Contrasting Good and Bad Science: Disease, Climate Change and the Case of the Golden Toad

Guest essay by Jim Steele, Director Emeritus, Sierra Nevada Field Campus San Francisco State University

clip_image002To insure the public does not become complacent as the 16-year hiatus in rising global temperatures continues, the media is spammed with untested models claiming rising CO2 is and will spread death and destruction via food shortages and disease.

As MIT’s world-renowned oceanographer Carl Wunsch warned “Convenient assumptions should not be turned prematurely into “facts,” nor uncertainties and ambiguities suppressed…Anyone can write a model: the challenge is to demonstrate its accuracy and precision…Otherwise, the scientific debate is controlled by the most articulate, colorful, or adamant players. (emphasis added)”1 As presented here before, the extinction of the Golden Toad illustrates the great abyss that separates the rigor of good medical science from the opportunistic models trumpeted by a few articulate and adamant climate scientists. The lack of substance in climate propaganda is revealed when we compare the details that led epidemiologists to blame a fungus and modern transportation for the Golden Toad’s extinction.

In “Why Most Published Research Findings Are False,”24 Stanford University epidemiologist John Loannidis reported that “for most study designs and settings, it is more likely for a research claim to be false than true. Moreover, for many current scientific fields, claimed research findings may often be simply accurate measures of the prevailing bias (emphasis added).”2 Loannidis’ paper was highlighted with other similar findings in a 2010 New Yorker article, “The Truth Wears Off,” by Jonah Lehrer. It is available online and well worth the read. That a prevailing bias allows bad science to be so easily published in medical science is worrisome. Equally disturbing, when scientific bias converges with political bias, published conclusions can be as devoid of reality as the epicycles that defended the consensus belief of an earth-centered solar system for two thousand years.

Typically medical science demands rigorous testing of any purported cause of a disease. To blame a pathogen (i.e., a bacterium, virus, or fungus) for a sickness, the researchers must satisfy a burden of proof known as Koch’s postulates. First the pathogen must be found on a diseased animal and then isolated. Then scientists must culture the pathogen and inoculate a healthy animal with it. If the pathogen causes the same disease symptoms in the healthy test subjects, then it becomes a likely candidate. Finally, to prove that pathogen had caused the epidemic, researchers must then find that same pathogen on the widespread carcasses of victims of the epidemic. Environmental conditions that existed during the epidemic should also coincide with the pathogen’s behavior under laboratory conditions.

Indeed for the past 3 decades there has been an alarming wave of worldwide amphibian extinctions and after rigorous testing epidemiologists determined that an introduced fungus was the cause. In contrast CO2 global warming advocates used spurious correlations, opportunistic models and the current global warming bias as a few adamant players including the IPCC, the journal Nature and Michael Mann repeatedly trumpeted a climate causation.

First a quick review of basic amphibian biology is helpful. You can always recognize amphibians (i.e., frogs and salamanders) versus reptiles (i.e., lizards and snakes) by the amphibians’ moist, slimy skin. To supplement their feeble lungs, amphibians absorb essential oxygen directly from the air through their skin, which must remain moist to do so. Most amphibians are also tied to pools of water because their jelly-coated eggs readily desiccate, and during their tadpole stage they breathe with gills. Lost wetlands had accounted for several past extinctions, but not this recent wave.

Some amphibians had been forced to adapt to eons of climate change cycles that naturally dried up lakes and rivers, as well as an increasing populations of predators. A few entrepreneurial amphibians discovered that their odds of survival were better on land, and many species evolved the most amazing strategies to free themselves from their dependency on standing water. For example in Chile, Darwin’s Frog (see video) lays its eggs on the moist forest floor, and the male then stands guard as they develop. As soon as the eggs show signs of emerging as wriggling tadpoles, the male swallows them; not into his stomach, but into his vocal sac. The vocal sac serves as a protected “indoor pool” in which the tadpoles grow until they metamorphose into fully developed frogs.

Throughout much of Central and South America are several species of Marsupial Frogs. Analogous to kangaroos, they grow a pouch on their backs, inside which their tadpoles develop. Most amazing of all were Australia’s two species of gastric-brooding frogs. Although they spent most of their lives in water, the female protected her offspring by swallowing her eggs. Unlike Darwin’s Frog, the eggs were swallowed into her stomach. Somehow, the deadly digestive enzymes and acid that normally flooded their stomach stop flowing until her tadpoles were fully developed. The adults then gave birth by regurgitation. Despite having adapted to millions of years of climate change, in the 1980s this marvel of nature became one of the first casualties of the new wave of amphibian extinction.

The Rain Frogs are petite frogs that lay their eggs beneath the leaf litter on the damp floors of tropical forests. The red-eyed Coqui, a national symbol of Puerto Rico (and a recently introduced pest in Hawaii), is a species of Rain Frog. These frogs have evolved the remarkable ability to undergo complete metamorphosis without ever leaving the confines of their eggs. However, they never evolved the waterproof eggshells of reptiles and birds, so the frogs’ eggs can rapidly dry out. Some species lay their eggs in moist sand along streams. Others lay their eggs on dry land beneath the leaf litter. To keep their eggs moist, the thoughtful parents periodically urinate on them. Some childhoods are simply tougher than others.

clip_image004Golden Toads (Bufo periglenes) had adapted to Costa Rica’s dry season by spending their entire lives sequestered in moist underground burrows. The Golden Toads only emerged from their burrows in late March and April, to mate during the first few weeks of the rainy season laying their eggs in any temporary pools. For the remainder of the year they retreated back to their burrows. First discovered in 1966, and inspiring the formation of Costa Rica’s Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, this species was found nowhere else in the world. In 1987 Monteverde’s biologists had counted over 1500 healthy individuals painting their breeding pools with squirming gold. Without warning, they disappeared, and not one carcass was ever found.3

Dueling Extinction Theories

Martha Crump and Alan Pounds had been studying Monteverde’s amphibians and were understandably distraught by the rapid disappearance of the Golden Toad and several other local species. That year an El Niño had forced extremely dry conditions, and researchers were not sure if the Golden Toads had died or if they were simply waiting for wetter breeding conditions.4 However after years of total absence, it became apparent that just 25 years after their discovery, the Golden Toad had become extinct.5,6

Pounds and Crump first suspected that extreme drying from a strong El Niño was the likely culprit; however, contradictory evidence evoked doubts. Nearer to the Caribbean Sea where rain had been more abundant, frogs had been equally decimated. Furthermore, Harlequin Frogs usually lay their eggs in streams that had never dried out, yet they too suddenly vanished. In contrast, the number of tiny “tink” frogs increased. Tink frogs (named for their metallic call) develop inside their eggs beneath the leaf litter and were the most vulnerable to extreme drying. Golden Toads were the biggest mystery. How could an El Niño extirpate an entire species that was insulated from the weather inside their burrows?

Later as amphibian biologists shared their research, it was realized that they were facing a global wave of local extinctions. Massive die-offs were not restricted to Monteverde or the effects of El Niño. Massive die-offs were observed in regions of Central and South America, Spain, North America, and Australia. In 1996, Australian researchers detected waves of die-offs that slowly spread across northern Australia. They reported that 14 species of stream-dwelling frogs, including the gastric-brooding frogs, had suddenly disappeared; in some cases in as little as three to six months.

Contradicting prevailing global warming theory, the Australian researchers reported that the die-offs were happening at higher elevations with cooler temperatures, but not at warmer lower elevations. Die-offs also occurred during the winter but not the summer.7 Researchers in Central and South America also found that populations that lived at higher and cooler elevations were extirpated, while populations of the same species living at lower and warmer elevations were still thriving.8,9 Similarly in the United States, the extirpations were happening at higher elevations in Yosemite, and during the winter in Arizona when cooler temperatures prevailed.6

So William Laurance from the National Institute for Research in the Amazon and his Australian colleagues hypothesized that the global population of amphibians was under attack by a rapidly spreading, exotic disease that was dependent on cool, wet conditions. They suggested that human activities such as the pet trade and invasive species had introduced and spread that deadly disease.10

In 1998, after carefully scrutinizing dead specimens from Australia and Central America, epidemiologists discovered a common killer. It was not a virus as Laurance had first suspected, but an exotic and previously unknown chytrid fungus, now named Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (“Bd” for short).11 They were then able to isolate Bd in dead frog specimens from across the globe. And when they exposed healthy laboratory frogs to the fungus, the same deadly symptoms rapidly appeared.

