Fabricating Climate Doom – Part 2: Hijacking Conservation Success in the UK to Build Consensus!

English: Large Blue butterfly, Maculinea arion...

Large Blue butterfly, Maculinea arion, Rabastens-de-Bigorre, Hautes Pyrénées, France (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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

What Good Conservation Science Reported

Good stewards of the environment are compelled to engage in good science. In 1980, butterfly experts in the United Kingdom predicted that both the Silver-spotted Skipper and the Large Blue butterfly were doomed to extinction. The widespread Silver-spotted Skipper was gradually restricted to just 46 locations. The more rare Large Blue had been declining from over 90 estimated colonies supporting tens of thousands in the 1800s to just two colonies and about 325 individuals by 1972. The question that had continuously eluded conservationists was why?

Disturbed by repeated failures to correctly identify the causes of the decline, Dr. Jeremy Thomas embarked upon extensive research that ultimately unraveled the mystery. It is a model of superb scientific research and demonstrates why good environmental stewards must employ carefully detailed studies. For those of you who enjoy bizarre nature stories, the life of the Large Blue is a fascinating tale of deception and betrayal in which plump, seemingly helpless caterpillars turn the tables on voracious ants. And oddly enough, despite global warming, the Large Blue went extinct in England because its microclimate had cooled.

In earlier attempts to stave off the Large Blue’s extirpation, UK conservationists had protected nine areas in order to minimize any human impact on the remaining populations. However this habitat protection uncharacteristically failed to slow the species’ decline, so conservationists inferred that the most likely culprits must be unscrupulous butterfly collectors who were trying to cash in on the value of its increasing rarity. So conservationists hurriedly erected protective fences, only to watch hopelessly as the last population continued to decline. Ironically, the fence itself, not greedy collectors, was the final nail in the Large Blue’s coffin.1

Europe’s Large Blue belongs to a group of butterflies whose survival has been eternally entwined with the fate of local ants. In a process that sounds lifted from a Disney or Pixar screenplay, Large Blue caterpillars summon ant bodyguards with special calls and scents. The discovery of talking caterpillars is a fascinating story in itself, but the story gets better. Upon arriving, the summoned ants are fed with a sugary reward oozed from special pores in the caterpillar’s bodies. The caterpillars also exude intoxicating chemicals that make their new ant bodyguards more aggressive against other less friendly ant species. (Search YouTube for “ant caterpillar mutualism” for a 2-minute real-life video)

clip_image002One species of the Blues not only beckons the ants to come to its protection, but then seduces the ants to carry it into the ant colony. Once inside, the caterpillar then mimics the sounds of the queen ant, demanding to be fed in royal ant fashion. This is not quite the royal treatment imagined by humans: the caterpillar’s instinctual impersonation induces the worker ants to approach and regurgitate their stomach contents, upon which the caterpillar gratefully dines.

The Large Blue’s relationship with ants has an added twist more reminiscent of a grade B movie depicting the horrors of adopting a mysterious orphan. After hatching, Large Blue caterpillars feed on their host plant just as all other caterpillars do. And like other species of Blues, they soon drop to the ground to summon and then mesmerize a local ant species. Because the ants’ worm-like larvae resemble the size and shape of the early stage of these caterpillars, the intoxicating charade is sufficiently convincing, and the ants quickly carry the caterpillar into their nest.

Once the caterpillar is safely nestled into the ant’s nursery, the hideous betrayal commences. One by one the ungrateful adoptee devours the ant’s larvae. The Large Blue’s very existence has evolved to become completely dependent on eating “baby ants.” And only this one species of ant will do. Ironically, these butterflies often cause the extirpation of the adopting ant colony, which in turn limits the butterfly’s population.

Earlier conservation solutions had been simply based on the prevailing biases that failed to prevent extinction. Thomas lamented, “every hypothesis [collectors, insecticides, fragmentation, inbreeding, climate, pollution] on which the conservation measures of the previous 50 years had been based was untenable.”

To be kind to those earlier researchers, the critical changes in the Large Blue’s protected habitat were barely perceptible. These changes created a baffling illusion that something was oozing across the boundaries of their protected conservation areas and decimating the species. So blaming collectors, pollution, climate change, or disease made sense simply because those phenomena readily cross artificial boundaries. But further observations never supported these suspicions. To unravel the Large Blue’s extinction mystery, Jeremy Thomas painstakingly identified and measured every possible confounding factor that might affect not only the butterfly directly, but also its host plants and the host ants. In addition to general weather variables, he tallied the various local ant species, measured temperatures above and below ground, differences in turf height, plant species composition, and the amounts of bare ground available.

