25 Mar 2008

Times Reports Global Warming Skepticism

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Is it possible? Here’s the New York Times actually reporting without derision scientific questioning of the responsibility of Anthropogenic Global Warming for an observed instance of change in the natural world.

In the scientific equivalent of the board game Clue, teams of biologists have been sifting spotty evidence and pointing to various culprits in the widespread vanishing of harlequin frogs.

The amphibians, of the genus Atelopus — actually toads despite their common name — once hopped in great numbers along stream banks on misty slopes from the Andes to Costa Rica. After 20 years of die-offs, they are listed as critically endangered by conservation groups and are mainly seen in zoos.

It looked as if one research team was a winner in 2006 when global warming was identified as the “trigger” in the extinctions by the authors of a much-cited paper in Nature. The researchers said they had found a clear link between unusually warm years and the vanishing of mountainside frog populations.

The “bullet,” the researchers said, appeared to be a chytrid fungus that has attacked amphibian populations in many parts of the world but thrives best in particular climate conditions. …

Other researchers have been questioning that connection. Last year, two short responses in Nature questioned facets of the 2006 paper. In the journal, Dr. Pounds and his team said the new analyses in fact backed their view that “global warming contributes to the present amphibian crisis,” but avoided language saying it was “a key factor,” as they wrote in 2006.

Now, in the March 25 issue of PLoS Biology, another team argues that the die-offs of harlequins and some other amphibians reflect the spread and repeated introductions of the chytrid fungus. They question the analysis linking the disappearances to climate change. …

“There is so much we still do not know!” David B. Wake, a biologist at the University of California, Berkeley, wrote in an e-mail note after reading the new paper. The origin of the fungus and the way it kills amphibians remain unknown, he said, and there are ample mysteries about why it breaks out in certain places and times and not others.

Ah! but here we go, wait for it, here comes the Times’ conclusion:

Ross A. Alford, a tropical biologist at James Cook University in Townsville, Australia, said such scientific tussles, while important, could be a distraction, particularly when considering the uncertain risks attending global warming.

“Arguing about whether we can or cannot already see the effects,” he said, “is like sitting in a house soaked in gasoline, having just dropped a lit match, and arguing about whether we can actually see the flames yet, while waiting to see if maybe it might go out on its own.”

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One Feedback on "Times Reports Global Warming Skepticism"

Scott D

When the answer is always “Anthropogenic Global Warming”, it is amazing how many questions one can find to ask.



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