Having successfully isolated the Bd fungus and demonstrating its lethal effects, additional laboratory experiments soon explained why the world’s frogs were killed in locations with cooler temperatures, such as higher elevations. In the laboratory, Bd was virulent between 53° and 81°F (11.6 and 27°C). Its optimum growth occurred between 60° to 77°F (15.5 and 25°C), but the fungus also survived near-freezing temperatures. In contrast, temperatures over 86°F killed the fungus,12 which explained why populations of the same species living in warmer habitats were surviving, and why outbreaks were more common in winter than in summer. Furthermore they demonstrated that the fungus depended on a moist environment and died after drying. That explained why Monteverde’s stream-dwelling frogs were extirpated, but Tink frogs living in drier habitat thrived.

African clawed frogs were identified as carriers and are immune to the disease. They had been imported around the world for embryological research and pregnancy testing. The mechanisms by which the fungus is spreading have not been fully elucidated, however bull frogs are immune and carry the diseases were being introduced throughout the tropics as a food source. The pet trade and educators often relocate amphibians, and the fungus can cling to the boots of researchers and tourists. Indeed it appeared that the best studied populations were the most devastated. Once the pathogen had been identified, I expected an educational campaign to limit the chytrid’s deadly spread, but top journals like Nature continued to push only the climate hypothesis.

clip_image006In 2013, infected African clawed frogs were found in the ponds of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park surrounding the California Academy of Science, and native species had been exterminated. Fifteen years after this devastating disease was first diagnosed and likely carriers identifed, there has yet to be a public education campaign largely due to the competing claims that global warming was the agent of death.

In contrast to the scientific rigor of the epidemiologists, Alan Pounds and the journal Nature actively campaigned to down-play the disease hypothesis and blame CO2-caused warming to incite public fears of climate change. Pounds’ earliest research had correctly warned that the disappearance of amphibians at Monteverde was not just a natural cycle of boom and busts. However in 1999, despite the discovery of Bd and despite contradictory climate evidence, Pounds began pushing global climate change as Monteverde’s great amphibian killer. Publishing in the journal Nature he argued, “The changes are all associated with patterns of dry-season mist frequency, which is negatively correlated with sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific.” He continued, “This hypothesis builds on evidence that rising sea surface temperatures have altered the climates of tropical mountains.” He supported his climate argument by referring to Parmesan’s faulty Edith’s checkerspot butterfly studies and argued that increased evaporation from the oceans was “amplifying the warming in the highlands relative to the lowlands.”4 Unlike the scientific rigor demanded by Koch’s postulates the simple coincidence of an El Nino and an extinction readily elevated climate change as the causal front-runner for spreading disease. Thus began the battle of dueling extinction theories.

Flip Flops of Global Warming Advocates

“There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.”

Mark Twain- Life on the Mississippi

Pounds was not deterred by the fact that there was no drying trend in Monteverde’s annual, seasonal, or monthly rainfall. Nor was there any trend in the variability of day‑to‑day rainfall. However, after dissecting Monteverde’s weather data, he extracted a single statistic that correlated with increasing CO2 levels. He calculated that during the normal dry season, from January to April, the number of “dry days” with only zero to 0.1 mm of mist had increased from about 12 to about 40 days. Pounds was splitting climate hairs. In fact, 0.1 mm is literally the width of a human hair, and a slight change in a summer breeze could easily alter any mist measurements. But such a simplistic correlation was all he needed to get published in the most rigorously peer reviewed journal Nature. Nature also published a supporting companion article by the late Dr. Stephen Schneider, who used a global climate model to create a futuristic scenario that if CO2 doubled it “could” raise the clouds and “perhaps” cause a harmful drying effect.

But the mist argument was rapidly becoming irrelevant. Evidence from around the world was mounting that Bd was the worldwide killer, and Bd preferred cooler wet habitats. In grave contrast to Pounds’ emphasis on dry days and amplified heat, in reality, dryness and heat was protecting the frogs from the deadly disease.

So Pounds then argued that that those few extra dry days had weakened the frog’s immune system and set the stage for Bd infection. He argued that if his theory was correct then “widespread amphibian extinctions in seemingly undisturbed highland forests may attest to how profound and unpredictable the outcome can be when climate change alters ecological interactions.”4 But unlike the rigorous process demanded by Koch’s postulates, Pounds did not need to demonstrate how a few days of subtle changes in mist had exterminated a species inside a burrow. He did not need to prove how a species adapted to millennia of periodic El Niños was suddenly weakened by just 20 scattered days without 0.1 mm of mist. Yet CO2 advocates uncritically embraced the climate change connection, and over 900 papers cited Pounds’ work, compared to the little more than 200 scientists who cited Laurance’s well-tested novel disease hypothesis.

Because there was no long-term instrumental climate data at Monteverde, a few scientists questioned if those underscored dry days were perhaps just part of a longer natural cycle. Experts from Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory analyzed tree cores around Monteverde and reconstructed the long-term temperature and moisture trends. They concluded, “There was no evidence of a trend associated with global warming.”14

Still Michael Mann heralded Pounds’ explanation in his book Dire Predictions, where he highlighted both the Polar Bears and the Golden Toad as his two biological examples of global warming’s catastrophic consequences. Nature and C.D. Thomas teamed up again to publish Extinction Risk From Climate Change16 writing “Climate change over the past 30 years has produced numerous shifts in the distributions and abundances of species and has been implicated in one species-level extinction,” referring to the Golden Toad. With nothing more than untested speculation, the Golden Toad became the poster child for extinction by CO2–caused global warming, and Alan Pounds joined Camille Parmesan among a very small select group of biologists invited to serve on the Nobel-prize winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Pounds’ “CO2-caused-warming-caused-extinction” theory exemplified what Wunsch had warned against. Without a shred of supporting evidence, Pounds’ hypothesis dominated research and the media, based simply on forceful storytelling and a powerful advocacy journal.

Around the world, rapid amphibian die-offs continued and each extirpation consistently coincided with the sudden arrival of the Bd fungus. As the evidence for Bd mounted, evidence for Pounds’ link to global warming continued to weaken because high temperatures and dryness killed the fungus, and protected the frogs. So CO2 advocates simply dubbed this the climate-chytrid paradox, and faced with ever-mounting contradictory evidence, Pounds changed the specifics of his global warming theory. No longer was the increased “number of dry days” or “amplified warming” the killer. Pounds now reported that Monteverde’s 25 year historical temperature record revealed an approximate 2°F decline in maximum temperature along with an approximate 2°F rise in minimums. So he proposed the chytrid-thermal-optimum hypothesis, in which daytime cooling and night time warming accelerated disease development.17

He now argued that a combination of declining maximum temperatures and an increase in cloud cover had shielded the infected frogs from the healing heat of the sun and was “fostering moist conditions.” He argued that sunlit mats of mosses can sometimes reach the 86°F (30°C) that was known to be lethal to Bd, and those sunlit mats would have served as healing zones to naturally kill the fungus if not for CO2.17 However Pounds knew that the Golden Toads retreated to their dark burrows immediately after breeding and would never have visited those hypothetical “healing patches.”

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Furthermore most of his published temperature trend occurred after the Monteverde extinctions. He also ignored earlier research documenting that the Golden Toads had always emerged from their burrows when their breeding pool temperatures were in Bd’s optimal range.15 If an optimal temperature was required to trigger the deadly disease, the frogs should have died decades earlier. Clearly, Pounds was manufacturing any possible link to rising CO2 levels.

So Nature published Pounds’ more adamant connection to CO2 in “Widespread amphibian extinctions from epidemic disease driven by global warming”.17 Embodying the forceful storyteller Pounds boldly stated, “we conclude with ‘very high confidence’ (>99%, following the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC) that large-scale warming is a key factor in the disappearances. We propose that temperatures at many highland localities are shifting towards the growth optimum of Batrachochytrium, thus encouraging outbreaks. With climate change promoting infectious disease and eroding biodiversity, the urgency of reducing greenhouse-gas concentrations is now undeniable.”17 To further promote this “new” climate optimum hypothesis, Nature added anther companion opinion piece singing the praises of Pounds’ “elegant idea”. Yet Pounds was absolutely wrong.

Other scientists suspected Pounds’ correlations with climate change were simply due to a lack of statistical rigor. In a 2008 paper, “Evaluating the links between climate, disease spread, and amphibian declines” the researchers demonstrated just how easy it is to generate meaningless statistical correlations. In response to Pounds’ link to global warming they wrote, “Numerous other variables, including regional banana and beer production, were better predictors of these extinctions. Almost all of our findings were opposite to the predictions of the chytrid-thermal-optimum hypothesis.”18

Clearly changing our carbon footprint will never, ever remove Bd’s preferred range of temperatures from the world. Some locations may be more optimal than others, but the world will always abound with regions experiencing 53° to 81°F (12-27°C), and wherever and whenever that range occurs, the fungus will grow and spread. Whether man-made or natural, the very most that climate change could ever do is shift the the season when Bd does it’s killing. It was the ease of modern day transportation, and uneducated people who assisted the global spread of disease carriers that allowed Bd to rapidly find new locations with acceptable climates. The best solution for conservationists was to use captive breeding wherever vulnerable species faced imminent extinction. But to protect the CO2 theory, Pounds and Nature unconscionably attacked this life-saving solution promoted to save the frogs.