It was laborious and detailed work, but exactly what good science dictates. Why the real agent of extinction had gone unnoticed finally became clear. Thomas discovered that just a few millimeters of change in the height of the grass, during the spring and autumn, could lead to the butterflies’ local extinction. The species of ants that the Large Blue plundered requires a very short grass habitat, which allowed the sun to warm the soil and their underground colony. When the grass grew from 1 to 2 centimeters, the temperatures just below the surface in the ants’ brood chamber dropped by 3–5°F. When the turf exceeded 3 cm, the microclimate below the grass cooled enough that competing ant species overran the Large Blue’s host ants. Three centimeters is less than your little finger, so such a small change in the height of the grass had been understandably overlooked.

Over the years, as more efficient animal husbandry reduced sheep and cattle grazing, pastures were increasingly abandoned. Biologists assumed that as more pastures returned to their natural state, wildlife biodiversity and abundance would also increase. That assumption is often true, but without human management, not only did the grass grow taller, but shady trees and shrubs soon invaded. The increasing shade was killing not only the Large Blue but was also endangering a diverse array of the United Kingdom’s other warmth-requiring butterflies like the Silver-spotted Skipper.

In addition to reduced grazing, earlier attempts to control UK rabbit populations added to the demise of these warmth-loving butterflies. Rabbits are not native to the British Isles, or to Australia, but had been introduced long ago as a source of meat. As growing populations of escaped rabbits competed for grasslands with the sheep and cattle (also nonnative), people attempted various forms of pest control. In Australia, humans erected the “great rabbit fence” to separate western and eastern Australia. Eventually, they turned to germ warfare, employing a newly discovered myxomatosis virus, which decimated the Australian rabbit population. In France a bacteriologist introduced the disease to rid his estate of rabbits. It then quickly spread, killing 90% of France’s native rabbit population. The virus then spread, either naturally or intentionally, into Great Britain. By the mid 1950s it had devastated the rabbit populations there. With fewer cattle, fewer sheep, and fewer rabbits grazing, the grasslands became increasingly overgrown, and warmth-loving butterflies became increasingly scarce. Not realizing the importance of grazers, the well-intentioned conservationists who had erected the protective fence unwittingly destroyed that which they sought to protect.

Once informed by the detailed work of Jeremy Thomas and his colleagues, by 1980 conservationists had begun efforts to successfully reintroduce the extinct Large Blue. Government subsidies and environmental schemes were enacted to encourage grazing, while conservationists mowed abandoned pastures to the optimum turf height. Individuals from Large Blue populations that still survived in Sweden were shuttled to England’s “terra nova” for a second chance. Under careful management, the reintroduced Large Blue is slowly rebounding.

But why should people need to intervene so directly and so intensively? Why couldn’t the Large Blue and other butterflies just exist “naturally”? Another ironic twist to this story is that humans actively created much of England’s grasslands, starting between four and six thousand years ago when new colonists introduced farming and grazing to England. To feed their sheep and cattle, early Britons increasingly cut down the natural forests that had once covered most of Great Britain. These human-generated grasslands were then maintained by grazing sheep and cattle that ate the sprouts of any trees that dared to recolonize. Similarly, the Victorians set fires to clear much of Scotland’s forest to encourage heather for grouse hunting. Much of Great Britain’s “natural” habitat is actually the product of millennia of human design. To maintain human-made biodiversity requires human stewardship.

Metamorphosing Conservation Success into Climate Alarm

“We search for a climate fingerprint in the overall patterns, rather than critiquing each study individually” 3

– Dr. Camille Parmesan, University of Texas

While serving on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Dr. Camille Parmesan (whose work was introduced here Fabricating Climate Doom – Part 1: Parmesan’s Butterfly Effect) issued the paper “A Globally Coherent Fingerprint of Climate Change Impacts Across Natural Systems.” In contrast to Jeremy Thomas’s detailed investigations, Parmesan again advocated that biologists should ignore local details. She wrote, “Here we present quantitative estimates of the global biological impacts of climate change. We search for a climate fingerprint in the overall patterns, rather than critiquing each study individually.” However, critiquing individual studies is always the essential first step. Otherwise the overall pattern will be distilled from faulty information. And in order to support her supposed pattern of global warming disruption, she again omitted crucial contradictory details.

