Watt about the wild claims at the UEA?

The University of East Anglia has a press release today about how Climate change will cause widespread global-scale loss of common plants and animals. This was based on a study published today in Nature Climate Change and lead by Rachel Warren of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research.

Watts Up With That (WUWT) has already included a post with the following comment

No mays, coulds, or mights here in this press release headline from UEA. They say “will“. As usual, they assume nature so poorly equipped her creations that they can’t adapt. That’s some ballsy certainty.

Now, I am quite pleased that Anthony Watts accepts Darwin’s (and Alfred Russell Wallace’s) theory of natural selection. However, I don’t believe that it is expected that species can adapt on decade-long timescales. It typically takes many generation for these adaptations to become dominant. I’ve also read the press release (you can too if you follow the link at the beginning of this post) and I didn’t perceive it as being particularly absolute in how it presented the results. Words like could and predict seemed to be used quite regularly.

I’ve actually read some of the paper (which you can access here – although it may be paywalled), which I suspect Anthony Watts has not done. I thought it was quite a clever bit of work. They use climate models to estimate the change in the climatic range for various plant and animal species. Their work suggests that 34+-7% of animal species and 56+-7% of plant species will see a 50% reduction in their climatic range. Their method also

encompassed uncertainties in both climate change projections and in the potential ability of species to disperse to areas that become newly climatically suitable.

They acknowledge that there are uncertainties associated with these but argue that

estimates of biodiversity diminution at this scale are probably conservative owing to the expected compounding effects of increases in extreme weather events, pests, diseases and barriers to dispersal.

I think this is an interesting bit of work. I don’t know if it is correct but they appear to explain their methods quite clearly and defined their assumptions quite well. I know that many on WUWT will argue that the difference between the predicted and observed temperature anomalies means that climate models have been proven to be wrong. This is, however, not correct as the observations are still within the ranges of most climate models and there is evidence that much of the “missing heat” has been going into the deep ocean. It is quite possible that the temperature anomaly will undergo a period of faster rise in the near future and that the climate model predictions (on longer timescales) will turn out to be quite accurate. I can’t know this to be true, but if they’re modelling the energy imbalance accurately (as I believe they are) then I have confidence that they are mostly getting it right.

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