A veteran newser dissects recent UN apocalypse meltdown about wildlife extinction:
For starters, how many species are there? This is a fundamental question, but, surprisingly, all scientists can do is guesstimate. An influential 2011 paper in PLOS Biology estimated that there are 8.7 million species in the world, plus or minus 1.3 million. The IPBES seems to have adopted this figure. (There are no footnotes in its summary, making it difficult to check its claims, and the full report will be released later this year.) Previous estimates of the number of species ranged between 3 and 100 million. But of these 8.7 million, only about 1.3 million have been named and catalogued.
So the claim that a million species are at risk of being wiped out means that species are disappearing before we even know that they existed. This may be true, but it illustrates how mind-bending the extinction claim is. Taxonomy is a subtle science which depends upon algorithms nearly incomprehensible to the public. But that’s the job of journalists: to make the incomprehensible comprehensible. Before repeating the IPBS’s claim, they should have tried to understand the algorithm or at least ask questions about how the calculations were made. Michael Cook, “UN trumpets an extinction crisis” at MercatorNet
Without a clearly understood concept of speciation, it’s hard to know what extinction even means. If all individual life forms are unique, then every death is an extinction. Where do we draw the line and why, exactly?
Actually, the entire concept of speciation is an acknowledged mess, which is why no one wants to deal with it. In the absence of a clear way of determining how many “species” there are, games with numbers can focus attention on the freakout of the day, which means less attention for core questions of wildlife management and ecology.
See, for example: Polar bears overrun small northern Russian town The people who fear the bears will go extinct are not taking into account another possibility: They will become quite habituated to human food waste and thrive that way.
We face serious problems but doomsday rhetoric is often a cover for extraordinary politics more than anything else.
See also: A physicist looks at biology’s problem of “speciation” in humans
Insectologists swat insects are doomed papere
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