?” (“They” being Penguin/Vintage Books, but also top publishing firms in Germany, Holland and Italy, the Royal Court Theatre, the European Union, which financed Emmott’s show at the Royal Court, Microsoft, etc).

    We know that Mann, Marcott, Lewandowsky and co are practially impervious to criticism behind their peer-reviewed, tenured fortifications. Publishers, newspaper editors, and book reviewers are a bit different. John Gray, who passes for an eminent thinker, has given Emmott a favourable review in the Guardian. No doubt other serious papers have handed out “Ten Billion” for review to other eminent professors. If these professors google “Ten Billion” they’ll find articles by Donna Laframboise, Jo Nova, Willis, Alex Cull and me. It might just make them think. And it might just stir things up a bit in the offices of Penguin / Vintage
    .
    Penguin must have quite juicy contracts with Suhrkamp/Insel and Feltrinelli, who were planning to bring out German and Italian translations simultaneously with the British/American publication, which was originally scheduled for September. Two of Europe’s biggest publishing houses might be seriously unhappy to learn what a pile of unsavoury lasagna they’ve been landed with. I think a visit to their websites is in order.

  26. Jeff Norman says quoting E O Wilson:

    “It follows that both the per-species rate and absolute loss in number of species due to the current destruction of rain forests (setting aside for the moment extinction due to the disturbance of other habitats) would be about 1,000 to 10,000 times that before human intervention.”””

    It’s a pity Mr Wilson hasn’t done much study in palaeoclimates and rainforest distribution. He simply assumes the rainforests are always there. During ice ages, it is estimated that the Amazon rainforest for example, was less than half its present size, under a climate about 6 C degrees cooler. This would mean most of the species there now should have gone extinct, based on his above calculations of species -area relationships. Same goes for other rainforests during the ice ages over the last several million years. So how come there are so many species still in these rainforests??? Did they re-evolve in the last ~13,000 years when the world warmed up again, and the Amazon expanded?.

    Even if he is right that humans are eradicating species in rainforests at a high rate due to rainforest destruction (which destruction rate is actually quite low), nature would have done a much worse job during the ice ages, based on the very same species-area assumptions.

  27. Suhrkamp (and it’s subsidiary Insel) is on the brink of financial collapse after internal strife and the departure of leading luminaries on their publishing roster. They will take anything that looks like it is bringing some black ink to the ledger.

    Feltrinelli has been founded by Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, a former communist who had also founded an extremist group called GAP that liked to bomb electric transmission towers. He has been found dead at the foot of one in 1972. Don’t expect these guys to publish Ayn Rand anytime soon.

  28. Sometimes, these guys are beyond parody.

    Unfortunately this will not prevent all the usual suspects from seizing on it as Gospel truth, and frantically waving it as further evidence that we are a really Bad Bad Bad species that should revert to cave dwelling.

  29. The thing is, when I was a kid I used to believe fear-mongering graphs like these, I believed them completely. When you don’t know any better you assume the data is correct and that they did real science, you assume that they are experts and the resulting graphs are accurate. But later you grow up and realize that these graphs are created and sold to the public just to make a buck. And people still believe them completely, just like I used to.

  30. I suspect that the Craig must have started with a base assumption that there are no species in the world today that were not around 60,000 years ago. Then he uses available estimates to calculate the cumulative total of how many species went extinct before man could be blamed for all extinctions. Then he estimates the total number of species that went extinct at the dawn of careful biological record keeping, tracks that, and then predicts the ultimate collapse of all species in the world. I mean, uses the best available data to extrapolate future trends. Thus what he shows is some sort of cumulative distribution with best guesses for the interim.

  31. Not 2042 and not 2044. Nope, 2043 is when it all kicks off.
    The only explanation is that Emmott is actually an astronomy who has detected a planet killing meteorite on its way and he is trying to place a few ‘win but never collect’ bets.

  32. The extinction rate graph is fun because I doubt we have a good idea of the extinction rate while we were in the middle of the last glaciation. From my reading, it appears that these predictions or claims of extinctions usually come form computer models and one, in particular, was a program for predicting species list probabilities as the survey area is reduced; they took this programs and tortured it by running it backwards and sideways, concluding huge extinction rates.

    Real world observations have shown that, as the climate warms, extinction rates decrease as cool kills by preventing plant growth, while warmth is a good time for everybody. In the Swiss Alps, the observation was that, as the climate warmed, plants and animal species moved to higher altitudes but also did not abandon where they had been. The result was an increase in biodiversity with more species in a larger area and a lower risk of extinction for all species. It’s a win-win for life.

    The graph is total garbage in relation to the real world. It’s purely speculation, day-dreaming, opinion, and alarmism.

  33. I did a bit of sleuthing awhile back and found that, in effect 6 mammal and bird species had gone extinct in the last 100 years, mostly to overhunting and none to habitat loss; island species are particularly in danger of extinction. BUT, in the meantime we have found 15 species that we thought were extinct, so we are up 9 species. In other words, their claims of high extinction rates happening today are really hard to take seriously.

  34. I still have my copy of The Limits to Growth. Back in 1972, our impending doom was foretold by exponential curves. Modern soothsayers seem to prefer hockey sticks.

  35. izen says:
    July 8, 2013 at 3:03 am

    It may be less ridiculous than you think.
    Most of the megafauna that went extinct during the Holocene after the end of the last ice-age {mammoths, aurochs etc} had survived through several other glacial cycles. The one big difference this time…

    Really? The one. I think that is most unlikely.

  36. Mike McMillan says: July 8, 2013 at 3:19 am
    … featuring Jeff Corwin, whom I assume is a Marlin Perkins type,

    Who, who, who.
    Must have been late at night, begging forgiveness from the gods of grammar, blame it on George Bush, global warming, locusts, the ‘m’ is really close to the space bar.

  37. dp says: @ July 7, 2013 at 11:43 pm
    ….. is anyone in the pro-alarmist camp even the tiniest bit honest? It seems not.

    Once you’ve decided that the “saving the planet” justies any and all means necessary pretty much all bets are off.

  38. Klem says:

    “The thing is, when I was a kid I used to believe fear-mongering graphs like these, I believed them completely. When you don’t know any better you assume the data is correct and that they did real science, you assume that they are experts and the resulting graphs are accurate”

    Yeah I remember getting a book out of the library which showed giant ships towing icebergs from Alaska and Antarctica to supply fresh water to San Francisco and Australia, 3rd world war over dwindling oil and water supplies, glaciers advancing towards New York city again…you get the drift. Wish I still had it, I forget the name of it.

  39. Pimm & Raven 2000 forecasts an acceleration in extinction due to habitat loss from human activities:

    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v403/n6772/full/403843a0.html

    They focus especially on endangered forests, which of course benefit from more atmospheric CO2. One way to save forests both directly (from cutting for firewood) & indirectly (from fertilizing the air with plant food) is to use more fossil fuels.

    The graph is truly egregiously bad. I suppose the little bump up c. 53 kya is meant to reflect human occupation of Australia, but don’t know. The graph skips over the biggest Pleistocene & Holocene extinction pulses, those at the end of the last glaciation, as of the megafauna on many continents (although dwarf woolly mammoths survived on Wrangel Island until ~2000 BC), & then again during human expansion onto oceanic islands amid global population increase.

    Past human-induced extinction has resulted from introduced species, emphasized by Willis, & by habitat losses Pimm & Raven cite, plus hunting, disease & natural, ie non-human, causes (not that we’re unnatural), & combinations thereof. Hard rationally to blame man-made CO2.

  40. Henry Clark says:
    July 8, 2013 at 2:01 am
    “I once wondered why hardcore alarmists so tend to be dishonest, but then I realized there is a selection effect. A casual can be mistaken out of mere ignorance, but, by the time someone spends enough time on a subject to be heavily involved in publications on it, they usually know better and face the great litmus test of either (1) staying honest and hence becoming a non-PC skeptic, (2) getting quiet, or (3) not minding alarmist dishonesty practically at all and joining it.”