Denigrating Conservationists

Fortunately, biologists trying to save the frogs understood the real danger and published elsewhere in journals not dominated by climate change advocacy. Seventy‑six amphibian experts eventually agreed on an amphibian recovery plan, and set out to rescue species most likely to be endangered by the spreading wave of Bd fungus. They targeted regions where the climate suited Bd’s growth, and sought out regions nearest the latest wave of the disease’s advance (see map below). Their efforts have been overlooked by the media and advocacy journals, but their success is a tribute to the power of good science.

Reminiscent of the wave of introduced diseases brought by Conquistadors that extirpated millions of native Incas and Aztecs, Central and South American amphibians were under the attack of a rapidly spreading fungus. Karen Lips had been surveying amphibians in Central and South America and had tirelessly warned of the impending dangers of spreading Bd. In 2008 she reported, “Available data support the hypothesis of multiple introductions of this invasive pathogen into South America and subsequent spread along the primary Andean cordilleras. Additional analyses found no evidence to support the hypothesis that climate change has been driving outbreaks of amphibian chytridiomycosis”.19 Martha Crump, who had originally worked with Pounds analyzing the demise of the Golden Toad, now fully grasped the disease’s devastating potential. After the sudden appearance of Bd in Panama and the onset of mass die-offs, these biologists estimated the rate and direction in which the disease would spread. They predicted that the next wave of extinctions would soon strike El Valle, Panama and assembled a team of volunteers from Zoo Atlanta. They flew to Panama and airlifted 600 live frogs of potentially threatened species to safety just before Bd’s predicted arrival ravaged amphibian populations months later.

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The hope now is that captive breeding will provide those species with the opportunity to evolve natural immunity, so eventually they can be released back into the wild. Fortunately, natural selection typically causes new virulent diseases to evolve into less deadly forms. If a strain of the chytrid fungus kills its hosts too quickly before the fungus can reproduce, it eliminates its most deadly genomes. On the other hand, because the disease kills the frogs that are the most vulnerable, any surviving frogs with more resistant genetics slowly repopulate their old habitat. Eventually, a balance evolves where more resistant amphibians and a less virulent disease coexist. Before the age of modern transportation, this evolutionary process happened within a limited area. However if a disease is spread around the world before a balance evolves, the most virulent forms spread a trail of tragic consequences. Species with small populations in a restricted habitat, like the Golden Toad and relatives of the Harlequin Frog, are most vulnerable. A single introduction of the disease can rapidly wipe out an entire species.

In 2012 researchers in the Sierra Nevada also documented a wave of extinction as the fungus’ spread through three lake basins around Sequoia National Park. Only after the fungus suddenly appeared did the local frogs go extinct. These experts again found no support for the Pounds’ global warming hypothesis.22 So much for Pounds’ forceful storytelling and his “very high confidence” (>99%, following the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) that global warming was the driver of amphibian extinctions.

Lips’ valiant attempts to prevent extinction threatened Pounds and his followers and he published articles attacking those conservation efforts. In the journal Science, Pounds denigrated the airlift efforts, “To suggest that this alone can halt the extinctions undermines scientific credibility and engenders false hope and complacency among voters and consumers. Biodiversity loss warns that humanity’s life-support system is crumbling. Those who realize this may become responsible global citizens, demanding sound governance and accountability.”20 Pounds and his fellow advocates appeared less worried about saving frogs and more concerned about maintaining a climate of fear and its political leverage.

For those interested in the scientific detective work that unraveled the Bd epidemic, I highly recommend the 2009 book Extinction in Our Times: Global Amphibian Decline, coauthored by Pounds’ old colleague from Monteverde, Martha Crump. Because Crump sang the praises of the researchers whose tireless efforts identified the spreading disease, the journal Nature and Pounds now teamed up to discredit the book and discourage readers.

Pounds wrote, “James Collins and Martha Crump try to reassure us that these vanishing creatures are not warning of large‑scale environmental deterioration like canaries in a coal mine, but are simply telling us that they themselves are in trouble. A book blaming a fungus for the disappearance of amphibians from wild places wrongly downplays the role of environmental change.”21 But Collins and Crump had most definitely stated that in addition to the fungus-caused deaths, scientists must counteract the other factors threatening the environment. They wrote, “We now recognize commercial exploitation, introduction of exotic species, and land use as ongoing causes of amphibian declines”. But that was not the “environmental change” that Pounds and Nature were trying to exploit. They hijacked a disease transmission issue to wanting us to believe “humanity’s life-support system is crumbling” solely due to rising levels of CO2.

The rapid spread of the chytrid disease still continues worldwide. Although powerful journals like Nature and Science advocated Pounds’ climate hypothesis and persistently maligned the disease hypotheses, and funds were continuously diverted to test Pounds’ ever-changing climate hypotheses, only Laurance’s 1996 hypothesis of a rapidly spreading novel disease has stood the test of time, simply because it was based on rigorous science. Although no carcass of a Golden Toad was ever found and examined, all evidence pointed to Bd, as the first arrival of the fungus correlated with their sudden disappearance.

Nonetheless in 2011, Nature published another article by Camille Parmesan who urged we end the climate debate, “By over-emphasizing the need for rigorous assessment of the specific role of greenhouse-gas forcing in driving observed biological changes, the IPCC effectively yields to the contrarians’ inexhaustible demands for more ‘proof’, rather than advancing the most pressing and practical scientific questions.” Then, as if science had ever proven that CO2 had killed the Golden Toad she wrote, “Species’ extinctions have already been linked to recent climate change; the golden toad is iconic.”23

Indeed, the Golden Toad is iconic. It is iconic of repeated attempts to link rising CO2 to spreading diseases and extinctions based on unsupported correlation and non‑existent evidence. It is iconic of repeated attempts to evoke a climate of fear at the grave expense of sincere conservation efforts. Understanding how modern transportation enhances the transmission of this deadly fungus and other diseases like SARS and influenza is “the most pressing and practical scientific question,” and blaming CO2 warming has been the biggest distraction.

To push a political agenda politicians eagerly capitalize on every tragic event and the Golden Toad demonstrates why public debate about climate change and “demands for proof” are more important now than ever. That is the real scientific process. The case of the Golden Toad exemplifies the methods of Parmesan and Pounds and Mann who represent the illusory “97% consensus” whose authority we are repeatedly told we must never question.

The giants of history like Darwin’s “bulldog” Thomas Huxley relentlessly urged greater critical thinking arguing, “Every great advance in natural knowledge has involved the absolute rejection of authority.” And Benjamin Franklin rallied, “It is the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority.” In contrast advocate scientists and their followers like David Suzuki and Mark Hertsgaard try to bully the media if the media presentats any views skeptical of the consensus’ manufactured authority. Their insistence on “denying the deniers the right to deny” uses fear mongering like the Golden Toad’s extinction and every human tragedy to promote an intellectual tyranny. Such tactics are far more dangerous to our way of life than the current levels of CO2. We must demand more public debates between skeptics and advocates that are honestly moderated, so the world can separate good science from the bad.

Adapted from the chapter Deceptive Extremes  in Landscapes & Cycles: An Environmentalist’s Journey to Climate Skepticism by Jim Steele

