Extinction Miscalculation

The recent press story of mass global warming extinctions came from a policy summary published well in advance of the scientific survey on which it is said to be based (so that governments get their policies in place before being distracted by  complicated science?). But the core of it was based on the IUCN Red List of endangered and recently extinct (vertebrate) species, of which a graph was included on a century by century scale, indeed showing a dramatic escalation from the 16th century.

Scary stuff, eh? Somebody, however, thought to return to the red-list database from which it came, and plotted the same data, up to 2009, decade by decade rather than century by century, and without using a confusing cumulative score. The results are interesting:

The peak, which was clearly in the in the late 19th/early 20th century and has declined overall since, almost certainly results largely from the introduction of invasive species on to isolated islands, including Australia (as well, of course, as more extensive scientific recording). Over the last 40 years confirmed extinctions average only about 2 per year (which, of course, is always tricky to be certain about anyway – from time to time species believed extinct turn up again). The first decade of this century had the fewest – just three species.

Those are pretty well all due to loss of habitat, not climate change, so that’s where the conservation efforts need to be directed: maybe the worthwhile efforts in that direction account for the drop in the last couple of decades.

Incidentally, note the disparity in the charts between the absolute numbers. 2.5% of vertebrates are claimed to have gone extinct already in the policy document – which would total 1,650 of the 67K identified vertebrate species, compared with what appears to be 521 actual species lost, give or take a couple, that are actually recorded in the data. It’s clearly tosh, because the graph suggests that humans made 21 of the 5,400 species of mammal extinct between 1500 and 1600, which is unlikely and certainly doesn’t match the 8 total species of vertebrate indicated in the data.

Another 2015 study, using different methodology, suggests 477 vertebrate species extinct since 1900, which is of the same order of magnitude: 0.7% over 115 years.

2.5% seems to be some kind of projection, perhaps based on a speculative number of undiscovered species, with many going extinct unobserved – but I can’t quite see how that works mathematically. 521 species is 0.77% of 67K, or if taken a statistical sample of a conjectural larger population is still 0.77%, not 2.5%. And despite everything, the figures show a decline over the century of technological change and exponential population growth.

Any loss of species is a shame, but where does the “1 million species at risk” figure come from, given the data, whose general accuracy you can check by looking up recent species extinctions on Wikipedia? It seems to be plucked out of thin air, and of course given that we do not have the scientific material in the policy-maker’s report, there is no way of checking it except from available sources, as Wrightstone has done, and as I have confirmed independently to a limited extent. The exaggeration can only lead to panic measures (or sheer despair) rather than rational conservation measures. I thought we were supposed to follow the science?


What about that despair? But perhaps panic measures and/or despair are actually more of the intention than conservation is. The sense of resignation to doom is increasingly apparent amongst young people, who have been indoctrinated into this kind of stuff from their earliest years at school and on TV. They are even encouraged to bunk off school to plead, in desperation, that somebody does something to avert the inevitable destruction of the entire planet in the next twelve years.

Just think how our society abuses its children. When I was young, I had a strong awareness of the possibility of an apocalyptic nuclear war, and that was bad enough. End-of-the-world scenarios were demoralizing, but there were plenty of post-nuclear sci-fi stories to suggest that life would go on somehow. More importantly, we knew that it all hinged on some clown in Washington or Moscow “pressing the button,” and that there was a good chance it would never happen. We could even joke about it. As one boy in my brother’s class wrote as an English exercise around 1960:

Fallout in the atmosphere
Made radioactive milk
Kennedy objected
And so did Acker Bilk

Good old Acker – not an evironmental warrior, but his name rhymes with milk. I met him at a police surgeons’ conference once.

But for the present generation of kids, the (non-existent) doom is presented as  the end of all life on earth, as being inevitable unless everybody acts NOW, and as being desperate because everybody ISN’T acting now. They’re being told it may already be forty years too late, even though nothing much has actually changed. Maybe many kids have a propensity to skip the pessimism, and skip school for fun protests rather than through existential fear. But teenage suicide rates, and the feeling that education or ambition are a waste of time if there’s no future have increased dramatically in recent years.

At the same time, the constant message that the damage of climate change is all round us already teaches our kids to view God’s beautiful world through dark grey spectacles. Everything from a sunny day to a polar bear is a sinister harbinger of evil. Every dead bird is interpreted as a canary in the coal mine.

If that were not enough, the same progressive propagandists in other guises are insisting that schools (and parents) instil doubts in kids’ minds even about such fundamentals as what sex they are. Who is going to look forward to the basic business of marrying and having kids when there are dozens of sterile, and changeable, relationships one might find oneself drawn into if ones gender identity or sexuality turns out to be those you’re taught at school? The “patriarchal” family is not recommeded out of consideration for “vulnerable groups,” and is considered vaguely distasteful anyway, if your teacher is anywhere left of centre.

But even if you do, against what you are taught, hanker after an ordinary family life, what is the point when your kids will all be drowned and burned up before they grow up? You’re screwed either way (and it’s all your parents’ fault). Do you remember Bob Dylan’s song Masters of War?

You have thrown the worst fear
That can ever be hurled,
Fear to bring children
Into the world.

Dylan directed his hate speech (“For threatening my baby/ Unborn and unnamed/
You ain’t worth the blood/ That runs in your veins”) at arms manufacturers. But they, at least, were responding to genuine threats from a Soviet Union intent on establishing the World Communist State by any and every means. The doom-mongers today appear to be cynically demoralizing our children for a crisis that has no basis except in politically-biased computer models.

Behind it is the same old utopian motive inherited from the Frankfurt School, Danny Cohn-Bendit and the rest: the aim to destroy the whole structure of human society and let utopia emerge somehow by direction from the wise leaders above.

(Cohn-Bendit is a revealing example, as I’ve pointed out before here. He came to fame leading French leftist anarchists in smashing up the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival, as I witnessed nyself, and finally destroying the Woodstock “Love and Peace” myth. But when leftist terrorism became defunct and counterproductive at the end of the decade, he distanced himself by changing his focus by forming the German Green Party, and is now Co-Chairman of the European Greens. His slogan is still “Let’s redesign Europe.”)

In this way the entire physical world becomes an experimental test-bed for intermittent weather energy, and for government and big business funded attempts to freeze polar ice and change the world’s climate, without a backup planet. What was that other couplet from the Dylan song?

You that never done nothin’
But build to destroy
You play with my world
Like it’s your little toy

Actually there are a number of points of contact between Masters of War and the “Climate Crisis” that the progressive politics behind Dylan’s song has brought on us half a century later, including the shady billionaires who are profiting by it. Have a listen to the contemporary relevance behind the 60s lyrics.

Jon Garvey

About Jon Garvey

Training in medicine (which was my career), social psychology and theology. Interests in most things, but especially the science-faith interface. The rest of my time, though, is spent writing, playing and recording music.
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