    That’s a very good explanation. Can we call it “Schneider’s Razor”?
    I occasionally talk to one or the other alarmist and it always feels like falling into an intellectual sinkhole. Schneider’s Razor could be the explanation.

  41. geoffchambers says:
    July 8, 2013 at 3:47 am
    “Hilary (July 8, 2013 at 1:28 am)
    Your comments aren’t off-topic at all. They take the discussion forward from the point that Willis has brought it to with his magnificent demolition job.

    There’s no point in correcting a lot of false information unless you go on to ask the questions you raise: “What were they thinking of?” (“They” being Penguin/Vintage Books, but also top publishing firms in Germany, Holland and Italy, the Royal Court Theatre, the European Union, which financed Emmott’s show at the Royal Court, Microsoft, etc).”

    You can sell this book to about half of the German audience for books; maybe more. Don’t forget that ALL German parties are Green parties and thrive on catastrophism. The CDU and FDP voters which make up half of the voters don’t really like that their parties have become Green parties but it was tactically necessary to be able to out-green the Greens. The other half, the left-leaning voters, are catastrophists to a man. They don’t care how shoddy the book is; they need confirmation. These people are deeply convinced that we’re going to hell in a handcart. When I point them to all the windmills and solar panels and say, but hey, look how much we do to save the planet, don’t you feel better now? they invariably say, this is not enough, we need to stop driving cars, or something like that.

    They’re so depressive it’s funny. I actually like to talk to them.

  42. The only hockey stick produced by climate alarmists that concerns me is their rate of spending. Joanne Nova has the data and graph here: http://joannenova.com.au/2009/07/massive-climate-funding-exposed/
    Not quite as impressive as Emmott’s #13, but if she had added in a stick, i.e. the US Gov has been around since 1789 or so, like Mann does to his stick, and compressed the time scale to fit, it would probably look like #13.

  43. George Turner says:

    Elements of the urban environment may be so different from the surrounding rural environment that in many cases each city or metropolis may act somewhat like an island, harboring species that are cut off from the rest of their population. For example, a water loving animal released in Phoenix is going to have trouble making it across the desert to reach other cities, and a non-migratory species that isn’t adapted to harsh winters, yet takes shelter in the warm houses in Minneapolis or Toronto, is likewise stuck there.

    Eventually they will specialize and speciate, perhaps producing a different range of new species in every city. This may happen much faster than scientific recognition that common, widespread, everyday pests, pets, and globe-trotting hitchhikers have become new and unique species in many cities where they became established. It’s just a question of time, because we’ve already created drastically altered environments filled with new niches, geographically separated from each other.

    This comes to mind. Chalk one up to increased diversity!

  44. “There’s a good discussion of the Emmott graphs over at Donna Laframboise’s excellent blog NoFrakkingConsensus. ”

    But no panning by biologists, ecologists, warming scientists,….? Boy it must be desperate when the team and the now disgraced Nature essentially gives a pass to total non-science.

  45. Back when the Isthmus of Panama raised up 5my havoc was wreaked on the marsupials and edentates (among mammalia) of South America, so that over a period of a few millennia the extinction rate skyrocketed. Now in lieu of land bridges we have mail order seed catalogs, exotic pet dealers, bilge water from ships sailing the seven seas, the Suez Canal, etc. Weeds came with the seed packages, worms came with potted plants, and Ukranians brought tumbleweeds to America with their grain. North America has become infested with weeds of exotic origin which have enhanced the danger of brush and grass fires, and compete with good grazing plants for introduced domestic animals, which have largely displaced buffalo, which filled in niches vacated by Pleistocene extinctions. Exotic starlings continue to multiply to fill to some extent the niche vacated by passenger pigeons, providing increasing food for peregrine falcons, whose comeback may be responsible for declining grouse populations, which grouse can usually but no always out fly peres down mountains slopes (at speeds somewhat less than 243mph).

    Speed boats spread mussels. Pheasants and chukars now compete with local birds, and Burmese pythons eat and are eaten by Florida alligators. Asian snakehead fish have invaded Florida, along with the snowbirds. A few meters of SLR would do Florida good. It will never recover from this invasion of people and predators. And it will take a few centuries, but without DNA database intervention, seed archiving, and ever better zoos, the earth’s species must go the way of its languages: displace or be displaced. The world is changing before our eyes, but most cowboys don’t know that Lewis and Clark never saw a tumbleweed. We’ve only seen the beginning.

    On the bright side, we eat delicious fruit from all over the world–bananas don’t compete with oranges, very much. –AGF

  46. izen says:
    July 8, 2013 at 3:03 am

    … I think it is premature as well to assume that all extinctions due to the introduction of alien predators across continental regions has reach an end because all possible harmful introductions have already happened. It is not just predators that can disrupt a species to the point of extinction. A plant that is more efficient in a niche from one continent might eliminate a plant occupying the same niche on another continent which did not gain the same advantages in it evolution.

    First, I didn’t say that extinctions due to introduced predators had “reached an end”. This is why I ask people to QUOTE MY WORDS if you disagree with me. I never said that, izen, so you’re talking to yourself.

    What I said was that the great wave of introduced predator extinctions was behind us. And no, I’m not “assuming” that. It’s what the data is telling us.

    So yes, there is still damage to be done by introduced species. But there’s no new untouched land mass the size of Australia out there waiting to have a large number of its species wiped out by predators they’ve never seen, as happened with Australia. Those high extinction numbers from introduced predators are in the past.

    w.

  47. milodonharlani says:
    July 8, 2013 at 8:22 am

    Pimm & Raven 2000 forecasts an acceleration in extinction due to habitat loss from human activities:

    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v403/n6772/full/403843a0.html

    They focus especially on endangered forests, which of course benefit from more atmospheric CO2. One way to save forests both directly (from cutting for firewood) & indirectly (from fertilizing the air with plant food) is to use more fossil fuels.

    The graph is truly egregiously bad. I suppose the little bump up c. 53 kya is meant to reflect human occupation of Australia, but don’t know. The graph skips over the biggest Pleistocene & Holocene extinction pulses, those at the end of the last glaciation, as of the megafauna on many continents (although dwarf woolly mammoths survived on Wrangel Island until ~2000 BC), & then again during human expansion onto oceanic islands amid global population increase.

    Past human-induced extinction has resulted from introduced species, emphasized by Willis, & by habitat losses Pimm & Raven cite, plus hunting, disease & natural, ie non-human, causes (not that we’re unnatural), & combinations thereof. Hard rationally to blame man-made CO2.

    Thanks, Great Sloth. You were doing so well until you said

    Past human-induced extinction has resulted from … [the] habitat losses Pimm & Raven cite …

    There is no forest-obligate bird or mammal that has ever gone extinct from habitat reduction. If habitat losses could cause extinctions, we’d have seen dozens and dozens of birds and mammals that would have gone extinct from the cutting down of forests all over the planet. It’s estimated that around half of the world’s forest have been cut down … where are the corpses?

    We’ve seen none.

    Pimm and company believe the “species-area relationship” works to predict extinctions. I have shown that it doesn’t. Toss that claim in the garbage can, and Pimm along with it. He’ll go to his grave believing he’s right, despite the fact that there’s no evidence to support the specie-area relationship regarding extinctions.

    w.

  48. izen says:
    July 8, 2013 at 3:03 am

    It may be less ridiculous than you think.
    Most of the megafauna that went extinct during the Holocene after the end of the last ice-age {mammoths, aurochs etc} had survived through several other glacial cycles. The one big difference this time was massively increased hunting and competition for territory from the expanding numbers of a mammal that had recently developed a new form of social cooperation which was highly successful and leading to a population explosion.
    ————————————–

    Woolly mammoths appear to have been a fairly recent development (from the steppe mammoth, ~200 to 150 kya), but even they made it through the much warmer than present Eemian interglacial, although they shared parts of their range with Neanderthal (& probably Denisovan) humans then. As noted, a dwarf version survived until about 2500 to 2000 BC on Wrangel Island.