Parmesan tactfully offered lip service to altered landscapes, but stated that her “probabilistic model” accurately separated the effects of land use from climate change. To demonstrate her model’s power, she wrote, “Consider the case of the silver-spotted skipper butterfly (Hesperia comma) that has expanded its distribution close to its northern boundary in England over the past 20 years. Possible ecological explanations for this expansion are regional warming and changes in land use. Comparing the magnitudes and directions of these two factors suggests that climate change is more likely than land-use change to be the cause of expansion.” That was a very odd claim.

This was the very same Silver-spotted Skipper that Jeremy Thomas’ detailed studies and subsequent conservation prescriptions had saved from extinction along with the Large Blue. Parmesan was hijacking a conservation success story to spin a tale of climate disruption. Her “proof” that climate change was driving the Silver-spotted Skipper northward came from the work of her old friend C.D. Thomas, known for predicting that rising CO2 levels had committed 60% of the world’s species to extinction.5 Using a mesmerizing statistical model, C.D. Thomas argued that because the Silver-spotted Skipper “needs warmth,” only global warming could account for its recent colonization of a few cooler north-facing slopes of England’s southern hills.

The Skipper is indeed fond of hotter south-facing slopes. However, the butterfly had historically inhabited cooler northern slopes if those slopes had been grazed. Like the Large Blue, the Skipper had disappeared from both cool north-facing slopes and warm south-facing slopes whenever the turf grew too high.6,7 C.D. Thomas’ model was statistically significant only if he ignored recent conservation efforts to promote warmer, short-turf habitat. At the end of his paper, relegated to his methods sections, he quietly stated, “we assumed that grazing patterns were the same in 1982 as in 2000.”4 Parmesan and C.D. were guilty of grave sins of omission.

I emailed Dr. Jeremy Thomas regarding the study by C.D. Thomas and asked, “I assume due to earlier collaboration, you are aware of the habitat his study referenced? If so, is his implied assumption of no changes to turf height valid?” He replied, “No, it’s not valid. There was a massive change in turf height and vegetation structure …between 1980 and the 1990s onwards for 2 reasons. (emphasis added)” First, since the 1986 paper, several of the key surviving sites were grazed more appropriately by conservationists and most of them, and many neighbors, are today in “agri-environmental schemes” to maintain optimum grass heights. Second, from 1990 onwards the rabbits had gradually returned and did the same job on several abandoned former sites.

Although he did not have local climate data for the Silver-spotted Skipper’s recovery, Jeremy Thomas suggested that at least two thirds of the Skippers’ recovery and their subsequent recolonization had resulted from both the increased grazing and the rabbits’ recovery. He was willing to attribute as much as a third of the butterflies’ recovery to climate warming between the 1970s and the present.

If, for argument’s sake, we accept that one-third of the recovery was due solely to CO2 warming and ignore published arguments that the warming in England have been caused by the warm mode of the North Atlantic Oscillation9 (and recent cooling by the cool mode), habitat improvements still account for at least two-thirds of the skippers’ expansion. Furthermore, the Silver-spotted Skipper had yet to expand further northward than its previous 1920s boundary. Yet that was Parmesan’s best example of a “coherent fingerprint of global warming” disruption! It was bad science, but the consensus flocked to it in agreement.

To date more than 3500 papers have referenced her interpretation as evidence of climate disruption. It is a consensus built on misleading results that hijacked legitimate conservation science. In contrast, Jeremy Thomas’ successful preservation of two species on the brink of regional extinction had unequivocally demonstrated that the long-term changes were due to the quality of the caterpillar’s habitat. Although weather change causes short-term fluctuations in butterfly populations, a change in habitat quality affects populations 100 times more powerfully than weather.8 But such successful conservation efforts do not get funded in the same way as global warming horror stories do, and Jeremy Thomas’ “Evidence Based Conservation of Butterflies” has been cited by just 17 papers. Such a gross imbalance is a sad testimony to how the politics of climate change has corrupted the environmental sciences. I fear it is a hijacking that will only breed distrust for our legitimate green concerns in the future.The misguided obsession with CO2 and Parmesan’s faulty probabilistic model has supported equally bad analyses regards the fate of polar bears, penguins, frogs, pika and marine ecosystems, but that takes a whole book to document.

