Guest opinion by Dr. Tim Ball |
Proponents of the anthropogenic global warming (AGW) hypothesis successfully, but inaccurately, present natural events as unnatural. It works, because most don’t know what is natural. They also exploit the public belief that change is gradual over long periods of time. Use of the word “belief” is deliberate, because it represents the philosophical, pseudo-religious basis for western science – Uniformitarianism. It applies both to climate change and extinction of species, creating the false understanding that they are not supposed to happen. If they do then, by default, it is unnatural and due to humans, who they consider unnatural. The 1990 Greenpeace Report on global warming says, CO2 is added to the atmosphere naturally and unnaturally. As Goethe said, “The unnatural – that too is natural.”
Most people are unaware that their view of the world is predetermined by where they were born, raised and educated. They are effectively indoctrinated and that makes it extremely difficult for them to see the world differently. They can’t imagine how anybody can have a different view of the world. As A.N. Whitehead said,
“It takes a very unusual mind to undertake analysis of the obvious.”
However, the philosophical view must be transitory because the science is never settled. New evidence forces new opinion.
Challenges to Uniformitarianism And Extinction; The Philosophical Debate
At the end of the 18th century, Bernard Kuhn and James Hutton recorded evidence of a recent ice age in the European Alps. Louis Agassiz, observed similar evidence in North America. A paper he gave to an 1837 conference began the overthrow of established geology. Agassiz was derided at the conference and responded by taking delegates out to the mountains and showing them the evidence. Even today, most can’t imagine and therefore accept, that a glacier, larger than the current Antarctic glacier in area, covered over half of North America just 18,000 years ago. After Agassiz, the philosophy of geology and overall western view of the world changed. Neptunism, the belief that the landscape was shaped by the biblical flood, changed to Uniformitarianism, the result of slow processes over long periods.
A debate, including in the climate community, raged in the late 1980s and early 1990s involving the replacement of Uniformitarianism by Chaos Theory and Cyclic Theory. Communist block scientists said climate was the result of the interaction of multiple cycles creating a net climate. The west, particularly the US, was pushing chaos theory. Western media interpreted this as a political divide of the Cold War. It wasn’t. It was an intellectual divide within climate science, that continues today. Stephen Jay Gould introduced another option he called Punctuated Equilibrium. This was Uniformitarianism with periodic interruptions by catastrophic events. There was discussion at the time about equilibrium and whether the global system is a transitory or a non-transitory system. That is, if pushed from equilibrium, would the global system return to it or establish a new equilibrium. This implies there are tipping points.
Gould, in his book, “It’s a Wonderful Life”, surreptitiously implied that Darwin’s claim of evolutionary expansion with ever-increasing speciation, the familiar tree of life (Figure 1), was incorrect. The book argues that this is contradicted by the multitude of creatures found in the Burgess Shales. It suggested there was an “explosion of life”, followed by a gradually reduction of species through extinction, in other words a decreasing speciation.
The Burgess Shales is described as evidence of the “Cambrian Explosion”. It is a remarkable deposit because, almost uniquely, creatures without skeletons were preserved. The fossil record is problematic because, apart from soft-bodied creatures not surviving, it is estimated that a few million in a species is required for one to appear in the fossil record.
Figure 1: Darwin’s “Tree of Life”
Then there is the Coelacanth believed, from the fossil record, to have gone extinct 65 million years ago, yet found alive in 1938. Gould’s implication is that extinction is natural. A large initial number of species is reduced, \over time.
Extinction: The Environmental View
Environmentalism assumes extinction and climate change are unnatural. They claim both are occurring at unnatural rates because of human activities. But to determine the human impact, you must first know the natural condition. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was charged with measuring human causes of climate change, but that is impossible unless you know the natural situation.
We don’t know how many plant or animals species exist. A 2011 estimate says approximately 8.7 million, 6.5 on land and 2.2 in the ocean. The problem is, this is ± 1.3 million. Over the last 10 years over a million new species were discovered and that’s only part of what remains. According to PLoS Biology, a staggering 86% of all species on land and 91% of those in the seas have yet to be discovered, described and catalogued.” Here is one example. Ironically, it was an expedition to “find out about climate change”. Led by Dr. Chris Bowler it created the headline, “One million New Plankton Species Found.” Leader Dr Bowler said, “It’s the first time that anyone’s done this expedition looking specifically for plankton life, and that’s why we found so many”.