    The varieties of aurochs were more ancient, but the last Eurasian cow did not die until only AD 1627 in Poland.

  49. AB says:
    July 8, 2013 at 12:11 am

    And a bird species in Cambodia, previously unknown but all along right under the local’s noses.

    One great tradition of the sciences is to ignore the locals. Their categories of animals “aren’t scientific.” So I rather doubt the local noses were really not familiar with the bird, only the specialists. It’s rather like the discovery that the Ceolacanth wasn’t extinct. The ichtyologist that “discovered” it was walking through a local fish market.

  50. izen says:
    July 8, 2013 at 3:03 am

    … Most of the megafauna that went extinct during the Holocene after the end of the last ice-age {mammoths, aurochs etc} had survived through several other glacial cycles.

    izen says:
    July 8, 2013 at 3:03 am

    … The varieties of aurochs were more ancient, but the last Eurasian cow did not die until only AD 1627 in Poland.

    Let me recommend to you the Committee on Recently Extinct Organisms (CREO). The CREO has analyzed the record of claimed recent mammal extinctions. They looked at 170 claimed mammal extinctions. Using modern DNA analysis, taxonomic considerations, surveying thoroughness, and other methods and criteria, they have classified them into three groups:

    • “Resolved”, meaning extinct, 61 species;
    • “Disqualified”, meaning declared not extinct for various reasons, 79 species; and
    • “Unresolved”, meaning no decision reached, 30 species.

    The following are the reasons for disqualification:

    Currently extant under valid species name
    Extinct before modern era, or no positive evidence to show extinction took place in modern era
    Surveying inadequate
    Taxonomy inadequate

    The reasons that some are unresolved are:

    Insufficient data to make a determination
    Not fully named
    Surveying inadequate
    Taxonomy inadequate

    This is the long way around to explaining that the CREO lists the aurochs, Bos primigenius, as not being extinct because it is currently extant under a valid species name, with the following comment:

    Taxonomy disputed. Originally E Europe (as Bos primigenius), now worldwide (as Bos taurus). Biological history of aurochs is controversial, but continuity with Bos taurus is certain. Year sometimes cited as the “extinction date” of aurochs is 1627 (e.g., Balouet and Alibert, 1990), which refers to death of last known wild individual.

    Meaning that as a species it is no different from our modern cows, Bos taurus, all of which can interbreed. (In passing, I’d say that “Boss Taurus” is a great species name, puts a serious beatdown on our species name … I mean really, “The Smart Ape”?. What kind of brand recognition does that get us? But I digress …)

    In any case, that’s the story of the Aurochs as told by CREO. Just sayin’

    w.

  51. Willis Eschenbach says:
    July 8, 2013 at 10:33 am

    There is no forest-obligate bird or mammal that has ever gone extinct from habitat reduction. If habitat losses could cause extinctions, we’d have seen dozens and dozens of birds and mammals that would have gone extinct from the cutting down of forests all over the planet. It’s estimated that around half of the world’s forest have been cut down … where are the corpses?

    We’ve seen none.

    Pimm and company believe the “species-area relationship” works to predict extinctions. I have shown that it doesn’t. Toss that claim in the garbage can, and Pimm along with it. He’ll go to his grave believing he’s right, despite the fact that there’s no evidence to support the specie-area relationship regarding extinctions.
    ——————————————-

    I’ll stick to a reply just for the birds.

    The passenger pigeon is an excellent example of the combined effects of habitat loss & hunting or trapping on a forest-obligate species. Without the double-whammy of the destruction of Eastern forests with market hunting, they would have survived.

    The Carolina Parakeet also succumbed to a combo of habitat loss, hunting or capture & possibly disease.

    The Florida Dusky Seaside Sparrow was also primarily lost due to drainage of its salt marsh environment, but you might not consider it a forest obligate. It suffered from other issues, too.

    The Slender-Billed Grackle of central Mexico may not have been a forest obligate, depending upon how you define forest, but it was killed off by habitat loss.

    Bachman’s Warbler & the Imperial Woodpecker are probably extinct, but have not yet been classified as such.

    While this paper on the extinction of old growth forest-dwelling owls around the world might be tainted because of the Northern spotted owl controversy, it IMO makes the case for habitat destruction as the sole, primary or contributing cause in some of the cited instances, such as the Bahamian Andros Island “barn” owl.

    http://www.fs.fed.us/pnw/publications/gtr343/GTR-343c.pdf

    The Anjouan Island Scops Owl & the Indian Forest Spotted Owlet have since been discovered extant. Some others are instances of island endemism, including habitat loss.

    You might imagine that owls on Mauritius & Rodrigues would have fallen prey to introduced species, but that appears not to have been the case for the Mauritius Owl, but rather conversion of its habitat to sugarcane & tea plantations, combined with pointless shooting. The demise of the Rodrigues or Leguat’s Owl appears to have resulted from the combo of habitat loss & predation.

    Brace’s Emerald hummingbird is another Bahamian extinction associated with forest habitat loss for agriculture. Gould’s Emerald is also extinct, but it’s not know whether it was native to the Bahamas or Jamaica.

    In the same part of the world, we now too have the example of the Cuban Ivory-billed Woodpecker (& probably its kin in the SE USA). The end of the Cuban Red Macaw was probably also primarily due to habitat loss, but again combined with hunting & capture. The main cause of the Grand Cayman Island Thrush’s extinction was probably deforestation, with the coup de grace of hurricanes between 1932 & 1944. The Martinique Amazon Parrot was wiped out by clearing for agriculture, but it might not have been a distinct species. If not, it was extirpated rather than rendered extinct. Same goes for the Violet Macaw.

    There are other corpses (since I’ve mostly concentrated on North America & the Caribbean), but I would agree with you that the many dire predictions of impending extinctions from forest habitat destruction are not based upon a huge data base of actual & probable extinctions solely from such loss. That does not rule out such impending doom in the absence of some conservation efforts.

  52. Willis Eschenbach says:
    July 8, 2013 at 11:38 am

    Efforts are underway to recreate an aurochs simulacrum from selective cattle breeding. Others are trying to bring back the tarpan subspecies of horse, in which enterprise my brother is involved.

  53. I think Willis was being unnecessarily kind concerning that graph. For instance, the “period” between the double slashes and about 10,000 years ago should record the loss of about 30 genera with half of them vanishing for all intents and purposes between about 19,000 and 10,000 years ago (as others ahve remarked small, isolated populations of subgenera survived in some regions considerably later in time, e.g. dwarf mammoth of Wrangle Island). That would minimally imply a nearly flat rate from the double slashes to wherever 10,000 BP ought to fall, and then a stair step. However, I can’t really make out any thing remotely like a true scale for that section of graph.

    Concerning extinctions, it seems likely that habitat loss at the end of the ice age really was an important element. While it is quite fashionable to attribute the late Pleistocene extinctions to humanity, especially in the Americas, the arguments tend to presume that it is known when, humanity entered the continents, where they entered, and how rapidly the population grew. In fact this all largely unsupported and increasingly we are seeing evidence that the assumption of a “late” entry by humanity is mistaken, with unquestionable evidence for humans in the Americas by 16 – 17 kya, and several investigators pushing for time depths of double that. At the same time the proponents of humanity as the chief cause of extinctions ignore the survival of large fauna in other parts of the world – Africa being a prime example, where, for example, up until the So. African government mistakenly attempted to reduce elephant herds based upon the assumption that they were a chief cause of “desertification,” elephants and humans survived side by side quite adequately for 100s, of thousands of years.

    While it is popular to conceive of Pleistocene humans as specialized “big game” hunters, there is precious little archaeological support for that except in periglacial environments. In the New World the perception was largely the result of a demand by sceptical archaeologists that human artifacts be found in association with extinct fauna before they would accept the suggestion that humans might have entered the continents during the Pleistocene. The association of a Folsom point with “extinct” bison, and of a Clovis point with mammoth bones established the big-game-hunter idea in the public’s and even professional’s consciousness.