Why have so few scientists celebrated the good science like Jeremy Thomas’ when it empowers us with the critical understanding that allows us to locally build a more resilient environment? Why instead have thousands of scientists uncritically pushed false scenarios of catastrophic climate change? Although some skeptics have suggested a nefarious scientific conspiracy, I believe it demonstrates the ease with which the human mind embraces illusions. Once those scientists accepted CO2 warming as a reasonable explanation for ecological disruptions, despite never thoroughly examining the issue, they embraced whatever supported their choice. Their intellectual identity became intimately entwined with any validation of their chosen hypothesis. Like an avid sports fan, they feel great when their team is “winning” and distraught when their team is “wrong”. They brand anyone who challenges their hypothesis as a denier, stupid, traitor or infidel, and do not hesitate to brutalize anyone on the wrong team.

Robert Bolton wrote, “A belief is not merely an idea the mind possesses; it is an idea that possesses the mind.” Once we make a choice, that choice possesses us. One of the more active areas of psychological research deals with “change blindness” and “choice blindness”. An international team from Harvard, the University of Tokyo, and Lund University in Sweden cleverly demonstrated how humans are hardwired to defend their choices despite contrary evidence. Test subjects were asked to choose who was the most attractive person in a set of two pictures displayed on the other side of the table. The researchers would then retrieve the pictures and ask the subjects to explain why they made their choice. However the lighting in the room was designed to allow the researchers to switch pictures and the test subjects were handed the picture they did not choose. Most subjects never noticed the switch, and believing it was their choice proceeded to explain in great detail how the picture they never chose was the most attractive.10 A National Geographic series called Brain Games modified that experiment on a recent segment called “You Decide” and I urge you to watch it. Once you believe CO2 is destroying the world, any “search for a climate fingerprint” will always be “found” even when it is not there. Whether you are a CO2 advocate or skeptic, we are all victims to “choice blindness.” More critical analyses and respectful debate are the only paths to follow if we are ever to free ourselves from the shackles of our own illusions.

Adapted from Deceptive Extremes in Landscapes & Cycles: An Environmentalist’s Journey to Climate Skepticism

Literature Cited

1. Thomas, J., et al., (2005) Successful Conservation of a Threatened Maculinea Butterfly. Science, vol. 325, p.80-83.

2. Thomas, J., et al. (1986) Ecology and Declining Status of the Silver‑spotted Skipper Butterfly (Hesperia Comma) in Britain. Journal o Applied Ecology. Vol. 23, p. 365-380.

3. Parmesan, C. and Yohe, G. (2003) A globally coherent fingerprint of climate change impacts across natural systems. Nature, vol. 142, p.37-42

4. Thomas, C.D, et al., (2000) Ecological and evolutionary processes at expanding range margins. Nature, vol. 411, p. 577‑581.

5. Thomas, C.D, et al., (2004) Extinction risk from climate change. Nature , vol. 427.

6. Thomas, C. D. and Jones, T. M., (1993) Partial recovery of a Skipper Butterfly (Hesperia comma) from Population Refuges: Lessons for Conservation in a Fragmented Landscape. Journal of Animal Ecology, vol. 62, p. 472-481.

7. Thomas, J., et al. (1986) Ecology and Declining Status of the Silver‑spotted Skipper Butterfly (Hesperia Comma) in Britain. Journal o Applied Ecology. Vol. 23, p. 365-380.

8. Thomas, J et al. (2011) evidence based Conservation of butterflies. J. Insect Cons., vol. 15, p. 241‑258.

9. Hurrell, J. and Deser, C. (2009) North Atlantic climate variability: The role of the North Atlantic Oscillation. Journal of Marine Systems, vo. 78, p. 28–41.

10. Johansson, P., et al. (2008) From Change Blindness to Choice Blindness. Psychologia, vol. 51, p. 142-155.

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Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7

The world continues to be an endlessly surprising place.

Nik

Citations: 3500 to 17 about says it all. We are past the Age of Reason and into the Middle Ages again.

Malcolm Miller

Some real science described. Something missing from CAGW.

