Guest essay by Eric Worrall
A deceased rat “species” composed of the inbred descendants of a few castaway rats which washed up on a low laying river delta island in Australia’s Cyclone Alley is our warning about the coming great climate change extinction.
‘Our little brown rat’: first climate change-caused mammal extinction
The Morrison government has formally recognised the extinction of a tiny island rodent, the Bramble Cay melomys – the first known demise of a mammal because of human-induced climate change.
The changed status of the Melomys rubicola from the government’s “endangered” to “extinct” category was included without fanfare in a statement released by federal Environment Minister Melissa Price late on Monday.
The limited range of the animal, living on a five-hectare island less than three metres high, left it vulnerable to climate change. However, its 2008 “recovery plan”, drawn up when numbers were likely down to just dozens of individuals, downplayed the risks.
“[T]he likely consequences of climate change, including sea-level rise and increase in the frequency and intensity of tropical storms, are unlikely to have any major impact on the survival of the Bramble Cay melomys in the life of this plan,” the five-year scheme stated.
The federal policy director for the Wilderness Society, Tim Beshara, said preparation for the plan was limited, and it was never reviewed at its completion in 2013.
“The Bramble Cay melomys was a little brown rat,” Mr Beshara said. “But it was our little brown rat and it was our responsibility to make sure it persisted. And we failed.”
The Bramble Cay Melomy was never going to survive, no matter how many wind turbines Australia constructed.
An island 3m high in a region where massive cyclones with huge storm surges are common is not a recipe for long term survival.
Calling the “extinction” of these doomed castaways a failure of our “responsibility” is absurd.