    There are two other principle hypotheses for the late Pleistocene wave of extinctions. One is “new” diseases. As the corridors opened between the new and old worlds enabling land passages by wild populations, it became possible for naive populations to be abruptly exposed to pathogens for which no existing immunity was present. Since the land bridge is a two-way street it isn’t unlikely that “naive” populations lived on both sides Beringia and waves of extinctions or at least extreme population reductions on both sides are to be expected.

    The other suggestion is that habitat changes at the end of the LGA, in combination with the abrupt, powerful and temporary reversal during the Younger Dryas, climate changes lead to situations where suitable habitats for large fauna became small, discontinuous patches without suitable travel corridors connecting them. That would lead to genetically isolated, stressed populations, with reduced available ranges. Depending on luck, or bad liuck, and the rates at which plant communities can expand, this by itself could result in isolated populations with inadequate genetic diversity to survive. That would in turn cause stress among the dependent predator populations (recall the well-known arctic hare/fox chart) leading to population loss and extinctions among the larger predators as well. If your body size is determined by prey size, and the prey shrinks, well either you shrink to meet available prey size (wolves for instance) or you vanish from the world’s stage – Smilodon and the short-faced bear.

    Probably a mix of agents is the real cause of these extinctions, and human predation effects is unlikely to be more important than others. In fact, as seen in the Mesolithic in Europe, the diminishing availability of large game would simply have triggered an increasing reliance on smaller game, plant foods, and marine resources. That means that human effects on shrinking big game populations would have steadily diminished as the large mammal populations shrank. Instead of stupidly hunting down and eating the last mammoth, they very likely were roasting jackrabbits and tubers when the last short-faced bear killed an ate the last mammoth calf, while it’s mother died of a disease carried by the American Lion or moose who entered the continent over the Beringian land bridge.

    Interestingly, Wikipedia, not my favorite source, does discuss “problems” with the overkill hypothesis, and notes while not observing, that many of the American survivors are descended from recent immigrants from Asia. The only important exception is the bison. Bison survived, musk ox survived, reindeer survived (caribou east of Siberia), but native ungulates by and large didn’t, nor did the predators that depended on them.

  54. Duster says:
    July 8, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    The graph is execrable as science, so bad indeed that it probably is counter-productive as advocacy. Or maybe I’m hoping too much.

    You’re right that the Pleistocene-Holocene transition extinctions were often from a mix of causes, & not just of megafauna. Species which had survived prior such glacial-interglacial transitions, such as those mentioned above & the woolly rhino, fell victim to the combos, including human predation (with secondary effects), habitat alteration & diseases borne by our dogs & us.

    In some cases, however, this process took thousands of years instead of the apparently rapid demise of so many species then. In addition to those already cited, the “Irish elk” survived until at least 7700 years ago.

  55. Thanks Willis for yet another educational exposition.

    To put their ridiculous theory into perspective, perhaps a complementary plot showing rate of species-discovery can be superimposed on your rate of extinction graph.

  56. Willis the thing that makes your posts great is, in addition to creativity, knowledge and language, is the excellent educators you draw in.

    milodonharlani says:
    July 8, 2013 at 11:57 am
    His rundown on the extinction of birds in the Western Hemisphere is an absolute gem of prose, knowledge and al delightful education.

    Duster says:
    July 8, 2013 at 12:40 pm
    A superb essay on the debate about the causes of Pleistocene – Holocene extinctions of large mammals and their predators, criticizing the almost unmitigated blame of early humans as the chief cause.

    Wow this has been a cornucopia of stuff about which I had little knowledge. Indeed, I’ve been hitherto turned off of ecological articles because this area of knowledge is flooded with agenda driven non-science. To me, professional ecology’s become a platform heor largely anti-human
    eugenics rants. If the above three people were to write a book on ecology, I would buy it and read it with pleasure. There are a few other posters on this thread that also contributed to my education on the subject. Honorable mention:

    agfosterjr says:
    July 8, 2013 at 10:19 am

    I’ve been thinking that collection of the especially educational comments on a post would make for a good essay on selected topics that would be a true contribution to eclectic knowledge junkies, of which there is a concentration in the WUWT community. I think having the controversies as a central theme of the essays would be an innovation in the genre. Anthony, you have created a thing of great beauty.

  57. Willis, I was just struck with a thought that might lead to an interesting bit of research regarding the Pleistocene & Holocene extinction pulses and where bodies are buried so that we can’t find them all.

    If you go back to the low sea levels during the peaks of the glaciation events and calculate the difference in the number of islands and island area, and them come up with some proxy for how many unique species could’ve arisen on the islands during the relatively brief times they were exposed (which is going to be necessarily highly speculative), then you’d have a rough number for how many species went extinct simply to their island’s being submerged by completely natural causes.

    Needless to say, evidence of these extinctions won’t be found in a very accessible record because not many paleontologists go scuba diving and chip away underneath meters of accumulated corals to look for a mammal’s femur or a flightless bird’s hip bone.

    But the simple inference that the fairly recent past must contain these massive and undocumented extinction events would be another counterweight to the hockey-stick extinction graphs.

  58. Let us all hope Willis’ eagle does not go extinct. It’s probably smart enough to dodge the birdchoppers which are driving the red tailed hawk to local extinction in California. Not to mention the devastating effect on the whooping crane and the California condor.

  59. Re passenger pigeons, David Quammen repeats the story in “Song of the Dodo”: they bred on the ground in flocks of billions that through sheer numbers were impervious to predation. Once their numbers were reduced to the point that predation DID make a dent, they were doomed. Accordingly, any extinction blame must consider primarily those factors which reduced its population to vulnerable numbers–after which their extinction was automatic.

    As for Pleistocene extinctions, this has been dragged through the mud many times, e.g. here:

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/06/19/the-intriguing-problem-of-the-younger-dryaswhat-does-it-mean-and-what-caused-it/

    While the appearance of humans seems to be synchronous with extinctions in Australia, New Zealand, and just about everywhere, it is in particular Clovis spear heads that are found in context of mammoth kills, and it is apparently Clovis technology that did them in. Clovis culture disappeared with the megafauna–their technology was specialized to hunt big game. –AGF

  60. milodonharlani says:
    July 8, 2013 at 11:57 am

    Willis Eschenbach says:
    July 8, 2013 at 10:33 am

    There is no forest-obligate bird or mammal that has ever gone extinct from habitat reduction. If habitat losses could cause extinctions, we’d have seen dozens and dozens of birds and mammals that would have gone extinct from the cutting down of forests all over the planet. It’s estimated that around half of the world’s forest have been cut down … where are the corpses?

    We’ve seen none.

    Pimm and company believe the “species-area relationship” works to predict extinctions. I have shown that it doesn’t. Toss that claim in the garbage can, and Pimm along with it. He’ll go to his grave believing he’s right, despite the fact that there’s no evidence to support the specie-area relationship regarding extinctions.
    ——————————————-

    I’ll stick to a reply just for the birds.

    The passenger pigeon is an excellent example of the combined effects of habitat loss & hunting or trapping on a forest-obligate species. Without the double-whammy of the destruction of Eastern forests with market hunting, they would have survived.

    First, thanks for the reply and all the info on the birds.

    My claim was a bit narrower. Here is the proof:

    That is a search of the Red List database with the following conditions: extinct birds and mammals whose habitat is forests. Note that despite the ~50% reduction in global forests, there are no forest-obligate mammals or birds that have gone extinct from any cause except a mouse in Galapagos Island gone extinct from the usual cause … introduce predators.

    And while it is easy to claim that habitat loss was a “contributing factor”, standing on a piece of paper is a “contributing factor” to my height … so I fear the claim is meaningless. If it were a significant factor, surely we’d have seen extinctions from that cause alone.

    But we’ve seen none.

    Look, except for man and domesticated animals, just about every bird and mammal on this planet has seen habitat loss … so yes, habitat loss is associated with extinctions. It’s also associated with non-extinctions. It’s also associated with changes in habitat. Almost any animal behavior you name can be associated with habitat loss, because virtually every animal has lost habitat … so what?

    w.