AJ

Jim,
Logical and superbly written, this short essay distills with absolute clarity how all science should be approached. This should be compulsory reading for all first year tertiary science students. In fact, understanding how real science works should be part of every undergraduate course, especially those studying sociology and politics.

A beautiful story of a beautiful animal. Thank you for posting.
To those in and visiting us here in the UK who have never been, and take an interest in butterflies, I can wholeheartedly recommend the butterfly tent at London Zoo (in Regent’s Park) – a spectacular experience and worth the visit alone.

Bob

Dr. Steele, can you provide this extraordinary wonderful essay as a PDF?

Simply the sharpest, logical incrimination of the CO2 hooligans (both the accidental and intentional ones) that I’ve read. Thank you.

Sean Peake

This has to be one of my all-time favourite WUWT posts (Willis, yours are a close second). A great story. I will print this one off.

Ian

I’m a scientist and this fascinating piece revives my belief in the way science is supposed to be performed. Unfortunately, in the present climate (no pun intended) the most banal statements based on shoddy reasoning from inadequate research (such as is evidenced by the comment from C.D. Thomas “we assumed grazing patterns had not changed from 1980 to 2000”) that implicate climate warming, will guarantee publication and attract widespread interest whereas the painstaking research cataloged here attracts virtually no attention whosoever. Good for WUWT for [bringing] it to the attention of a much larger audience than otherwise would have been the case

“…Like an avid sports fan, they feel great when their team is “winning” and distraught when their team is “wrong”. They brand anyone who challenges their hypothesis as a denier, stupid, traitor or infidel, and do not hesitate to brutalize anyone on the wrong team.
Robert Bolton wrote, “A belief is not merely an idea the mind possesses; it is an idea that possesses the mind.” Once we make a choice, that choice possesses us. One of the more active areas of psychological research deals with “change blindness” and “choice blindness”. …..
******************************************************************************************************
Tribalism would be the word I use.

Janice Moore

IT’S YOU TUBE HOUR, BOYS AND GIRLS!
“The caterpillar has, in effect, shouted to the ants, ‘Come and get it!'” (lol)

And, now, featuring….. Jeremeeeee Thomas! #[:)]

“… a subtle ploy… .”
Large Blue Butterfly at Collard Hill, UK

********************
Thank you, Jim Steele, for another fine article. How fitting that this was published here on WUWT during the time (end of July, first of August) the Large Blue lives out its one week of life on earth.

Olaf Koenders

“A belief is not merely an idea the mind possesses; it is an idea that possesses the mind.”

That’s just so very true. However I still believe through evidence that blaming Man and CO2 for everything just makes it easy for lazy pseudoscientists to get and maintain grants, because grabbermints have proven historically that they’re not careful how they spend the public purse and, that the current rock star fame of “climate scientists” at the moment is an easy excuse to be granted funding.

Outstanding article and a great story. I love science detective stories.

dp

Good science is hard – Let’s do it wrong.
It probably belongs above the door of most of our lodges of higher education.

Jimbo

“Once you believe CO2 is destroying the world, any “search for a climate fingerprint” will always be “found” even when it is not there.”

This is climate science in a nutshell. I have said the same thing before. The IPCC was set up to examine the consequences of human caused climate change. Right there is the problem.

Gary Hladik

So the fascinating, scientific, well-intentioned, and successful effort to restore vanishing butterflies also reinforced the unscientific and dangerous CAGW meme?
*sigh*
No good deed goes unpunished.

@ Janice Moore
Thanks for posting the Youtubes.

Q. Daniels

At the end of his paper, relegated to his methods sections, he quietly stated, “we assumed that grazing patterns were the same in 1982 as in 2000.”

“Check your assumptions.”

Latitude

I can’t thank you enough….
Wonderful essay

Mike Bromley the Kurd

Fascinating read for a number of reasons: first of all, it is a dispassionate exposé. Second of all it lacks the tacky grade-school prose of an article that uses climate change to explain away complex systems. And it ultimately points out the latter agenda. Great stuff.

RoHa

If the Large Blue requires warm ants, where did it evolve and live before grazing animals trimmed the grass in the UK?

