July 26, 2012

Wild Speculation on Climate and Polar Bears

Filed under: Adaptation, Animals, Polar

Here is another big one from PNAS.

For those who don’t know, PNAS stands for the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and it has gained the unfortunate reputation for publishing scientific research articles that regularly get knocked out of the park within hours of their release. The lack of rigor stems from its rather unique “peer-review” process in which National Academy members can submit articles for publication that the authors themselves have had “peer-reviewed”—that is, they passed the article by a couple of friends of theirs for comments. It’s more like “pal review.”

It is hard to imagine many papers being rejected under this system, although it can happen. For example, a contributed article by National Academy member Dr. Richard Lindzen that argued that the climate sensitivity to anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions isn’t as large as commonly thought was rejected by the PNAS editor in change, overruling the recommendations of the reviewers chosen by Lindzen. But such occurrences are quite rare.

Instead, papers with rather speculative conclusions can be regularly found in the pages of PNAS as we have documented on several occasions (see here and here for example).

A new paper has just appeared which should be added to this list in the form of a contribution by National Academy foreign associate and molecular biologist Dr. Luis Herrera-Estrella on the subject of polar bears, evolution, and climate influences.

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March 29, 2012

Acclimation to Ocean Acidification: Give It Some Time

Filed under: Adaptation, Animals

Rising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels lead to an increasing amount of CO2 being dissolved in the oceans which drives down the oceans’ pH level. This is often referred to as “ocean acidification” and included among the list of ills that energy production from fossil fuels imparts to the environment. Type “ocean acidification” into your Google search and you’ll quickly be confronted with a litany of potential impacts—all bad. The Center for Biological Diversity refers to it as global warming’s “evil twin.”

“We mean it this time” our greener friends are saying about this current apocalypse. But is ocean acidification any different than the population bomb, global starvation, acid rain, ozone depletion, global cooling, and global warming—all forecast to cause the end of the world as we know it, and all falling a bit short?
It’s beginning to look like the same old same old. In what will come as no surprise to World Climate Report regulars, alarmists are overdoing things just a little. Their biggest mistake comes in assuming that the oceans’ denizens cannot deal either with the pace or the magnitude of the projected changes to the oceans’ chemistry.

The more researchers look into this, the more they report findings to the contrary.

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July 15, 2011

Arctic Species Prefer Warmer Climate?

Filed under: Adaptation, Animals

Let us imagine someone who suddenly gets interested in climate change and the Arctic. They conduct an internet search on “Climate Change and Arctic” and over 11,000,000 sites are identified. If a person spent one minute looking at each site, it would take them 20 years to visit every site. Of course, over the next 20 years, millions of sites will undoubtedly be added – no person could ever get to the end of these sites proclaiming that the Arctic is ground zero for climate change, the ice is melting, permafrost is being destroyed, habitats of everything and anything living there are highly sensitive to even the smallest change in climate, the whole place is fragile beyond belief, and on and on.

Several articles have appeared recently in leading journals with news that fails to get coverage in the millions of sites assuring us that our actions are destroying pristine Arctic regions.

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May 11, 2011

Crabs Love Warmer Water!

Filed under: Adaptation, Animals

Who would ever guess that in 2011, one of the most popular television shows in the world is about fishing for crabs in “the vast Bering Sea.” Deadliest Catch premiered on the Discovery Channel on April 12, 2005 and currently airs in over 150 countries. If you don’t know, the show portrays the real life events aboard fishing vessels in the Bering Sea during the fall Alaskan king crab and the winter Opilio crab fishing seasons. With so much interest in the show and so much concern about climate change in the high latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere, it was just a matter of time before we explored the world of crabs and climate change.

Our interest in this subject actually came about given a recent article in the Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology. The article was produced by three scientists from Oregon; Stoner et al. acknowledge that “This study was conducted as part of the AKCRRAB Program (Alaska King Crab Research, Rehabilitation, and Biology) funded by the NOAA Aquaculture Program and the Alaska Sea Grant College Program.” They note in their introduction that “Red king crab (Paralithodes camtschaticus) (RKC) was the most economically valuable crustacean fishery in Alaska from the late 1960s, until the population collapse in the early 1980s. Both over-harvest and unfavorable environmental conditions probably contributed to low fishery recruitment. Various fishing closures have been imposed in the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea for more than two decades, but the stocks have not recovered substantially.”

Regarding any link to climate change, Stoner et al. state “Temperature is a dominant environmental factor that mediates the behavior, physiology, growth, survival, distribution, and recruitment of ectothermic animals living in temperate and high latitudes. Consequently, climate-driven changes in ocean conditions can cause significant fluctuations in the distribution and abundance of marine populations. In the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea, oceanographic regimes linked to climate conditions occur on a multi-decadal scale, and these climate cycles have been linked to major temporal shifts in the composition of marine fish and invertebrate communities. Longer-term trends in sea surface warming and loss of sea ice have already been observed in the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea, and the potential impacts on economically important species are large.”

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February 28, 2011

More Good News for Frogs

Filed under: Adaptation, Animals

A couple of months ago we featured some recent scientific studies that showed that the future for frogs was apparently not going to be as bleak once projected—especially when it comes to the impacts of global warming.