  61. DirkH says:
    July 8, 2013 at 8:31 am
    That’s a very good explanation. Can we call it “Schneider’s Razor”?
    I occasionally talk to one or the other alarmist and it always feels like falling into an intellectual sinkhole. Schneider’s Razor could be the explanation.

    Thanks. Just out of curiosity, while I see an analogy to Occam’s Razor in name style for “Schneider’s Razor,” who is Schneider in this context?

  62. Willis Eschenbach says:
    July 8, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    I don’t know what standard the Red List applies, but if that’s the only instance that makes its cut, then it’s missing many cases of birds & mammals (not to mention other life forms) which have gone extinct primarily or exclusively due to habitat loss since c. AD 1500. I mentioned some, & could write at comparable length about other parts of the world. In most examples, however, it’s hard to determine what was the critical element, ie whether habitat loss, hunting, or some other combination of causes.

    Sometimes animals finally go extinct even when there is a smidge of habitat left that might theoretically have been sufficient for a successful breeding population. One of the presently increasingly presumed extinct birds I’ve helped look for is the po’ouli or black-faced honeycreeper of Maui. It has a little suitable habitat left, has been protected from predation & enjoyed conservation efforts, but its population probably just got too small to survive in the wild. I hope some will be discovered, but with each passing year, hope fades.

    To assert that no forest-obligate bird or mammal has gone extinct because of habitat loss is not something a good scientist would be categorical about, IMO. There is a large body of literature on the subject. To claim that we have seen none is not correct. Maybe you haven’t. I have.

  63. Oh, these Chicken Littles do love their hockey sticks, don’t they?

    Probably many more species went extinct as the result of human activities before WWII than since – the moas in precolonial New Zealand, the dodo and the elephant bird in the 1600s, the passenger pigeon in 1914, the thylacine sometime in the 1930s to name a few. (One must also mention the intentional killing off of all remaining Chinese tigers at the behest of that oh, so wonderfully socialist regime of Mao Tse-tung, in the 1960s. Yaah, socialism is just wonderful for threatened species, especially now that the socialists’ babies, those oh so reliablewind turbines are about to wipe out the English swift, and have killed half the remaining whooping cranes and at least 5 California condors.

    And of course there are the Pleistocene-Recent extinctions, for instance, the American mastodon which probably survived as late as 6,000 years ago, done in by Native Americans, who could not very well be accused of running an industrialized society at the time.

    The poorer people are, they greater the pressure they will put on threatened species. Africa’s poverty and shortage of protein has led to the endangerment of gorillas and chimpanzees. It also probably the reason why the AIDS virus was spread to humans, by eating infected green monkeys.

    If you really want an environmental and human tragedy, as well as an economic one, you annelids preaching this twaddle, just keep on working your sphincters.

  64. George Turner says:
    July 8, 2013 at 1:52 pm

    You are quite correct. Each of the glacial-interglacial transitions has been accompanied by extinctions due to habitat loss, leading to isolation & reproductive failure, although usually not of the magnitude observed at the Pleistocene-Holocene boundary.

    Some of the “corpses” are indeed submerged or buried under layers not yet found or not fossilized, due to inappropriate environments for preservation. Humans surely contributed to the P-H extinctions through hunting & in other ways, but it’s a common feature of such sudden transformation of life zones & biomes. Whole biomes can go extinct pretty rapidly, too.

  65. milodonharlani says:
    July 8, 2013 at 3:51 pm

    … To assert that no forest-obligate bird or mammal has gone extinct because of habitat loss is not something a good scientist would be categorical about, IMO. There is a large body of literature on the subject. To claim that we have seen none is not correct. Maybe you haven’t. I have.

    That is not my assertion. It is the assertion of the Red List. I’ve given you the search terms. If you disagree you should take it up with them. If you’ve seen such extinctions, write immediately to the Red LIst and tell them they are not “good scientists” for saying there are no such extinctions …

    Report back on their response, I’m interested …

    w.

  66. milodonharlani says:
    July 8, 2013 at 3:51 pm

    Willis Eschenbach says:
    July 8, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    I don’t know what standard the Red List applies, but if that’s the only instance that makes its cut, then it’s missing many cases of birds & mammals (not to mention other life forms) which have gone extinct primarily or exclusively due to habitat loss since c. AD 1500. I mentioned some, & could write at comparable length about other parts of the world.

    Not true. Despite claiming “many cases”, you have not mentioned one forest species (or any continental species) of bird or mammal gone extinct exclusively due to habitat reduction (total loss of habitat will kill any species of course … but there’s only one instance of that happening, and like almost every extinction, it was combined with intense predation). If you have one bring it out. Otherwise, leave it out of your claims.

    w.

  67. Willis Eschenbach says:
    July 8, 2013 at 4:55 pm

    The IUCN is up front about the limitations of its data base. In 2007 it estimated that there were 1,589,361 plant & animal species, with about 10,000 more found per year. Only a small share of this diversity is in the data base upon which you rely.

    “Current limitations

    The IUCN Global Species Programme is currently managing data on over 70,000 species, with this number set to increase substantially in the next few years. Of the 70,000, approximately 58,000 species are currently well documented, with information on ecology, population size, threats, conservation actions and utilization. There are also about 43,000 species with distribution maps. The data cover non-threatened as well as threatened species, and certain taxonomic groups have been completely, or almost completely assessed (e.g. mammals, birds, amphibians, freshwater crabs, warm-water reef building corals, sharks and rays, groupers, wrasses, lobsters, conifers and cycads).”

    Besides which, it doesn’t include many species which have already gone extinct, such as some of those I cited, like the Andros Island Barn Owl. The IUCN also admits that its categorizations have been revised & may need more work, which they’re trying to accomplish.

    http://www.iucnredlist.org/about/red-list-overview

    I don’t need to alert them to the po’ouli, for instance, since they still list it as CE (PE) rather than extinct, as they do with a number of other probably extinct animals.

    “Justification:
    This species has been listed as Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct) because, of three known individuals in 1998, one died in captivity in 2004 and the remaining two individuals have not been seen since 2003 and 2004. It may be extinct, but continuing surveys in all areas of potential habitat are needed to confirm that no other individuals survive. If any do still survive, the total population must be tiny.”

    “History:
    2009 – Critically Endangered
    2008 – Critically Endangered
    2007 – Critically Endangered
    2004 – Critically Endangered
    2000 – Critically Endangered
    1996 – Critically Endangered
    1994 – Critically Endangered”

    Ditto the ivory-billed woodpecker:

    “Justification:
    Strong claims for this species’s persistence in Arkansas and Florida have emerged since 2004 although the evidence remains highly controversial. It may also survive in south-eastern Cuba, but there have been no confirmed records since 1987 despite many searches. If extant, the global population is likely to be tiny, and for these reasons it is treated as Critically Endangered.

    History:
    2010 – Critically Endangered
    2009 – Critically Endangered
    2008 – Critically Endangered
    2005 – Critically Endangered
    2004 – Critically Endangered
    2000 – Critically Endangered
    1996 – Extinct
    1994 – Extinct”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ivory-billed_Woodpecker

    You might wish to review their criteria:

    http://www.iucnredlist.org/static/categories_criteria_3_1

    IMO relying on this data base adequately to represent reality is questionable methodology.

  68. Willis Eschenbach says:
    July 8, 2013 at 5:03 pm

    I listed some, such as the Andros Island Barn Owl, Mauritius Owl & Mexican Slender-billed Grackle (depending upon your definition of forest-obligate), & a number of others in which predation by introduced species can arguably be ruled out. It’s usually impossible to say without a doubt that a species went extinct exclusively because of habitat loss. Asserting that it has never happened however strikes me as less than ideal scientific practice, especially on the basis of Red List’s standards rather than actual field work.