R2Dtoo

This is a far more powerful treatise than meets the eye. The conservation movement of the 50’s- 70’s was based on and used the lifetime work of dedicated scholars with a genuine concern for saving species. No models were needed, as real data were collected, analyzed, reanalyzed, discarded or extended, and interpreted through a long-established literature, experience and common sense. Many of these efforts were supported by the same NGO’s that today have invaded the fear-mongering climate changers. I worked on NA bluebirds during the 70’s and 80’s, partially funded by WWF. They now support the bird choppers.
This example illustrates both the complexity of possible factors affecting individual species, and the simplicity of the ultimate explanation. Years (decades) ago it was recognized that most species at risk had narrow “ecological” amplitude. They were at risk because they had a narrow tolerance to change, or occupied at limited “niche”. Most of us in the game tried to measure as many environmental parameters as possible in an attempt to identify what put the species “at risk”. We didn’t enter the game with any preconceived notion (aka climate change) of what was likely the issue. Many of my colleagues spent their entire careers trying to save the whooping crane. Now they have to sit and watch the worthless windmills wipe out their lifetime of work. Whatever happened to the real “green” movement?

Rud Istvan

Magnificent thread. RoHa, great question. Obviously not in the UK. Adaptation versus mitigation.

Janice Moore

@ Jim Steele — You’re welcome! My pleasure.
At Ro……….. HA! (I have been waiting for a chance to do that!) Well, sonny, lemme tellya ’bout the time ah saw a Large Blue in the land of the rotary mowers…. They lived in perfect harmony, side by side, on the lawns of a great chateau, until….. the owners got their heads chopped off and they couldn’t mow the lawn anymore and…… (a wild guess with absolutely NO supporting documentation — yes, ON TOPIC, since CAGW is a minor theme, here — BWah, ha, ha, ha, haaaa!)
Now, they are in danger of being made extinct from the building of nuclear power plants….. [%|]

@RoHa Throughout much of northwester Europe there are patches of “calcareous grasslands”. Calcareous refers to the alkaline conditions created by limestone deposits that were formed from ancient ocean reefs or thick deposits of shellfish remains. Due to the restrictive soil chemistry, usually only short turf grasslands develop. In turn, due to the resultingshort truf and its warming effect of the surface, calcareous grasslands are renowned for its great insect (and other arthropod) biodiversity. Ironically although Parmesan with the help of the UK journal Nature metamorphosed butterflies into iconic victims of global warming, the great majority of insects especially butterflies seek warmer habitats. I first learned this expecting a restored watershed to promote abundant butterflies. Instead although the more luxurious vegetation sustained more birds, it created more shade and fewer butterflies.
From a freely available online research paper “Conservation and restoration of calcareous grasslands: a concise review of the effects of fragmentation and management on plant species”
they write, “Calcareous grasslands are known as the most species rich plant communities of northwestern Europe (up to 80 plant species/square meter)……
Historically these grasslands occurred on steep, calcareous outcrops in mountainous regions or on hilly domes, characterized by extreme environmental conditions. Prehistorical human activities such as felling of the primeval forest and later transhumances and increased sheep flock migrations have lead to an increase in area of this habitat. At this time many species, often originating from more southern regions, could establish in north- western European calcareous grassland regions, where they were earlier rather confined to natural calcareous open habitats such as forest clearings on calcareous outcrops or on steep slopes where forest development was prevented.
Intensification of agriculture and abandonment of traditional agricultural practices, often followed by afforestation [new forest growth], resulted in a tremendous decrease in the area and habitat quality of the remaining calcareous grasslands “

DavidMartin

De-lurking to express my thanks for a really great article/post.
3500 vs 17 says everything one needs to know about the state of environmental science.

Janice Moore

Mr. Steele,
I know yours of 6:25PM was directed at RoHa’s excellent question, but THANK YOU for giving us all more of your wonderful, encyclopedic, knowledge. I LOVE THIS SITE!!! (thanks to excellent scientists like you)
Janice

@R2Dtoo says”Whatever happened to the real “green” movement?”
My environmental friends often raised a few eyebrows when I told them I was writing this book. But I passionately believe we need to reclaim the hopeful environmental movement that has been hijacked by Co2 doomsdayers. If not legitimate conservation efforts will suffer a devastating political backlash.

Janice Moore

Re: Bob at 4:45PM “Dr. Steele, can you provide this extraordinary wonderful essay as a PDF?”
@ Dr. Steele — How about a plug for your book (title/link to Barnes & Noble or other store)?