Literature Cited

  1. C. Wunsch, 2007. The Past and Future Ocean Circulation from a Contemporary Perspective, in AGU Monograph, 173, A. Schmittner, J. Chiang and S. Hemming, Eds., 53-74.
  2. Ioannidis, J. P. A., (2006) Why Most Published Research Findings Are False. PLoS Medicine, Volume 2, 696-702.
  3. Pounds, JA., and Crump, M. (1994) Amphibian Declines and Climate Disturbance: The Case of the Golden Toad and the Harlequin Frog. Conservation Biology, vol. 8, p. 72-85.
  4. Pounds, J.A., et al, (1999) Biological response to climate change on a tropical mountain. Nature, vol. 398, p. 611-615.
  5. Crump, M., et al. (1992) Apparent Decline of the Golden Toad: Underground or Extinct? Copeia, vol. 1992, pp. 413-420.
  6. Bradley, G., et al., (2002) Chytridiomycosis in Native Arizona Frogs. Journal of Wildlife Diseases, vol. 382, p. 206–212.
  7. Berger, L., et al. (2004) Effect of season and temperature on mortality in amphibians due to chytridiomycosis. Australian Veterinary Journal, vol. 82, p.31–36
  8. Lips, K., (1999) Mass mortality and population declines of anurans at an upland site in western Panama. Conservation Biology, vol. 13, p.117.
  9. Lips, K., et al., (2006) Emerging infectious disease and the loss of biodiversity in a neotropical amphibian community. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 103, p. 3165–3170.
  10. Laurance, W., et al., (1996) Epidemic disease and the catastrophic decline of Australian rain forest frogs. Conservation Biology vol. 10, p. 406–413.
  11. Berger, L., et al. (1998) Chytridiomycosis causes amphibian mortality associated with population declines in the rain forests of Australia and Central America. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA vol. 95, p. 9031–9036.
  12. Piotrowski, J. S., et al. (2004) Physiology of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, a chytrid pathogen of amphibians. Mycologia, 96(1), 2004, pp. 9-15
  13. Lawton, R., et al. (2001) Climatic Impact of Tropical Lowland Deforestation on Nearby Montane Cloud Forests. Science, vol. 294, p. 284-288
  14. Anchukaitis, K. J. and Evans, M., (2010) Tropical cloud forest climate variability and the demise of the Monteverde golden toad. PNAS, vol. 107, p. 5036–5040.
  15. Jacobson, S., and Vandenberg, J., (1991) Reproductive Ecology of the Endangered Golden Toad (Bufo periglenes). Journal of Herpetology, vol. 25, p. 321-327.
  16. Thomas, C.D., et al. (2004) Extinction Risk From Climate Change. Nature, vol. 427, p. 145‑148.
  17. Pounds, J.A., et al., (2006) Widespread amphibian extinctions from epidemic disease driven by global warming. Nature, vol. 439, p. 161-167.
  18. Rohr, J., et al., (2008) Evaluating the links between climate, disease spread and amphibian declines. PNAS, vol. 105, p. 17436–17441.
  19. Lips, K., et al. (2008) Riding the Wave: Reconciling the Roles of Disease and Climate Change in Amphibian Declines. PLoS Biology, vol. 6, p. 441-454.
  20. Pounds, J.A., et al., (2006) Responding to Amphibian Loss. Science, vol. 314, p.1541.
  21. Pounds, J.A., Masters, K., (2009)Amphibian mystery misread. Nature, vol. 462, p. 38-39
  22. Vredenburg,, V, et al., (2010) Dynamics of an emerging disease drive large-scale amphibian population extinctions. PNAS, vol. 107, p. 9689–9694.
  23. Parmesan, C., et al. (2011) Overstretching attribution. Nature Climate Change, vol. 1, April 2011
  24. Ioannidis, J. P. A., (2006) Why Most Published Research Findings Are False. PLoS Medicine, Volume 2, 696-702
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98 Responses to Contrasting Good and Bad Science: Disease, Climate Change and the Case of the Golden Toad

  1. SasjaL says:

    Anyone can write a model

    Yes, known as computer games …

  2. Pippen Kool says:

    When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.
    - John Muir

    Just because you found a fungus that does not mean GW has no role in its spread.

  3. lurker, passing through laughing says:

    Devestating critique of the AGW hype machine. As a life long herper, I have followed this closely, contributing my small bit of support to soe of the captive breeding programs that have been developed to mitigate the fungal epidemic. it was clear from the start that the CO2 obsessed explanations lacked actual knowledge and facts and were ad hoc pattern fitting. The distraction of time wasted defending against yet another climate excursion probably diverted resources that could have had real impact on helping the conservation of amphibians where the fungus was active.

  4. Bob Greene says:

    Terrific summary, Dr. Steele. I remembered bits and pieces of this story from other places, but this piece very nicely puts it all together. Thanks

  5. Eric says:

    Pippen

    Just because the globe has warmed does not mean humans are the direct cause… goes both ways ya know.

  6. Duster says:

    Excellent. The discussion of the cross-discipline conflict is uniquely informative. It seems that climate alarmist science may well be the Bd of science.

  7. dbstealey says:

    Pippen makes another inane “what if” comment.

    If pippen’s mechanism cannot be identified, it is just a mindless WAG.

  8. jim Steele says:

    Pippen, your reference to John Muir is a good one and brings to mind how the established academic authorities tried to denigrate Muir for advocating that Yosemite Valley was created by glaciers. Harvard’s Josiah Whitney’s authority was vested in the prevailing bias of a more catastrophic cause so he called Muir an “ignorant shepherd”. But Muir continued to publish outside the peer reviewed journals and was eventually proven correct. In this case, the Josiah Whitney’s of climate change denigrated everyone who contradicted the CO2 claims.

    I also suspect Pippen, you did not read the whole article or any supporting literature. The overwhelming consensus was there is no link to climate change. As has been documented in California maximum temperatures were cooling in Monteverde. Thus there is no accumulating heat.

  9. Mac the Knife says:

    Jim Steele,

    Thank you, Sir! That was a most engaging synopsis of the successful ‘hunt’ for the true root cause of amphibian extinctions world wide. It was also an excellent cautionary tale of how one scientist will ‘pound’, grind, and selectively torture data to provide correlative evidence that his hypothesis is right, even in the face of increasingly rigorous and overwhelming data to the contrary.

  10. johanna says:

    Thanks for this. The ‘frog extinction due to CAGW’ meme has been uncritically repeated in the media all over the world. Refreshing to hear that some real biologists who have not abandoned the scientific method are on the case.

  11. Duster says:

    Pippen Kool says:
    November 21, 2013 at 11:29 am

    When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.
    - John Muir

    Just because you found a fungus that does not mean GW has no role in its spread.

    Please, please learn to read for comprehension and content. Note that the author stated that at most, climate change simply moves the lethal zones. Climate change did not introduce Bd to Central America, Australia or California. The fungus was not out there lurking, waiting for climate change to come along so it could claim victims.

    The willful ignorance and authoritarian opposition that the identification of the fungus met is the problem. Rather than supporting steps to limit or otherwise control the spread of the fungus, CAGW alarmists pushed CO2 control, which will have no significant effect within our, or our children’s life times. The amphibian decline is certainly a catastrophe; it is not a climate driven one. One of the worst and most dangerous aspects of the entire climate alarm movement is the manner in which its proponents redirect attention from real environmental problems to a gas which is at worst a trivial player and at best a mildly beneficial material.

  12. shano says:

    We should give out a yearly award to Scientists misrepresenting science by attributing an effect to glo-bull warming. I vote we call it the “Golden Toad.”

  13. Latitude says:

    …and the University of Georgia published their findings on the latest coral “disease”
    only to be told by the locals that it was fire worms eating the tips off

  14. Jquip says:

    Long as all get out for a blog post, but absolutely worth the read. One of the better written and documented examples of the maxim: Evidence creates science, activists create evidence.

  15. Pippen Kool says:

    To Jim Steel, with respect:

    Cribbed from Wiki, so we don’t need believe all of it, but:
    Anthropogenic climate change has likely exerted a major effect on amphibian declines. For example, in the Monteverde Cloud Forest, a series of unusually warm years led to the mass disappearances of the Monteverde Harlequin frog and the Golden Toad.[27] An increased level of cloud cover, a result of global warming, which has warmed the nights and cooled daytime temperatures, has been blamed for facilitating the growth and proliferation of the fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (the causative agent of the fungal infection chytridiomycosis).

    Your monologue does not contradict this nor actually disprove it.

  16. KNR says:

    Nature sold itself out to ‘the cause ‘ years ago , its editor makes it clear that its policy is based on the ‘think of the children ‘ approach of emotive first and facts second .

  17. Dave in Canmore says:

    Three cheers for real scientists and conservationists doing real work with real results. So shameful that their work is so marginalised and impeded by other scientists, environmentalists and media.

  18. My internet went down today. I’ve learnt that’s a sure sign something important is happening that I want to see. Didn’t take long to find it:

    Greens give up on Warsaw climate talks

  19. jim Steele says:

    Pippen you readily prove my point. Climate alarmists like yourself cling to any spurious correlation and simultaneously denigrate more rigorous science carried out by people truly concerned about protecting the environment. Alarmist are more vested in protecting catastrophic CO2 theory.

  20. Speed says:

    Pippen Kool cribbed a bit from Wikipedia without a link. Here it is.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decline_in_amphibian_populations

    In the footnotes is a link to a CDC article titled, “Origin of the Amphibian Chytrid Fungus.” I guess he missed it. The abstract:

    The sudden appearance of chytridiomycosis, the cause of amphibian deaths and population declines in several continents, suggests that its etiologic agent, the amphibian chytrid Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, was introduced into the affected regions. However, the origin of this virulent pathogen is unknown. A survey was conducted of 697 archived specimens of 3 species of Xenopus collected from 1879 to 1999 in southern Africa in which the histologic features of the interdigital webbing were analyzed. The earliest case of chytridiomycosis found was in a Xenopus laevis frog in 1938, and overall prevalence was 2.7%. The prevalence showed no significant differences between species, regions, season, or time period. Chytridiomycosis was a stable endemic infection in southern Africa for 23 years before any positive specimen was found outside Africa. We propose that Africa is the origin of the amphibian chytrid and that the international trade in X. laevis that began in the mid-1930s was the means of dissemination.
    http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/10/12/03-0804_article.htm

  21. Jquip says:

    Poppen Kollar: “Your monologue does not contradict this nor actually disprove it.”