Our article “A Frog Revival” was particularly popular, so we decided to highlighted some other fairly recent scientific papers that conclude that climate change is really not likely to be all that bad (and perhaps even pretty good) for various frog and other amphibian species.

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February 18, 2011

Coral Reefs Expand As the Oceans Warm

Filed under: Adaptation, Animals, Plants

Hold onto your hats, this will come as quite a shock.

Well, not really—unless you count yourself among that pessimistic bunch who sport blinders that only allow you to see bad things from global warming. And if you are one of those poor souls, you better stop reading now, because we wouldn’t want reality to impinge on your guarded (and distorted) view of the world.

But for the rest of us, the following news will fit nicely into the world view that the earth’s ecosystems and are robust, adaptable and opportunistic, as opposed to being fragile, readily broken, and soon to face extinction at the hand of anthropogenic climate change.

A hot-off-the-presses paper in the peer-reviewed journal Geophysical Research Letters by a team of Japanese scientists finds that warming oceans expand the range of tropical corals northward along the coast of Japan. At the same time, the corals are remaining stable at the southern end of their ranges.

That’s right. Corals are adapting to climate change and expanding, not contracting.

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February 10, 2011

Australian Fisheries to Flourish?

Filed under: Adaptation, Animals, Extinctions

Conduct a search of the internet on “Global Warming and Fisheries” and treat yourself to nearly 1.5 million sites almost all proclaiming that the world’s fisheries are on the brink of disaster of biblical proportions due to global warming. Warmer sea temperatures completely alter the food chain, changes in sea currents add to the disaster, oceanic acidification compounds the mess, changes in climate alter the flow of nutrients to the sea, starving humans overharvest fisheries, and on and on it goes for another million sites. You must look long and hard for any evidence that climate change could benefit fisheries, or at least not devastate them.

An extraordinary article has appeared in Global Change Biology dealing with climate change, primary production of marine food webs, and implications for fisheries and threatened marine animals. The work was produced by 17 scientists from throughout many agencies in Australia and Canada; the work was supported financially by the Australian Research Council, the University of Queensland, CSIRO, and the Pew Fellows Program in Marine Conservation.

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February 3, 2011

Good News for Sea Turtles from the Great Barrier Reef

If you haven’t heard the news, global warming is causing sea level to rise and causing storms to become more severe, and the net result is shoreline erosion throughout the world. This pillar of the apocalypse is particularly easy to sell—gather up some pictures of shoreline erosion, throw in some images of turtle nest destruction, and you are on your way to winning a Nobel Prize for putting all the pieces together.

A recent issue of Global and Planetary Change contains an article on this subject written by two scientists with the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences at James Cook University in Townsville, Queensland; funding was provided by the Environmental Protection Agency-Queensland. Dawson and Smithers focused on Raine Island located on the northern portion of the Great Barrier Reef, and if you don’t know, Raine Island is “a globally significant turtle rookery.” So it’s all here—an island on the Great Barrier Reef, turtles, sea level rise, relatively frequent tropical cyclones, sand beaches easily eroded—we are sure the global warming alarmists cannot wait to see how bad things have become at this sacred location.

But, alas, the results from Raine Island are about to rain on their parade of pity.

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December 13, 2010

A Frog Revival

Filed under: Adaptation, Animals

About 15 to 20 years ago, folks began to notice problems in amphibian communities around the world. At first, physical deformities were being noticed and then large population declines were being documented.

The finger was initially pointed at the coal industry, with an idea that perhaps mercury was leading to the deformities. But this didn’t pan out. Next, farm practices came under fire, as excess fertilizer running off into farm ponds became the leading suspect. But that theory didn’t hold water either. Then, attention turned to the ozone hole, with the idea that increased ultraviolet radiation was killing the frogs. No luck there either.

Then came the Eureka moment—aha, it must be global warming!

This played to widespread audiences, received beaucoup media attention and, of course, found its way into Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth.

But, alas, this theory, too, wilted under the harsh glare of science, as new research has now pretty definitively linked an infection of the chytrid fungus to declines, and even local extinctions, of frog and toad species around the world.

Perhaps the biggest irony in all of this, is that while researchers fell all over themselves to link anthropogenic environmental impacts to the frog declines, turns out that as they traipsed through the woods and rainforests to study the frogs, the researchers themselves quite possibly helped spread the chytrid fungus to locations and populations where it had previously been absent.

Now a bit good—although hardly unexpected—news is coming out of the frog research studies. Some frog populations in various parts of the world are not only recovering, but also showing signs of increased resistance—gained through adaptation and/or evolution—to the chytrid fungus.

Thus opens a new chapter in the ongoing Disappearing Frog saga, and one that likely foretells of a hoppy ending.

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December 7, 2010

Another Reason to Love Global Warming: Great Tits Out Earlier in the Year

Filed under: Adaptation, Animals

You read the title right, the great tit watching season is lengthening because of global warming.

This has been documented in a new scientific study which finds that rising temperatures are causing tits, both great and blue, to come out earlier and earlier in the year.

Now, before our InBox gets flooded with emails asking how to sign up for this kind of research, the tits that are being studied are of the feathered variety—the bird species Parus major (the great tit) and Cyanistes caeruleus (the blue tit).

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