When the grass grew from 1 to 2 centimeters, the temperatures just below the surface in the ants’ brood chamber dropped by 3–5°F. When the turf exceeded 3 cm, the microclimate below the grass cooled enough that competing ant species overran the Large Blue’s host ants.
That is a surprisingly large effect. It also has important near surface temperature implications.
The Earth’s surface absorbs heat during the day and releases it at night. When the grass is longer, heat that previously would have warmed the surface, now warms the grass. Clearly, the capacity of grass to store heat is minimal, in comparison to the Earth;s surface, so that heat will be released to atmosphere within a short time, resulting in warmer days, and cooler nights.
I have never seen any study into, or even mention of, this effect, and if the 3-5F is correct, the effect is substantial.

I live in England, I concur without having been aware of the story. I’ve watched the destruction, the changes, horrible for humans too (youngsters will be ignorant of this). It’s actually very visible, a lot of it caused by 1960s decisions to exclude the people from land. (and for that matter urban space)

The discovery of talking caterpillars is a fascinating story in itself, but the story gets better. Upon arriving, the summoned ants are fed with a sugary reward oozed from special pores in the caterpillar’s bodies. The caterpillars also exude intoxicating chemicals that make their new ant bodyguards more aggressive against other less friendly ant species.
————————————————
Wow! The universe is not only queerer than I imagine, but queerer than I can imagine.

R2Dtoo said @ August 6, 2013 at 6:12 pm

Many of my colleagues spent their entire careers trying to save the whooping crane. Now they have to sit and watch the worthless windmills wipe out their lifetime of work. Whatever happened to the real “green” movement?

Like old farts everywhere, our ideas are considered out-of-date and old-fashioned. Many thanks for this finest of essays, Jim and Anthony too for publishing it.

Janice Moore said @ August 6, 2013 at 6:37 pm

Re: Bob at 4:45PM “Dr. Steele, can you provide this extraordinary wonderful essay as a PDF?”
@ Dr. Steele — How about a plug for your book (title/link to Barnes & Noble or other store)?

I found the link here:
http://landscapesandcycles.net/
and clicked on the “please make it available on Kindle” button.

Mark Bofill

Outstanding article, thanks.

Dave L

Thank you very much!

@ Janice “How about a plug for your book”
Thanks for the plug. However I need to clarify one point. Usually directors of field stations are Professors but I only have a Masters. New students always called my Doctor, and I often gave up correcting people. So despite 25 years of university service, I should not be called doctor. Unfortunately most professors do not want to be tied to a field station. Dr. James Kelley who was the Dean of SFSU’s College of Science and Engineering, appointed me director because I was a capable biologist and he believed my passion for environmental science could save the Sierra Nevada Field Campus from being shut down. Our chairman, Crellin Pauling, Linus’ son, did not believe in field stations and wanted to close it down to use the money to support molecular and genetics research. I am proud to say Dr. Kelley and I were able to turn the rustic Sierra Nevada Field Campus into one of California’s leading environmental education centers. Dr Kelley is also a skeptic and wrote the foreword to my book.
Due to extreme weather, the Sierra Nevada Field Campus only operated during the summer so my director’s position was only half time and my main duties were during the summer. So instead of pursuing a doctorate, I chose to teach science in San Francisco’s innner city schools during the remainder of the year to fulfill my sense of social justice. Although a few kids were harder to love than others, my students honesty and love for learning made me a better teacher and a better person. I realized that if didn’t get my students to understand the science that enthralled me, then I had simply not made it clear enough.
Later I lectured the cell and molecular biology labs for the introductory biology class for majors at SFSU. I asked my students to call me Jim as I will also ask you. Acceptance of what I say should not be based on any percieved “authority” but the evidence I present. My understanding of climate change evolved as I grappled with the varying populations of birds that we studied each summer for 25 years. Cycles of El Nino greatly altered the regional climate and landscape changes greatly altered the microclimate. So I named the book is Landscapes & Cycles: An Environmentalist’s Journey to Climate Skepticism, and click on my name and it will take you t the web site with a link to Amazon. Parmesan’s checkerspot butterfly was nearby, and the shabby science blaming climate change (as I wrote in part 1) demanded I look critically at all such claims. Once I saw the similar faulty science for penguins,polar bears, pika, frogs and marine ecosystems I knew I had to write the book.