    Lots of birds & mammals which have gone extinct in the past 500 years aren’t in the Red List data base. Besides which other plant & animal habitat loss besides forest has led to extinction. The record is replete with them. The habitat can be the bodies of parasite hosts gone extinct, taking the parasite with them.

    Without extinction from habitat loss, much of today’s plant & animal life would not exist. Speaking of forest habitat, I recently read this article:

    http://geology.geoscienceworld.org/content/38/12/1079.abstract

    Extinction following loss of rainforest habitat helped make way for our Pennsylvanian (Late Carboniferous) pelycosaur (like early Permian Dimetrodon) ancestors, which gave rise in the later Permian to the therapsids, the “mammal-like reptiles”:

  69. Regarding the Red List you say:

    milodonharlani says:
    July 8, 2013 at 5:23 pm

    You might wish to review their criteria:

    http://www.iucnredlist.org/static/categories_criteria_3_1

    IMO relying on this data base adequately to represent reality is questionable methodology.

    Well, gosh. First you say the people maintaining the Red List not “good scientists”, and now you say their database is “questionable” … but why are you telling me these things?

    Go tell the folks who maintain and update the Red List that they are “not good scientists” and that their data is “questionable”, and report back on their response. It’s easy for you to claim that the largest and most complete list of extinctions is “questionable”, talk is very cheap, and you’ve got plenty.

    But it’s only when you’ve confronted them about it and given us their answer that your claim will hold any weight. I mean, you’re a random anonymous internet popup, you don’t even stand behind your own words, and they’ve all signed their names to their scientific opinions about extinction … why should I believe you about their words when you won’t stand behind your own words?

    Finally, I find only nine continental mammals and birds that have gone extinct in 500 years. As a result, whatever your claim about “reduced habitat” might be, you have very, very few data points that even have the possibility of supporting your claim … and they don’t support it. There is no “6th wave of extinction” from reduced habitat or we’d have seen evidence of it long ago, the extinction rates are not rising, and other than from introduced predators they are no different from fossil rates.

    All that is rising is the number of creatures on the Red List that have had “habitat reduction” added to their alleged “extinction threats” … color me unimpressed.

    w.

  70. Willis Eschenbach says:
    July 8, 2013 at 6:08 pm

    I stand behind my words, but apparently didn’t make them clear enough, or you’re intentionally misunderstand them. Red List is what it is. The science & methodology which I found questionable is yours, not theirs. Assuming that Red List includes all the instances of extinction you need to support your thesis is the issue, not so much the adequacy of their list, the limitations of which they plainly state.

    I never claimed to see evidence for a “6th wave of extinction”. Indeed, I find that assertions about prior Amazonian extinctions are underwhelming & find “extinction debt” a dubious concept. Nevertheless stating categorically on such flimsy evidence (a data base search in Red List, missing species as it is & with fungible habitat categories) that, specifically forest-obligate extinction from habitat loss hasn’t happened is not good practice, IMO.

    Attacking me as a popup is either an ad hominem or argument from authority fallacy or both. Please read about the birds I mentioned & if you regard them as bad examples, then argue against including them as instances of habitat loss-caused extinctions rather than impugning me personally falsely. There are clear examples of such extinctions which don’t appear in Red List, some of which I cited.

    Even a cursory due diligence check of the literature would have turned up the species I mentioned. IMO relying on Red List is inadequate soundly to make your case, with which in general I agree, although denying habitat loss causes extinctions hurts it.

    As I said, I don’t need to contact them, since they already include the present cases of probably extinction & are unlikely to include more extinctions from hundreds of years ago, when so many extant species aren’t in their data base, which clearly is not the be all & end all of extinction studies.

  71. PS: You might be more impressed with the probable & possible extinction categories had you spent years trying to find likely extinct honeycreepers & hummingbirds in their tiny patches of surviving habitat.

  72. “more than tenfold, to 4,600 in 2050″

    Don’t you mean “more than a hundred-fold”?

    [Thanks, I'd fixed one but not the other. -w.]

  73. milodonharlani says:
    July 8, 2013 at 5:34 pm

    Willis Eschenbach says:
    July 8, 2013 at 5:03 pm

    I listed some, such as the Andros Island Barn Owl, Mauritius Owl & Mexican Slender-billed Grackle (depending upon your definition of forest-obligate), & a number of others in which predation by introduced species can arguably be ruled out.

    Andros Island Barn Owl, not even on Red List. Heck, it’s not clear that it even survived up until the 1500’s. We have no specimens from life, only subfossil remains. As such, no one knows why or even when it went extinct, and so you can’t rule out any cause.

    Mauritius Owl, went extinct (along with the dodo) well over a century ago. Red List says:

    This species was formerly found on Mauritius, but the logging of its forest habitat has driven it to extinction. It was last recorded in 1837, and certainly Extinct by 1859. Deforestation, and perhaps also hunting as well as predation by introduced mammals caused its extinction.

    I would doubt that claim about deforestation, simply because logging in 1837 was slow, done by hand with oxen, generally didn’t involve clearcutting of anything but farmland, and would not have been far advanced on Mauritius by 1837. Given that by 1837 there were all kinds of introduced predators on Mauritius, predation seems the most likely cause. Regarding the existence of introduced predators, one source says:

    One notable example [of human caused extinction] is the extermination of the dodo, Raphus cucullatus, which lived only on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius. First described in 1599, the dodo was a flightless bird that stood about a meter tall and had a large hooked beak (Figure 1.5). Hunting by humans and predation of eggs by nonnative pigs (Sus scrofa), roof rats (Rattus rattus), and crab-eating macaques (Macaca fascicularis) introduced by Malay sailors caused the demise of the dodos (Fuller 2003). The last confirmed sighting of a dodo was in 1662 (Roberts and Solow 2003)

    Since by 1662, predation by pigs, rats, macaques, dogs, and cats in Mauritius had wiped out the dodo … and the Red List includes predation among its causes … well, that rules out your theory that “predation by introduced species can arguably ruled out” in Mauritius.

    It is possible, of course, that because this is an island, every potential nesting site was in some tiny area of the island, and when that went, so did the owl. However, that’s not habitat reduction, that’s habitat eradication, and I agree that that can wipe out an island species.

    Mexican Slender-billed Grackle—I listed this species among the nine extinctions, and as I commented upthread, this one was not killed by habitat reduction. It was a species that had only a tiny distribution, one marsh, and was driven extinct by the entire eradication of its habitat.

    From the Red list: “It had a small distribution in the Lerma marshlands, in the state of México, Mexico … last recorded in 1910, and presumably became extinct soon after as a result of the draining of its tule-cattail and sedge habitat.”

    However, the Grackle lived in tule-cattail and sedge, and is not a forest obligate no matter what your definition … so it’s ruled out from in front.

    Overall, you seem to be missing the point. The great continental forests of the planet have been reduced by maybe 50%. If habitat reduction actually caused extinctions, we would have seen dozens and dozens of bird and mammal extinctions by now, not one or two. Instead of dozens, you point me toward a marsh dwelling grackle and a couple of island birds … but where are the dozens and dozens of extinctions confidently predicted by Pimm and E. O. Wilson from the reduction of the great continental forests, including the great tropical forests of the Americas?

    w.

  74. milodonharlani says:
    July 8, 2013 at 6:27 pm

    Willis Eschenbach says:
    July 8, 2013 at 6:08 pm

    I stand behind my words, but apparently didn’t make them clear enough, or you’re intentionally misunderstand them. Red List is what it is. The science & methodology which I found questionable is yours, not theirs. Assuming that Red List includes all the instances of extinction you need to support your thesis is the issue, not so much the adequacy of their list, the limitations of which they plainly state.

    Indeed you did not make them clear enough, and perhaps I did not as well, and I’m not sure what you are saying now.

    I made a claim about the Red List, which is that I know of no forest obligates that had gone extinct from habitat reduction. In support of this I pointed out that there aren’t any in the Red List. And there aren’t. Nor do I know of any.

    Indeed, and more to the point, the Red List doesn’t show one continental (excluding islands and Australia for the obvious reasons, introduced predators) forest obligate that has gone extinct from any cause.

