Last week, The Daily Caller published, Global Warming Is Increasing Biodiversity Around the World. That caught my eye because apart from the obvious practical problems of global warming in the case of humans simply surviving, biodiversity is probably the most important issue. And here’s the thing: a warmer world could really bring about more biodiversity. Of course, it would mostly be more kinds of insects and algae. There are already thousands of species of termites and over ten thousand species of ants. There are perhaps a million species of algae. So this is really not the kind of biodiversity that we’re looking for.
I smelled a rat anyway. After all, there have been all kinds of papers that have indicated that species are dying off. If one paper found that biodiversity was increased by global warming, that does not means that “global warming is increasing biodiversity around the world.” But what do you expect from a libertarian website? Some kind of reasonable discussion of the facts? But I was interested to find out what this paper had to say. Did extreme weather manage to give us another kind of termite while killing off a dozen bird species? Did we have a million and one species of algae in exchange for more damage for our coral reefs? What could be this great news that The Daily Caller was trumpeting?
Well, Media Matters was interested in the same question, so Denise Robbins contacted the lead author of the study, Maria Dornelas. The scientist was kind of angry that her research was so obviously distorted for political ends. But it was hardly necessary to talk to her about it. The paper is titled, Assemblage Time Series Reveal Biodiversity Change but Not Systematic Loss. But before I explain what the paper reported, I have to explain a bit about the science.
There is what we call α-diversity. This is how much diversity there is in a single environment. Think of it like your house: if you have people from different background, the α-diversity is high. For example: if I lived with Bill Gates, we’d have a very high α-diversity. There is also what we call β-diversity. This is how much diversity there is between environments. So if the people in the house across the street were Warren Buffett and some other poor guy, then the β-diversity would be very low. Got it?
What Dornelas and her colleagues found was that α-diversity was pretty much unchanged. So in any particular forest (for example), there was just as much diversity as there was before. They don’t know what’s happening to the more important β-diversity. But they have a hunch. Dornelas provided the following thought experiment for how to think about this:
Got that? The α-diversity is exactly the same, but the β-diversity has gone way down. The fact that the α-diversity is the same on each island is meaningless.
I don’t really mind people disagreeing with me and being totally ignorant of the science they are talking about. But that’s not what The Daily Caller is doing. They are just lying. And what for? They are lying so that oil companies and others who are already really rich can continue to get even richer. It is times like these that I wish I believed in God and could take comfort in their eternal torture in a deep level of Dante’s Inferno.
Instead, at best, 20 years from now we’ll get a meek, “Oops!”