    So you’re saying that you believe assertions written by anonymous people on Wikipedia? Give me a couple minutes to edit the article and then tell me if it agrees with Mr. Steele or not.

  22. jim Steele says:

    Jquip says: Long as all get out for a blog post, but absolutely worth the read.

    Thanks Jquip that is good news. I too feared it was much too long for a blog post but I worried I would compromise the message if I sacrificed content for brevity.

  23. Bart says:

    Wow! What a read. Thank you so much!

    Pippen Kool says:
    November 21, 2013 at 11:29 am

    “Just because you found a fungus that does not mean GW has no role in its spread.”

    Did you even read the article?!!! The fungus thrives in cooler climate, you dim watt bulb!

    Idiots! We are surrounded by idiots!

    Pippen Kool says:
    November 21, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    “Your monologue does not contradict this nor actually disprove it.”

    Read the effing article, will you? It does.

  24. Mike Bromley the Kurd says:

    Pippen Cool: Where on earth do you find the time to take one silly assertion and try to refute a huge body of knowledge?

    “Just because you found a fungus that does not mean GW has no role in its spread”

    You basically hijack good research to your ends. And if a fungus was NOT found? What say you then? They found a fungus, all right. And a mechanism of spread. Your smuggled assertion is basically laughable, for if this essay were never posted, you probably would never have KNOWN about the amphibian demise….let alone posit a dumb hypothesis riding like a fungus on the back of science well done. Please, don’t try to appear so smart. It’s really not working.

  25. An elegant piece. Explains succinctly why advocacy can be the enemy of reason.

  26. Indrid Cold says:

    Pippen…

    You didn’t read the article, did you?

  27. george e. smith says:

    “””””……Pippen Kool says:

    November 21, 2013 at 11:29 am

    When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.
    – John Muir

    Just because you found a fungus that does not mean GW has no role in its spread…….””””””

    Or that the absence of global warming might aid in its cure !

  28. george e. smith says:

    Or exacerbate it.

    Speaking of frogs; did you know that if you cut all four legs off Calaveras County bullfrogs, they ALL become stone deaf, and none of them will jump; no matter how loudly, you yell and scream at them. ! (research conducted with a taxpayer funded government grant).

  29. Jim Brock says:

    Pippen: You must have missed the entire scandal at Wikipedia wrt global warming posts. One guy (forgot his name…Cunningham?) was continually amending posts that offset the AGW trope. They finally were forced to shut him out of the process. So I would never rely on Wikipedia for AGW support.

  30. TomRude says:

    Great story!

  31. george e. smith says:

    “””…..Pippen Kool says:

    November 21, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    To Jim Steel, with respect:

    Cribbed from Wiki, so we don’t need believe all of it, but:
    Anthropogenic climate change has likely exerted a major effect on amphibian declines. For example, in the Monteverde Cloud Forest, a series of unusually warm years led to the mass disappearances of the Monteverde Harlequin frog and the Golden Toad.[27] An increased level of cloud cover, a result of global warming, which has warmed the nights and cooled daytime temperatures, has been blamed for facilitating the growth and proliferation of the fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (the causative agent of the fungal infection chytridiomycosis).

    Your monologue does not contradict this nor actually disprove it…….”””””

    Now that is something I really want to experience for myself, first hand (not by proxy).

    Just once before I go to the big fishing hole in the sky, I want to put on my cold weather gear, on one of those cooler cloudy days, and watch the sun set, so I can sit on the swing on my front verandah, and wait for it to warm up as it gets darker.

    So far in all of my life, it has only gotten colder after sunset; it has never warmed up. The only warm nights, I have ever experienced, have all followed sunset after a much hotter day; and often one that evaporated a lot of moisture during that hot day; which often then condenses to clouds as the night time temperatures cool.

    Haven’t you ever noticed how you often get high clouds at night, when you have warm nights that follow hot humid days ?? Must be a cause and effect there somewhere.

  32. george e. smith says:

    @Jim Steele :

    Jim, one of the “other” AGWMMGWCC scary stories, is the problem of entire beehive colonies being wiped out, leading to problems for crop farmers trying to germinate their fields.

    Somehow, it seems to me, that this too has now been associated with some critter pestilence.

    Are you able to enlighten us on that mystery ??

  33. george e. smith says:

    or pollenate them as the case may be.

  34. jim Steele says:

    George are you subtly arguing for CO2 by suggesting it increases clouds that cools maximum and warms minimum temperatures? Indeed clouds can exert that effect but in many places like the Sierra Nevada the same opposing trends are observed independently from changing cloud cover. See Yosemite http://landscapesandcycles.net/image/73289385_scaled_390x294.png

    Furthermore the CO2 theory argues that heat is being accumulate due to CO2. However a warmer night does not mean heat has been stored in the system. If maximum temperatures are not rising then either less heat is entering the system or more heat is being ventilated when daytime convection resumes.

  35. Mike Maguire says:

    shano says:
    November 21, 2013 at 11:52 am

    We should give out a yearly award to Scientists misrepresenting science by attributing an effect to glo-bull warming. I vote we call it the “Golden Toad.”

    Great idea! They already have “The World’s Biggest Liar” competition:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World%27s_Biggest_Liar

  36. Pippen Kool says:

    jim Steele says: “Climate alarmists like yourself cling to any spurious correlation and … are more vested in protecting catastrophic CO2 theory.”

    Whatever.

    I never said you were incorrect, except your monologue does not show Pound’s hypothesis incorrect. It would seem that both ideas have merit and contribute. Amphibians are having a tough time of it now, and I imagine many things are working against them, not just one.

    But saying that I am “vested” when you are saying things like, “the journal Nature actively campaigned to down-play the disease hypothesis and blame CO2-caused warming to incite public fears of climate change”, it seems like you are “vested” into conspiracy theory.

  37. jim Steele says:

    George, the reported crashes in some honey bee hives likely has many causes and each reported case seems to be surrounded by varying environmental conditions. The least supported hypothesis is that cellphones are the cause as it is just another spurious correlation linked by the logic more cell phones have proliferated during the time of dead bees. I am currently leaning towards the zombie bee explanation but I am biased because it was first suggested by a colleague Dr. John Hafernik. He picked up a dead bee and put in a a vial. When he observed it later, he found a parasitic fly had unexpectedly emerged. The parasite causes the bees to uncharacteristically leave the hive at night and fly to night lights just before they die. The bees die and the parasites emerge and fly away to resume the cycle, explaining why the parasite and bees were not readily connected before. It makes sense that honey bees will be prone to evolving parasitic attacks as they are constantly exposed to new ecosystems. Honeybees are not native to North America, Asia or Australia but have been introduced and bee-keepers shuttle hives across the landscape wherever farmers request these pollinators. However these recent die-offs are actually of less concern as most beekeeper are more worried about mites. Hafernik submitted his parasite story to Nature but despite having parasties in hand, Nature did not want to publish his findings. For more info on zombie bees visit https://www.zombeewatch.org

  38. jim Steele says:

    Pippen, Did some one just publish that alarmists should attack skeptics as conspiracy nuts? I never said it was a conspiracy, but it seems to be the retort du jour interjected by the CO2 faithful. If you read the articles in Nature you will see they downplayed the disease and did not demand the authors to account for confounding factors. Documenting their advocacy is a far cry from a “conspiracy theory” When Nature published Parmesan’s paper claiming that “Species’ extinctions have already been linked to recent climate change; the golden toad is iconic” do you think that was an honest and supported statement?

  39. Eric says:

    Watch out now! Pippen is about to launch into a Lew diatribe…

  40. Jimbo says:

    Pippen Kool says:
    November 21, 2013 at 11:29 am

    When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.
    - John Muir

    Just because you found a fungus that does not mean GW has no role in its spread.

    Pippen Kool can’t read. Hey, just because you found a fungus that does not mean GW has no role in its spread of piracy. You thinking is duff, where is the beef?

    The fungus has been spread by researcher’s boots, tires, bird feathers, international trade and invasive species. Temperature does not need to come into play old boy.

    Abstract
    …..A survey was conducted of 697 archived specimens of 3 species of Xenopus collected from 1879 to 1999 in southern Africa in which the histologic features of the interdigital webbing were analyzed. The earliest case of chytridiomycosis found was in a Xenopus laevis frog in 1938, and overall prevalence was 2.7%. The prevalence showed no significant differences between species, regions, season, or time period. Chytridiomycosis was a stable endemic infection in southern Africa for 23 years before any positive specimen was found outside Africa. We propose that Africa is the origin of the amphibian chytrid and that the international trade in X. laevis that began in the mid-1930s was the means of dissemination.
    http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/10/12/03-0804_article.htm

    Abstract
    Amphibian chytridiomycosis in Japan: distribution, haplotypes and possible route of entry into Japan
    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-294X.2009.04384.x/abstract?deniedAccessCustomisedMessage=&userIsAuthenticated=false

    Check out the shoes.