    Which is not surprising, since only nine species of continental birds and mammals have gone extinct for any reason, and most of the nine were under intense predation.

    Now you’re claiming that the Red List is not the last word. And of course, it’s not.

    However, the fact remains that other than a mouse on the Galapagos the Red List doesn’t show any bird or mammal whose habitat is listed as “Forest” that has gone extinct from any cause. Only one, and that one is on an island. Note that this search includes the following types of forest:

    1.1. Forest – Boreal
    1.2. Forest – Subarctic
    1.3. Forest – Subantarctic
    1.4. Forest – Temperate
    1.5. Forest – Subtropical/Tropical Dry
    1.6. Forest – Subtropical/Tropical Moist Lowland
    1.7. Forest – Subtropical/Tropical Mangrove Vegetation Above High Tide Level
    1.8. Forest – Subtropical/Tropical Swamp
    1.9. Forest – Subtropical/Tropical Moist Montane

    In response you’ve claimed that’s not true, that a good scientist wouldn’t make that claim because the Red List has all the obvious limitations of any list of extinctions. I know that. I’m the one with a peer-reviewed article on the subject, I’m well aware of the limitations of the Red List. Indeed, for mammals I prefer the CREO list, because of the limitations of the Red List. I said we don’t know of any such extinctions of a forest obligate, not that there’s not one we don’t know about.

    You’ve also given three examples which I discussed above, one of which didn’t even live in a forest but in cat-tail and sedge-grass marsh, two of which we have only sub-fossil specimens for, one with only anecdotal reports, and one exposed to all kinds of introduced predators … and said that my science sucks …

    I’m not at all clear what your point is here. You claim to know more about extinctions than the scientists who maintain the Red List … but how am I to verify that? Your “examples” of forest extinctions include a bird that only lives in cattails and sedge grass, and two known only from subfossil bones, not from live specimens, so your record so far is not impressive … but you know more than the Red List scientists.

    Which is why I brought up your anonymity … because you are asking me to take your claim on faith.

    However, please don’t misconstrue this as a personal attack, if I’ve gone over the line anywhere my apologies. My issue is that despite the logging of millions and millions of acres of forest on all the continents of the planet, we don’t have the dozens and dozens of bird and mammal extinctions claimed by people like Pimm, E.O. Wilson, and Emmott from that habitat reduction.

    Perhaps you can convince me of one, I’m happy to hear of it.

    But the underlying Wilson/Pimm/Emmett theory that there is some mystical mathematical relationship between the amount of habitat reduction and the number of extinctions?

    It’s just numerology, or we’d have seen lots and lots of corpses by now.

    Again, my apologies if I’ve gone over the line.

    w.

  75. Congrats Willis- you have been extensively quoted at the Power Line blog on the extinction graph. Power Line is generally conservative on most issues including “climate change”.

    Other posters- in my experience, do not contradict Willis or try to add info from your own experience or expertise.

    I am still waiting for his explanation of how my math “sucks” in a private email conversation. I don’t think he gets the z transform

  76. For Henry Clark: The Schneider of Schneider’s Razor is Stephen Schneider, a cohort of Paul Erlich. (sp?) I am forbidden by the comments requirements of this blog from saying what I think of Mr. Schneider, but I’ll say them anyway. SELF SNIP. I suggest you Google his name and read the idiocy he speaks.

  77. Unfortunately introduced predators are still being brought into the UK thanks to our lords and masters the EU who say there are no boarders within the EU so many of the blocks we used to have to stop animal and plant pests and diseases have been swept away. Of course when these then kill our native flora and fauna it is blamed on climate change not on its true cause (I could look up BBC news stories but I find myself getting “angrified” as Willis calls it)

    James Bull

  78. agfosterjr says:
    July 8, 2013 at 2:27 pm

    **** [I]t is in particular Clovis spear heads that are found in context of mammoth kills, and it is apparently Clovis technology that did them in. Clovis culture disappeared with the megafauna–their technology was specialized to hunt big game. –AGF

    That conclusion is pure and unadulterated poppycock. There are a handful of mammoth finds that include Clovis points. Both mammoth and Clovis disappeared with the Younger Dryas as well. There’s no question that humans hunted mammoth. In fact the activity seems to have been far greater in eastern Europe and western Asia, where LP houses of mammoth bone have been excavated, yet it is in Asia that pygmy mammoth survived longest. There is effectively no evidence in the Americas of any specialized mammoth hunting cultures during the Pleistocene. I haven’t counted them up but there may be more evidence of Clovis hunting of mastodon, which is a different animal, than of mammoth. The large Clovis camps excavated such as the Gault site in Texas, seem to indicate a generalized subsistence pattern. There is no evidence of specialized mammoth hunting, though mammoth are present as are horse, bison, bird. small mammal, frog and pond turtle. The available evidence indicates they were all on the menu. More importantly however, Clovis is quite clearly not the first human incursion in the Americas and developed here in situ. There were humans present on the continents at least 3,000 years before Clovis, yet the “overkill” hypothesis seems to assume that the Clovis people ate every elephant on two continents in less than a thousand years. The idea is absurd and always was.

    Humans probably played a part, but there is simply no empirical evidence to support the assumption that they were entirely or even primarily responsible. In fact, if you investigate the arguments, every single “over-eating” hypothesis is a model, and was designed to show how the extinctions “could” be due humans. Think about that for a while.

  79. Duster says:
    July 9, 2013 at 2:07 am

    agfosterjr says:
    July 8, 2013 at 2:27 pm
    ==================================
    So much BS. So little time.

    1) There was no Asian “pygmy mammoth.” The pygmy mammoths lived in the Channel Islands off the coast of California and were wiped out by the Chumash people about 11ky. Dwarf mammals lived on Wrangel Island north of Asia till about 4500 years ago when the Eskimos arrived. Disease and dogs and ice had nothing to do with these two extinctions.
    2) I never said Clovis hunters specialized in mammoths; I said they specialized in big game. In fact I am saying Clovis hunters were responsible for all the late Pleistocene megafauna extinctions in America. Clovis culture arrives; megafauna disappear; Clovis culture disappears; Clovis culture is replaced by Folsom culture. And if you are aware of any non-Clovis spearheads associated with New World mammoth kills or any megafauna, please identify them.
    3) That so few spearheads have been discovered with skeletons means next to nothing. They were very valuable, and reused when possible, and the meat they pierced was eaten. But no fewer than eight Clovis points were found with the Naco mammoth kill.
    4) Clovis culture was not invented from scratch. Asian mammoths had been killed for thousands of years during which the technology improved, and mammoths adapted. The technology reached high efficiency with Clovis, followed by rapid population growth, introduction to America, big beast extinction, and Clovis extinction.
    5) The likelihood of Pre-Clovis Americans has little bearing on the argument except to show that Clovis culture was the killer. No non-Clovis points are found with megafauna kills in America.
    6) Ice ages had come and gone for 3my. The notion that climate change did in the big beasts is absurd. In general, the more northerly the species–the further out of man’s reach–the better they survived the Holocene.

    Call the evidence circumstantial if you please, but it is the most statistically compelling of circumstantial arguments. Everywhere humans wipe out easy food–most notably on islands and newly occupied continents. The notion that America was an exception is hopelessly far fetched. –AGF

  80. When the NSF starts funding studies of “Tipping Points” of the “Anthropocene Age,” they really get their money’s worth. Very innovative rifling through data sets and graphing of favorite parts.

    We could have a Cambrian Explosion on the other hand. Or find 100 million new plankton species.

    Biodiversity: A Major Deception By Environmentalists.
    by Dr. Tim Ball on October 10, 2012

    The headline says,

    “One million New Plankton Species Found.”

    Leader Dr Bowler said,

    “It’s the first time that anyone’s done this expedition looking specifically for plankton life, and that’s why we found so many,”

    How can this be? Don’t we know the number of species on the planet? We must know because alarmists claim they’re in dramatic decline. E.O.Wilson says species are going extinct at 3 per hour. He, nor anyone else can name one of these species. If you don’t know the total you only make inaccurate alarmists claims.”