@PompusGit “please make it available on Kindle”
I have been attempting to put it on Kindle but the graphs and illustrations are all distorted. I will be in the Sierra Nevada for a few weeks but when I get back I will talk with the Kindle people to see how I can resolved the formatting issues.

Skiphil

Thank you Dr. Steele for such a superb essay. I would love to purchase your book on my Kindle app, but it does not seem like that option is currently available (hope it will be soon). For those interested in the paper version of the book, try here:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1490390189/ref=kinw_rke_tl_1
There are some impressive early reviews. There is one wretched non-review from someone who admits he has not read the book but has ideological reasons for attacking it.

Theo Goodwin

This is a brilliant article that should be required reading for Obama, all Obama’s minions at the EPA, and all environmentalists. It contrasts genuine science, which requires one to get dirty while discovering the facts about the butterflies, with climate science presumption which requires only that one illustrate the application of some a priori principles as they might apply to the butterflies.

@Phillip Bradley “I have never seen any study into, or even mention of, this effect, and if the 3-5F is correct, the effect is substantial.” Read Thomas, J., et al., (2005) Successful Conservation of a Threatened Maculinea Butterfly. Science, vol. 325, p.80-83.
He writes “When mean swards exceeded ~2 cm, the microclimate in their warmest daytime brood chambers near the soil surface fell more than 2° to 3°C relative to 1-cm tall turf.”
You also say, “That is a surprisingly large effect. It also has important near surface temperature implications.” Absolutely, thats why landscape changes are so critical.Change the vegetation, and you change the skin temperature far more than C02 is capable of doing. Change the skin surface and you change the air temperature and local climate. Dr. Pielke Sr. has been championing this effect for decades, but the IPCC has underplayed its effects.

As a butterfly fan – the variety here in Hong Kong is amazing – I really enjoyed this article. The bonus is it kicks the CAGW meme into touch.

Skiphil

Hi, Jim, I cross-posted with your last couple of comments, so I only now see them. Thanks for the explanation about the Kindle issues and for more detail about your career and experience. We are truly fortunate to be able to learn from you here.

Theo Goodwin

jim Steele says:
August 6, 2013 at 7:17 pm
Kudos to you, sir, for several jobs well done.

@ Skiphil “There is one wretched non-review from someone who admits he has not read the book but has ideological reasons for attacking it.”
From the language and similar blog post on HotWhopper, it seems most apparent that either Ryan or Sou wrote that review.

davidmhoffer

At the risk of channeling Spock…
Fascinating.

John Andrews

Anthony, your site is special. I have to pass this one, too.

KevinK

Unintended consequences…..
Boy it sure seems that folks with good intentions; “lets save that beautiful butterfly”, a noble cause in itself no doubt, got it all wrong (at first). Then someone did the hard work and found that their hubris was in fact the problem.
So, these well intentioned folks tried to save a nice little butterfly and failed because they assumed they “knew” the answer.
Makes you wonder about folks that claim they “know” (or “believe”) what the climate will do in one hundred years………….
Cheers, Kevin.

anticlimactic

There was a fascinating set of programs on the BBC [Secrets of our Living Planet] about ecologies in various parts of the world. The most memorable one was about the Amazon rain forest and the Brazil nut tree.
The main driver was that because there is no winter tree pests can thrive all year round. This means that seeds need to germinate a distance from the parent tree or the pests could easily migrate. In turn this meant that pollination required unique vectors which would only feed on the flowers of that particular type of tree. As the trees were also developing poisons against pests the pests also had to specialise on one type of tree.
The series was about various ecologies as fascinating as the article above. I don’t think it mentioned climate change once, but if so it would be unique for the BBC! I may buy the DVD!

jim Steele said @ August 6, 2013 at 7:25 pm

I have been attempting to put it on Kindle but the graphs and illustrations are all distorted. I will be in the Sierra Nevada for a few weeks but when I get back I will talk with the Kindle people to see how I can resolved the formatting issues.

See: How to convert your book from InDesign to Kindle in 10 minutes or less
http://www.zdnet.com/blog/diy-it/how-to-convert-your-book-from-indesign-to-kindle-in-10-minutes-or-less/434
Hint: I have InDesign 5.5, a Kindle and I am retired… 🙂