    “Chytrid is now reported on all continents where frogs live—in 43 countries and 36 U.S. states. It survives at elevations from sea level to 20,000 feet and kills animals that are aquatic, land-loving, and those that jump the line. Locally it may be spread by anything from a frog’s legs to a bird’s feathers to a hiker’s muddy boots, and it has afflicted at least 200 species.”

    ”It wasn’t long ago when you walked along the bank of this pond,” he recalls, “a frog leapt at every other step. You’d see hundreds of them alive and well, soaking in the sun in a writhing mass.” But in 2005, when the biologist hiked up to his camp anticipating another season of long-term studies, “there were dead frogs everywhere. Frogs I’d been working with for years, that I’d tagged and followed through their lives, all dead. I sat down on the ground and cried.””
    http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/print/2009/04/amphibian/holland-text

  41. Sweet Old Bob says:

    @ Eric
    That might be FliPippen Un Kool ….

  42. High Treason says:

    Tim Flannery in ‘”Weather Makers” was also going boo-hoo over the Golden Toad becoming extinct from climate change, then miraculously comes to the conclusion that we have to stop using fossil fuel now because man-made CO2 causes global warming(flapping wings and soiled nappies.) Mind you, Tim ascribes to the Gaia theory of Earth being a single organism. This eco-centric model IS neo- Paganism.
    It was a shame last year I did not get a chance to shove my copy of his book under his nose to see the inscriptions I put on it. “Nothing so sullies the integrity of humanity as the subversion of science for the servitude of politics” and “May the last person to read this book please use it for its correct purpose…………toilet paper.” He was told straight to his face and deliberately invading his personal space that his book was crap.His reply is that he was happy someone had read it.
    Now, where is that packet of bran?

  43. Jimbo says:

    Now Pippen Kool please read the following. Next time try using Occam’s Razor.

    Abstract
    Evaluating the links between climate, disease spread, and amphibian declines
    Human alteration of the environment has arguably propelled the Earth into its sixth mass extinction event and amphibians, the most threatened of all vertebrate taxa, are at the forefront. Many of the worldwide amphibian declines have been caused by the chytrid fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), and two contrasting hypotheses have been proposed to explain these declines. Positive correlations between global warming and Bd-related declines sparked the chytrid-thermal-optimum hypothesis, which proposes that global warming increased cloud cover in warm years that drove the convergence of daytime and nighttime temperatures toward the thermal optimum for Bd growth. In contrast, the spatiotemporal-spread hypothesis states that Bd-related declines are caused by the introduction and spread of Bd, independent of climate change. We provide a rigorous test of these hypotheses by evaluating (i) whether cloud cover, temperature convergence, and predicted temperature-dependent Bd growth are significant positive predictors of amphibian extinctions in the genus Atelopus and (ii) whether spatial structure in the timing of these extinctions can be detected without making assumptions about the location, timing, or number of Bd emergences. We show that there is spatial structure to the timing of Atelopus spp. extinctions but that the cause of this structure remains equivocal, emphasizing the need for further molecular characterization of Bd. We also show that the reported positive multi-decade correlation between Atelopus spp. extinctions and mean tropical air temperature in the previous year is indeed robust, but the evidence that it is causal is weak because numerous other variables, including regional banana and beer production, were better predictors of these extinctions. Finally, almost all of our findings were opposite to the predictions of the chytrid-thermal-optimum hypothesis. Although climate change is likely to play an important role in worldwide amphibian declines, more convincing evidence is needed of a causal link.

    Can you show the climate cause?

  44. tz2026 says:

    As to medicine, dietdoctor.com, Gary Taubes, and many others point out that carbohydrates are causing the epidemic of Diabetes, but that the last 30 years we were told to cut fats (which means eating more sugars, fructose, starches, and other carbs).

    Few doctors evennow question the “you have to cut fat and take statins and insulin booster drugs” orthodoxy.

  45. davidmhoffer says:

    Jim Steele, that was one amazing read.

  46. Kip Hansen says:

    It was the “What’s Killing The Frogs?” debate, back many years ago, that prompted me to start my original “bulletin board” (today we’d call it a blog) the now-extinct “Bad Science Times”.

  47. Jimbo says:

    Pippen Kool says:
    November 21, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    To Jim Steel, with respect:

    Cribbed from Wiki, so we don’t need believe all of it, but:
    Anthropogenic climate change has likely exerted a major effect on amphibian declines. For example, in the Monteverde Cloud Forest, a series of unusually warm years led to the mass disappearances of the Monteverde Harlequin frog and the Golden Toad.[27] An increased level of cloud cover, a result of global warming, which has warmed the nights and cooled daytime temperatures, has been blamed for facilitating the growth and proliferation of the fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (the causative agent of the fungal infection chytridiomycosis).

    Pippen moves from assertions to Wiki. Show me the beef? Peer reviewed for such a strong assertion. Did you see the word likely? Pippen, you are likely to be a thinking person. :-)

  48. Old'un says:

    A truly compelling read and not a word too long.

    ‘To push the political agenda politicians eagerly capitalize on every tragic event’……Sadly, typhoon Haiyan is a current example in the UK, where David Cameron and Prince Charles (not constitutionaly a politician, but that doesn’t stop him) have both taken the opportunity this week to urge action on carbon emission reduction, falsely claiming that AGW is causing more frequent and more severe events such as Haiyan.

    Statements like these from influential people are the political equivalent of positive feedback in climate models, but much more damaging.

  49. agfosterjr says:

    It’s only appropriate that a Pippen skunk wander in and spray all over our perfume fest. Its what CACC apologists have been doing to science for years. Thank you, Prof. Steele. –AGF

  50. Dr Burns says:

    Well done. One of the best articles I’ve ever read here.

  51. craigm350 says:

    Reblogged this on CraigM350 and commented:
    I have often thought (and said) the CO2 meme takes valuable resources, time and effort away from real environmental issues. A very good read.

  52. CalvinH says:

    ‘We should give out a yearly award to Scientists misrepresenting science by attributing an effect to glo-bull warming. I vote we call it the “Golden Toad.”’

    How about we call it the “Golden Toady”

  53. @ Jim Steele

    An excellent read, Jim. The last piece of yours I read inspired me to purchase your book from Amazon. However, it hadn’t arrived when it occurred to me that I should order a copy. My 62 year old brains do not remember everything as they used to. So I ordered a copy from The Book Depository while ordering another book. Both copies of your book arrived at the Post Office on Wednesday accompanied by five cases of wine, a case of lager and a second hand Kevin Coyne CD from the USA. I shall sell the redundant copy of your book to my favourite bookshop when in the city next Thursday. In the meantime I will slowly drink the wine and have a good read :-)

    Apropos bees, we had terrible problems with two bacterial diseases, European and American foul brood, quite some years ago. This was exacerbated locally by one orchardist using carbaryl (an organophosphate insecticide) as a blossom-thinning spray. We asked him to use a readily available non-lethal thinning spray, but he refused. So we beekeepers sold off our hives, much to the chagrin of the all the local orchardists. The combination of foul brood and carbaryl had wiped out all the wild hives and there were no longer any bees to pollinate the apple crop.

  54. RACookPE1978 says:

    Let us see here ….

    If increased frog deaths are caused by increased levels of skin disease, and increased skin disease is caused by an increase in the spread of a particular invasive Bd contaminant or fungus, and that fungus is spread by muddy (non-sterilized) boots and (non-sterilized) hands examining 68,000 frogs across many habitats by many biologists studying frog diseases in those many habitats …

    Then obviously the disease is caused by CO2-induced global warming because without CO2-induced global warming hype those biologists would not have gotten the increased funding to go walk around in contaminated muddy boots in many habitats spreading disease!

    (Because, after all, NO ACTUAL MEASURED INCREASE IN TEMPERATURE HAS BEEN MEASURED WORLDWIDE FOR 17 YEARS. )

  55. brians356 says:

    Pippen Kool said:

    “Whatever.”

    That says it all. Any notion that P.K. might be a serious cogitator – shattered!

  56. David Riser says:

    Excellent article, definitely worth the read. Ignore pippin, he is not cool and an obvious alarmist who only read the first sentence or so. Sometimes it takes a bit of writing to get the whole story out. I appreciate the effort!
    v/r,
    David Riser

  57. Speed says:

    Hot off the presses.