    – See more at: http://drtimball.com/2012/biodiversity-a-major-deception-by-environmentalists/#sthash.j6sU6uDy.dpuf

  81. There’s a note at

    http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/projects/ten_billion/default.aspx

    pointing out that Ten Billion “is not a Microsoft project, but a personal work, by the author, and the views expressed in it are not necessarily those of Microsoft Research, or Microsoft Corporation” and correcting “a number of small errors and ommissions” [sic].
    At a quick glance, some seem to be in reaction to the criticisms of Chris Goodall at

    http://www.carboncommentary.com/2013/07/08/3141/

    In at least one case, Emmott has left in the comment that leads to the correction:
    p.109, final paragraph: “If, as seems likely, melting sea ice, triggered by our activities, is now causing the release of this methane, it will go on for centuries” should read: “If, as seems likely, melting sea ice, triggered by our activities, is now causing the release of this methane, it will go on for decades” (A biogeochemist colleague has kindly pointed out that we don’t actually have an accurate estimate of how much there is, so althought indeed it may well go on for centuries, probably safer to say ‘decades’).

    The correction to the values on the x axis of the extinction graph sems to make matters worse, since the near vertical part now starts in 1800, and goes on for ever.

    It’s most odd that Microsoft should be issuing a correction of errors made by Penguin Books.

  82. It gets better, Geoff. They’ve pulled the link. Strangely, it still shows up with a search of Microsoft research:

    Results for ten billion

    Ten_Billion – Microsoft Research
    Ten Billion book … Ten Billion is a book about the potential consequences of the collective activities of the human population as we continue to grow towards ten …

    http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/projects/ten_billion/default.aspx

    But the link just goes to 404 …

    w.

    • http://eandt.theiet.org/magazine/2011/05/moving-ice.cfm

      Thingodonta commented July 8, 2013 at 8:13 am that he had read a book about “giant ships towing icebergs from Alaska and Antarctica to supply fresh water to San Francisco and Australia”. Can’t find the details about that book, but above is a link to a magazine article re a practical project – in limbo at present till funding is found – to tow icebergs from Newfoundland to the Canaries.

      Nothing about a book on glaciers advancing on New York, but there is a film on this, “2012: Ice Age” (possibly so bad it deserves an Academy Award?). But better, I found this gorgeous comment re the West Antarctica Ice Shelf:

      “So unstable, in fact, that a volcanic eruption could potentially dislodge the ice. West Antarctica is a “marine-based” ice sheet, meaning it rests on a bed below sea level (in this case, close to a half a milebelow (sic) sea level). If the rate at which the ice flows into the ocean is sped up by a volcanic eruption, it could thin to the point that it lifts off the bed and floats into the ocean, where it would melt and raise sea levels. “Suppose you had a glass filled up with ice and you poured Coca-Cola into it,” Wagner explained. “You’ve got ice all the way to the bottom of the glass. Well, as that ice begins to melts, it reaches a point where it sort of pops off the bottom and begins to float. That’s what we’re talking about.” ”

      Willis, I don’t know if you have already seen this and commented on it – if so, sorry. If not, I think that if the Ice shelf is not floating, by the time you have managed to reduce top weight so that it will float, you have already done all the raising of sea level that will occur. Once it floats, no matter how much more it melts, it will NEVER raise the sea level. Archimedes again.

      A bit away from any drop in extinctions – shift it to a new thread? The comment came from:

      http://www.scienceandentertainmentexchange.org/blog/glaciers-newest-fictional-threat-mankind

  83. HI Willis,
    Nothing to do with extinctions, but fron a recent article on PSI.
    Has anyone ever demonstrated “Back Radiation”?
    Is this a Neuvo Science invention, that has now gone to a
    claim of only Net radiation transfering energy? What furnishes
    The power? If the inner sphere must radiate 2 watts to a lower
    temperature, all enclosing shells will radiate that same 2 Watts
    to a yet lower temperature. Where does the power for any “back
    radiation” originate?: Is this a mistake from Kenetic Energy Theory,
    that everything must radiate in every direction? Thank You -will-

  84. Willis,
    Radiance from a lower temperature has been measured. That is not radiatiuon but radiance. a potential for energy transfer, never any energy transfer. Thermal radiative energy. Any energy transfer depends on geometry, and the temperature of the enclosing environment. This transfer is linearly dependent on the difference in thermal radiative potential between two different temperature surfaces. If no poitential difference exists, no energy is transfered. Any energy transfer to a higher temperature has never been measured. It is wrongly calulated from the foolish concepts of Nuevo Science. Pleae demonstrate “any” back radiation?

  85. Will Janoschka says:
    July 20, 2013 at 7:55 pm

    Willis,
    Radiance from a lower temperature has been measured. That is not radiatiuon but radiance. a potential for energy transfer, never any energy transfer. Thermal radiative energy. Any energy transfer depends on geometry, and the temperature of the enclosing environment. This transfer is linearly dependent on the difference in thermal radiative potential between two different temperature surfaces. If no poitential difference exists, no energy is transfered. Any energy transfer to a higher temperature has never been measured. It is wrongly calulated from the foolish concepts of Nuevo Science. Pleae demonstrate “any” back radiation?

    As I said, Will, thermal radiation can be measured with instruments. It is electromagnetic radiation, which contains energy. This is bog-standard science which has been known for centuries.

    Clearly, however, you have an idee fixee which no amount of science, logic, or facts will change. So I’m not gonna try. I just list you as a fanatic on these matters, a man who doesn’t understand the science and refuses to learn.

    I’m sure you’ll tell me I’m wrong now …

    w.

  86. Willis,
    I will not tell you you are wrong now I do not know!
    Please identify, Any demonstration of thermal radiative flux going in two opposing directions?
    Thank you.
    Your essay on the R W Wood experiment clearly falsifies your claim of “back rediation”. All of the thermal radiative flux, from the inner sphere to the unpowered shell, is simultaneously radiated to some lower temperature sink. If this were not true, the temperature of the unpowered shell “must” change to achive a true, not fake, radiative balance. The radiative power into a unpowered object equals the radiative power out from, “to”, a lower temperature sink.
    I.E. There is no available power for any illusionary “back radiation”. The difference in the temperature of the inner sphere and the unpowered shell, is but the correct application of the S-B equation.
    It is not the incorrect application, as professed by Nuevo Science arrogant professors.

  87. Will Janoschka says:
    July 22, 2013 at 7:00 pm

    Willis,
    I will not tell you you are wrong now I do not know!
    Please identify, Any demonstration of thermal radiative flux going in two opposing directions?

    Consult any elementary text on radiative energy. Many of them have this as an exact example. You could also purchase a cheap IR thermometer, and consider the measurement of the radiation from different objects on what that means.

    My essay on the Wood experiment does NOT mean that there is no back radiation. Read my essay on the steel greenhouse again, read the essay on the Wood experiment again. You haven’t understood what I as trying to say.

    w.

  88. Willis, Thank you for your prompt reply,
    Many of them have this as an exact example.” ” incorrectly”!
    “You could also purchase a cheap IR thermometer, and consider
    the measurement of the radiation from different objects on what that means.”
    I do not have to purchase. I make both cheap and very spendy!! They “all’
    “measure” radiative flux, aka. radiation. All, also indicate the direction of such
    radiative flux. If inward, out temperatue is greater, if outward, out temperature is lesser.
    All can be calibrated by measuring the radiative flux in or out, from a black-body cavity.
    The flux is measured with respect to the instruments thermal potential (my T^4), then
    the “out” effective temperature is calculated, with corrections.. Not one of these instruments does actually measure the “radiance” aka “potential’ for power transfer to a black, Zero Kelvin, surface. None can be used to verify your claims of “back radiation”. Many are used to falsify such claims.
    Please identify, Any demonstration of “thermal radiative flux” going in two opposing directions? Thank you.

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