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Observations and opinions concerning zoos, evolution, nature conservation and the way we treat/support the ecosystems which are supposed to serve us.
 

201618Dec16:09

The climate change hoax tested

published 18 December 2016 | modified 18 December 2016

Triggered by recent events, such as the presidency election in the USA and the Marrakech Climate Change Conference, I just needed to see if convincing evidence is available on this climate change issue or that it is indeed a Chinese hoax. The open letter published by 375 concerned scientists and the overwhelming scientific evidence about the ongoing climate change they bring forward should be convincing enough of course. But I wanted to see how easy the accumulating evidence can be found in publicly available resources and published within the last 30 day period – just because I don’t like to be overwhelmed.

First of all I focussed on the serious news sources, because everybody knows by now that facebook should be avoided when you engage in an effort such as mine. Although facebook conveniently blocks dissenting views, which is always good when you want to convince yourself that your view is correct, it also provides fake news.

Well, it turned out that my simple quest delivered five articles in just a few minutes, and all of them underpin the concept of ongoing climate change.

On 16 November the New Scientist brings the story of tens of thousands of reindeer in Arctic Russia starved to death in 2006 and 2013 because of unusual weather linked to global warming. Both in 2006 and 2013 sea ice retreated and unseasonally warm temperatures contributed to heavy rainfall. The rains led to a layer of ice of several tens of centimetres thick, in contrast to the sporadic ice cover the reindeer experience in ‘normal’ circumstances. The thick ice couldn’t be smashed by the reindeer, so they couldn’t reach the usual food supply of lichen and other vegetation. About 20,000 and 61,000 reindeer starved to death in 2006 and 2013 respectively. This year researchers are afraid of another one of those famines, because September saw the second-lowest level of sea-ice cover on record in the Arctic.

Greenland decline ice massThe Greenland ice sheet continued to lose mass in 2016, as it has since 2002 when satellite-based measurement began. Melting began the second earliest in the 37-year record of observations, close to the record set in 2012. Graphic shows Greenland ice sheet mass each month since April 2002.
(Climate.gov; data provided by Marco Tedesco/Lamont-Doherty)

Perhaps not that convincing yet, but it shows not only polar bears are suffering as Arctic sea ice retreats. Polar bears made the headlines a few times by the way within my search window. Research findings published on 7 December in the journal Biology Letters unfortunately support the potential for large declines in polar bear numbers caused by climate change due to sea-ice loss. This effect of climate change on polar bear population features in the NASA publication of 12 December which highlights how detailed satellite remote sensing have facilitated ecological studies of change over time. When landscape condition reflect the impact it has on species such as deer, mountain lion and polar bear, the mapping of the landscape by satellite images is much more affordable and therefore sensible to give or forecast the population size of the mammals at stake. Measuring deer, for instance, is logistically difficult, hazardous and very expensive, let alone mountain lions or polar bears.

If you are still in doubt about the Arctic sea ice retreat and the long-term Arctic warming trends the following short video from NOAA’s Arctic Program is disappointingly sobering. Observations reported in the 2016 update of the Arctic Report Card show a continuation of the warming trends and that loss of sea ice are triggering extensive Arctic changes.

 

But it is not only the Arctic region that is under threat. Extinctions related to climate change have already happened in hundreds of plant and animal species around the world, according to an article published on 8 December in the open-access journal PLOS Biology. It shows that local extinctions have already occurred in 47% of the 976 plant and animal species studied. These extinctions will almost certainly become much more widespread over time, because temperatures are predicted to increase by an additional 1 to 5 degrees in the next several decades. These worldwide local extinctions could also extend to species that humans depend on for food and resources. Perhaps more frightening is that the results showed that local extinctions varied by region and were almost twice as common among tropical species as among temperate species. This is important as the majority of plant and animal species live in the tropics, and when biodiversity is threatened on such a large scale the ecosystems and the services they supply are threatened.

When you want to see this climate change in action the Timelapse feature on Google Earth Engine is worth the experience. I added below the changes over time (1984-2016) of the Columbia glacier in Alaska, but you can explore the tool yourself or check out the YouTube timelapse tour that Google has made available.

Anyway, evidence of the ongoing climate change is readily available in renown and respected resources, including U.S. government institutions, for everybody – even for the President-elect of the USA biggrin.

 


 

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"Tiger map" (CC BY 2.5) by Sanderson et al., 2006.

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