    (Reuters) – A frog named after Charles Darwin has gone extinct because of a deadly amphibian skin disease, scientists believe.
    http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/11/20/us-science-darwin-frog-idUSBRE9AJ1B220131120

    Is Chytridiomycosis Driving Darwin’s Frogs to Extinction?
    http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0079862

    The Population Decline and Extinction of Darwin’s Frogs
    http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0066957

  58. FrankK says:

    brians356 says:
    November 21, 2013 at 2:59 pm
    Pippen Kool said:

    “Whatever.”

    That says it all. Any notion that P.K. might be a serious cogitator – shattered!
    ——————————————————————————————–
    Pimpled and cool!

  59. Bart says:

    CalvinH says:
    November 21, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    ‘How about we call it the “Golden Toady”’

    That is, perhaps, a title better reserved for the recipient rather than the prize itself ;-)

  60. jim Steele says:

    @Speed
    Thanks? for the sad update about Darwin’s frog. I feared that was coming because in Chile, the African clawed frog was introduced in the 1970s (Jaksic 1998; Lobos and Measey 2002; Lobos and Jaksic 2005) and in the 1980s the first feral populations were recognized and bullfrogs were still being introduced as food.

    @craigm350 says:I have often thought (and said) the CO2 meme takes valuable resources, time and effort away from real environmental issues. A very good read.

    Thans for re-posting. Indeed the CO2 meme takes valuable resources, time and effort away from real environmental issues and this needs to be recognized as the greatest threat to sound environmental stewardship.

    @Jimbo

    I always appreciate you wealth of links that add to the discussion

  61. Gary Pearse says:

    Beautiful ugly story Jim Steele- I’m buying the book.This is the first blog post in WUWT since I started following it in 2007 that brought me to tears. Several of these wonderful species could have been saved with a massive conservation effort had it not been shouted down and impoverished by CAGW Luddites. This is, indeed, massive extinction, because of a man-made CAGW cult without any help from changing climate. I agree wholeheartedly with Shano:

    shano says:
    November 21, 2013 at 11:52 am

    “We should give out a yearly award to Scientists misrepresenting science by attributing an effect to glo-bull warming. I vote we call it the “Golden Toad.”

    Where are the hearts and souls of people like Pound, Mann, Parmesan, Suzuki, etc, and of the silent legions of scientists who stand by, putting up with this immoral, reckless, insidious harm (you share the shame and guilt. Actually, you are responsible for this). After reading this, which is mostly new to me (I had heard it was from disease caused by frog collecting for development of pregnancy tests) I think to save the planet from these devilish practioners there has to be a massive intervention. Where are the useful idiots with “designer brains” from campus petri dishes that finally should have something substantive to complain about? Debate? Reasoned argument? Forget about that. Put on a golden toad T shirt or badge with “corrupt CAGW climate science and the UN killed me, and tell this story.

    http://articles.latimes.com/keyword/abbie-hoffman/recent/5
    “…Abbie Hoffman berate(s) Rubin’s “yuppieness” and “designer brains.”

  62. Tim says:

    The parallel being that just as the biologists assisted the demise of the amphibians, the climatologists also assist the warming of the planet due to their temperature corrections and assist worldwide poverty due to their political ideology.

  63. Chad Wozniak says:

    An important response to global warming silliness. I’m ordering Jim Steele’s book from Amazon as we speak.

    @!jquip -
    Good point, but I’d say that activists create what they claim is evidence but isn’t – such as models.

  64. JimF says:

    Jim Steele: Another tremendously educational and fascinating read. As before, you show that the “true believers of global warming apocalypse” are fighting and hindering true science. Going on in a religious mode, I see these people as “sinners” and I do hope there is a special hell for them.

  65. catweazle666 says:

    Thank you Jim Steele.

    A cautionary tale and no mistake.

  66. Mr. Steele, that was an extremely good piece. Well done.

  67. Tsk Tsk says:

    Pippen Kool says:
    November 21, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    jim Steele says: “Climate alarmists like yourself cling to any spurious correlation and … are more vested in protecting catastrophic CO2 theory.”

    Whatever.

    I never said you were incorrect, except your monologue does not show Pound’s hypothesis incorrect.
    ========================================================================
    *sigh* And again we have emotion and playground arguments over science. Pippen, the burden of proof is not on those attacking the hypothesis, it is on those making the hypothesis. Did we forget to pour the lemon juice into our volcano again?

  68. PaulH says:

    An excellent article. Thank you for this.

  69. DirkH says:

    Pippen Kool says:
    November 21, 2013 at 1:42 pm
    “But saying that I am “vested” when you are saying things like, “the journal Nature actively campaigned to down-play the disease hypothesis and blame CO2-caused warming to incite public fears of climate change”, it seems like you are “vested” into conspiracy theory.”

    Well Nature has been publishing some select pure model phantasies lately (Winds around Antarctica leading to a declining sea level, less heat exchange with the ocean, the Ozone hole working against it etc…. whatever Leela saw in her model…). So they’ve really jumped the shark and are now a sort of Discovery Channel.

    So let’s see who’s the publisher…
    Publisher Nature Publishing Group (subsidiary of Georg von Holtzbrinck Publishing Group) (United Kingdom)
    …Holtzbrinck of course Zee Germans from Stuttgart; which is currently ruled by a Green, formerly communist, called Kretschmann…
    Yes, the Swabians used to be conservative, but they changed. They are now watermelons.

  70. otsar says:

    hank you for the excellent article. I would not worry about the length of a well written on this forum as the readers are not from the sound bite brigade. And I thank you for keeping alive and saving the Sierra campus. Long before your tenure, I spent a summer doing geology studies there. I remember that at that time the place was being taken over by some politically correct militant vegetarians. I had to work hard to keep myself from ridiculing and taunting them, such as pointing out some notorious vegetarians.

  71. jorgekafkazar says:

    Jim Steele’s post is an excellent, if depressing, expose of the degeneration of post-modern science into mere religion. Science, we hardly knew ye.

    And how amusing that Sippin’ Kool-Aid has chosen this time to wander in and display his/her/its almost total lack of knowledge, logic, and comprehension: “Cribbed from Wiki, so we don’t need believe all of it, but…”

    No, indeed. We don’t need to believe any of it, Sippin’.

    Using the principles of Klimutt Syunts: Every population of toads/frogs that became extinct was visited by academics. Post hoc ergo propter hoc. The academics killed them, QSDF. (JK, Jim).

  72. Laurie says:

    Thanks for this piece. It’s going into the file of favorites!

  73. Reed Coray says:

    I wish I knew enough about amphibians and diseases to pass judgment on Dr, Steele’s (I assume he holds a doctorate) article. Alas, I lack the knowledge. What I do have is sufficient perception to recognize a well-written article, and the above qualifies. I want to thank Dr. Steele for an interesting and enlightening article. I admit I want to believe what Dr. Steele wrote because it conforms to my opinion of the leaders (Michael Mann, Nature, etc.) of the AGW movement–namely that it’s fame not science that they’re interested in. If Dr. Steele is right, the best words I have for Nature are “shame on you”. The words I have for Dr. Mann are not printable.

  74. george e. smith says:

    “””””…..jim Steele says:

    November 21, 2013 at 1:36 pm

    George are you subtly arguing for CO2 by suggesting it increases clouds that cools maximum and warms minimum temperatures? Indeed clouds can exert that effect but in many places like the Sierra Nevada the same opposing trends are observed independently from changing cloud cover……”””””

    No Jim; just my take on the six o’clock T&V weather report, where the weather guy/gal says that there are high clouds forming, so it will be a warm balmy night. And you can find graphs in meteorology text books, that show that he higher the clouds, the warmer the nights. Ergo the high clouds caused the warm nights.

    But no; both were preceded by a much warmer day, often one with high humidity. I’ve watched the clear skies, begin to cloud up (high) in the late afternoons, often seeded by an aircraft vapor trail that grows, instead of dissipating.

    The higher the daytime Temperatures, the warmer the nights will be, and the higher that moist air has to rise, to reach the dew point temperature. Also the lower the hot daytime humidity, the higher is the dew point going to be, so higher clouds still (if they can form at all), and of course those hotter days will give warmer nights to go along with the higher clouds they create.

    So the books have it exactly backwards. Both the warm nights, and the high clouds are the result of even warmer days before the sunsets. It is still going to cool at night, but starting from a higher daytime temperature. It never warms after sunset (excluding of course the influx of warm air from some other location.

    No I don’t believe CO2 absorption of LWIR radiation (which I believe) is amplified by something else such as H2O. Water is perfectly capable of triggering its own effects. More surface Temperature, means more evaporation, and more solar energy absorption by the water vapor (or other GHGs like O3); and that leads to less solar spectrum energy reaching the ground, 70+% of which is the ocean, which it penetrates deeply into. The warmer atmosphere as a result re-radiates LWIR, half of which escapes to space, so it never reaches the surface. And of course more evap leads to more clouds (and ultimately more precip). So water is a strong negative feedback, because more of it in the atmosphere means more solar spectrum energy loss at the surface, which leads to cooling, and verse vicea.