Some say these are minuscule creatures and therefore the number is not impressive or consequential, however, many large animals are regularly discovered.
• 2005 report, “Scientists have discovered a new monkey species in the mountains of East Africa.”
• 2007 report the headline, “New Animal And Plant Species Found In Vietnam”
• 2010 report said, “30 unknown species found in Ecuador’s highland forests by a team of U.S. and Ecuadorian researchers,”
• 2010 report said, Over 200 New Species Found In Papua New Guinea. The lead scientist said, there are, “large areas of New Guinea that are pretty much unexplored biologically.
• 2012 report “New species of monkey identified in Africa”
It is also estimated that of those claimed extinct, one-third are found later. WUWT recently related the story from the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) of how the Royal Society used a false extinction claim, in its zeal to link it to human caused climate change.
One of the major links of numbers and rate of extinction to human caused climate change claims, originate from the work of E.O Wilson, an honorary Board member of the Suzuki Foundation, according to the 2003 Annual Report.
Wilson’s idea of extinction is based on false assumptions and simplistic mathematical estimates.
“A good proxy for the rate of extinction is the rate of growth in energy used by the human population. In other words, extinction rates are increasing in step with the product of population growth times the growth in affluence.”
The trouble is it isn’t happening. Wilson began with a false reconstruction of species extinction linking it to human population as Figure 1 illustrates.
Figure 1: Graph based on Wilson’s mathematical model.
Wilson claims 27,000 species go extinct every year, or 3 per hour. David Suzuki toured Canada visiting schools and presenting this number as real. I challenged him to name even one of them. I also suggested a daily obituary on his web page listing the 72 per day. Not one name was forthcoming.
Wilson came up with these figures by assuming the number of species in one square mile of rainforest and then estimating how much rainforest was lost each year. Incorrectly, he applied this tropical species loss to the entire world and then predicted 22 percent of all species will be extinct by 2022. If you don’t know how many there are, you can’t prove or disprove this claim. Regardless, threat of extinction is a powerful emotional weapon in the environmentalists arsenal.
There are mass extinctions, some apparently random, like the demise of the dinosaurs related to the asteroid event 65 million years ago. This discovery seemed to support Gould’s hypothesis. Others appear more cyclical, such as those associated with polar reversals. Then there are those caused by climate change. The most recent example is the post Pleistocene glaciation extinction. Some blame humans for this extinction. There are two major problems with this claim. First, there were very few people surviving as hunter-gatherers. Second, pressure on wild animal stocks was reduced as humans switched to sedentary agriculture and domestication of animals.
Environmentalists assume that humans are causing extinctions, either directly, by over hunting, indirectly through habitat destruction. They never consider the number of species that benefit from changed habitat, or species created, directly or indirectly, by human actions. They consider those humans create unnatural. Extension of the idea that humans are destroying their habitat raises the fascinating question of whether a species has ever brought about its own extinction. What happens if the Dutch Elm Beetle kills off all the Elm trees?
Facts And Opinions
People’s view of the world is created by the time, culture, and beliefs existing when they were born and educated. To them, it is the real world and the truth, based on the facts they have at the time. The current western view is still Uniformitarianism. Evidence accumulates that this is not the case but people are unaware of the evidence, choose to ignore it, or attack those who entertain its impact on their belief.
I admonished a student for failing to form an opinion in an essay. I didn’t think I had enough evidence, was the reply. I explained, reductio ad absurdum, that if true, nobody should ever have an opinion. What happens is that you form an opinion based on good research and available evidence. However, if further evidence is obtained, you must be prepared to assess its impact on your opinion. This, effectively, describes the unadulterated scientific method. If you simply ignore the evidence, then you are opinionated. Unfortunately, all this is complicated by politics that selects facts to confirm an opinion, the antithesis of science. Sadly, climate change and extinction are now fundamental parts of political agendas. The deceptive political agenda works because western societies are educated to believe that current climate change and extinctions are unnatural.