    I would also expect more water in the atmosphere to uptake more CO2 (Henry’s law), which will be removed from the atmosphere when it precipitates, into the oceans, thereby increasing the purge rate. As they say in Colorado, “It’s the water !”. Well they actually think it’s beer.

  75. george e. smith says:

    PS By the way, that really is one hell of a story, you posted up there, a real whodunit ! Thanx.

  76. jim Steele says:

    off topic @otsar Were you a student of Woody Brooks at Hayward State?

  77. High Treason says:

    I will second the call for “Golden Toad” awards for BS “science” . Perhaps the recipients can be approached with video cameras rolling with their award presenters. The presenter should have the obligatory crocodile tears, sobs, wing flapping and soiled nappies . Michael Mann and Tim Flannery will be prime recipients of a Golden Toad award. Perhaps I can find a toy plastic frog at a yard sale, paint it with gold paint, mount on a polished block of wood scrounged from a building site. Inscription put on a piece of embossed aluminium from a drink can . “This Golden toad award has been presented to (Tim Flannery, Al Gore, James Hanson, Michael Mann etc) in recognition for services to the misrepresentation of science to further the Gaian agenda.”

  78. Mike Whaley says:

    I won a lengthy back and forth on this over at SKS a couple of years ago and that led to me getting banned from the site. At the time I was promised by one of their regular contributors that he was working on a long list of extinctions due to climate change. They have yet to be posted.

  79. beng says:

    Thanks once again, Jim Steele. You are a warrior fighting for proper science.

  80. SAB says:

    Thank you very much for this post. I read it to my partner as a compelling account of the processes of distortion which are occurring, and which are initially so unbelievable to those who haven’t been following the arguments through blogs like this one.
    Hijacking of journals & learned institutions, replicability/open data problems, review processes, confirmation bias, funding methodology, plus other related issues – if we follow the ‘paradigm-shift’ accounts of scientific change, it seems to me we are heading for such a situation. In the past, such shifts appear to have subtly altered the process of science itself almost in passing, as well as whatever theoretical corpus gets overturned. However, I think that this time it is the social process, proceedings and position of the scientific enterprise which will be at the centre of change. In order for that to happen, (at least) two things need to occur:

    1. All the shortcomings and vulnerabilities need to be seen together, with some understanding of a common thread which underlies them all – it all needs to come into focus as an overall theme, and

    2. We need a coherent alternative vision of what science would be like, with these issues comprehensively addressed. That sounds very centralist, and I am aware that science is strongly individualist. However, when the integrity of this unique enterprise has been undermined in places by determined and collective effort, it may be that a ‘designed’ response is required.

    It’s so reassuring to see honest environmental stewardship arising from genuine science, even if it is subjected to trashing by the CAGW monomaniacs. Surely it’s time to create a framework for research which can withstand such vandalism?

    Stuart B

  81. Jim Clarke says:

    Fantastic Article. I also love the idea of the Golden Toad award, but wish the iconic amphibian was called the slimy toad or the lead toad. The word ‘golden’ makes the award sound almost desirable. The Slimy Toad Award would be much more descriptive, but removes some of the connection to the story that prompted the award.

  82. otsar says:

    off topic @Jim Steele
    Yes

  83. 3x2 says:

    November 21, 2013 at 12:38 pm jim Steele says:

    Jquip says: Long as all get out for a blog post, but absolutely worth the read.

    Thanks Jquip that is good news. I too feared it was much too long for a blog post but I worried I would compromise the message if I sacrificed content for brevity.

    No, a very interesting read. Thanks for that.

    Not sure what would be a maximum length for a blog post. If it is interesting, and yours was, then write on. I tend to quickly ‘lose the will to live’ when reading a lengthy paper on screen but yours was well within my comfort zone (I didn’t, at any point, think of firing up the printer).

  84. Tom Moran says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this great essay. Most enjoyable was the back and forth on how when the alarmist kept being proved wrong, he kept changing his evidence so that the only possible cause always had to be CO2. And the Dogmatic Toady award goes to the Pounds….

  85. 3x2 says:

    November 21, 2013 at 4:11 pm jim Steele says:

    Thanks for re-posting. Indeed the CO2 meme takes valuable resources, time and effort away from real environmental issues and this needs to be recognized as the greatest threat to sound environmental stewardship.

    It is possibly more dangerous than simply diverting resources from real environmental issues.The Green Taliban, being fundamentalist in nature, risk turning ‘ordinary people’ away from anything ‘environmental’. This could have very real consequences for ‘real environmental issues’ in the coming years as ‘ordinary people’ come to associate what could be very necessary ‘environmental stewardship’ with Taliban like extremism. Funding can be withdrawn just as quickly as it appeared – especially Government funding (those Politicians do love their re-election).

  86. Lil Fella from OZ says:

    Thanks so much for the article. In Australia, NSW, they went through the save the frog scare. Let controlled environmental flow down one river to save the frogs. Little did they know! When the season was right frogs came from everywhere. Science?! No! Guess work. Failed guess work at that!

  87. Brian H says:

    Extinction experts turn out to be experts at causing extinction. When Nature does irony, She plays for keeps.

  88. Pedantic old Fart says:

    Dr Jim Steele, having read “Landscapes and Cycles” I have to urge you never to think that what you post might be too lengthy. Your prose is erudite and so very readable and you always have a clear point to make. “Landscapes and Cycles” was like a breath of fresh air and your adapted postings here are no less fascinating even having read your book. Meanwhile talking to Pippen Kool seems to me to be just feeding the troll.

  89. jim Steele says:

    Thanks so much you pedantic old fart. You just made my day. I would greatly appreciate you post your comments about the book to Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Landscapes-Cycles-Environmentalists-Journey-Skepticism/dp/1490390189

  90. UconnJack says:

    It’s amazing to me how AGW supporters discount any input on climate change from scientists from any other discipline other than “climate science”, yet they have no problem forcing “climate science” into those other fields (e.g., biology) where they have no expertise.

  91. Brian H says:

    Or business.

  92. Dan Cookson says:

    Excellent piece. I learnt a lot.
    Tiny point – second word should be ‘ensure’ not ‘insure’

  93. johanna says:

    As possibly one of the last comments on this post, (my appreciation is way above), I wish to complain about the low standard of trolls here. An influential blog like WUWT, and a well written and researched article such as this, deserves better than the C Team.

    If I lived in England, I would write a strongly worded letter to The Times about it.

  94. John West says:

    @ Jim Steele

    Another excellent article!

    Once again you challenge me to rethink what I thought I knew. I had concluded that individuals drawn to a career in science to “make a difference” as opposed to those with a profound curiosity and drive to understand the universe were inevitably fated to fall into the trappings of advocacy for the most popular paradigm. However, this conclusion does not jive with those researchers rescuing frogs from the impending threat of invasive fungus in direct opposition to the popular theory. Obviously, I have no idea what motivated those individuals to make the career choices they made, but it is conceivable that some had notions of “making a difference”, but were still committed enough to rigorous scientific inquiry not to climb onto the global warming bandwagon. Perhaps their training or some natural inclination to skepticism or critical thinking was the key factor in their ability/willingness to see past the Zohnerism.

  95. Michael Larkin says:

    Wonderful article, Dr. Steele. Thank you very much.

  96. Kyle says:

    [Snip. Multiple use of the pejorative "deniers". Read the site Policy. — mod.]

  97. Kyle says:

    My previous msg was censored – not so much because of usage of one word – as for its content. You could bleep the word but you’ll use any excuse to censor the content.

  98. Janice Moore says:

    Yet another excellent, thorough and objectively written, article, Mr. Steele. Thank you, so much, for sharing more of your fine book with us (when I buy it….., I WILL write a review for Amazon!).

    btw: How is your valiant attempt going to get that stinking Parmesan garbage paper retracted? I never heard anything further. Well, anyway, GOOD FOR YOU TO TRY!
    **********************************
    Hi, Johanna,

    Glad to see you post above — not likely you’ll see THIS post, though, lol. Well, FWIW, I hope all is well. After the anomalous-but-vile misogyny tolerated (even after it being pointed out by more than one of us — that was a real kick in the gut; the mod said: a. nothing about being sorry I was made to feel “sick” by it, only coolly replying that mods often miss stuff not in the mod queue, i.e., essentially: shrug — Crap happens, Cheers!; and b. then left the offending post (I haven’t checked for a few days, now, though) despite being told. Bummer.) on the most recent Feynman thread, I wondered if that was the straw for you… . Glad to see it was not.

    Well, even if you do not read this, at least I got to express my dismay a bit.

    Enjoy your summer!

    Janice

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