A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).



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Adapting to climate change “it’s in our genes” — Another reason to ignore the extinction scare

Two different models predict two totally different futures. On the left, catastrophic extinction. On the right, happy bats. Click to enlarge

Yesterday a UN supercommittee of 145 scientists from 50 countries declared that one million species are set for extinction. The same day, ten other scientists published a paper pointing out that most modelers forget to allow for genetic variation and thus overestimate the extinction rate. (It’s like they’re modelling the World of Clones – take one small study, pretend they’re all the same — extrapolate globally.) Have a look at the big difference in model outcomes in figure 1 (right).

As I keep saying, 500 million years of brutal climate change means almost every species carries around an industrial tool-kit of handy genetic tricks. Matz et al estimated corals already have the genes to survived another 250 years of projected IPCC catastrophe (in the unlikely event that it happens). Liew et al showed corals even have epigenetic tricks as well as genetics ones.  Another group showed when corals are heated something like 74 different genes are activated — often  genes that we don’t even know what they’re there for.

My favourite all time Global Adaptability Prize goes to [...]

A million species face extinction? Time to burn fossil fuels to save them

A baby-IPCC of biology has just been born

The new 145-expert-committee has just uttered its first words, and the headlines are Hollywood-apocalyptic: A million species face extinction. Daddy-UN is proud.

Nature is in its worst shape in human history, UN report says

Nature is in more trouble now than at any other time in human history, with extinction looming over one million species of plants and animals, scientists said Monday in the UN’s first comprehensive report on biodiversity.

Naturally, these are estimates from unverified models that count species we haven’t even discovered yet. This is truly a  scare-based-on-air, except air is real and has weight, and this isn’t that substantial.

Dr. Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace, explains how vaporous this really is:

 “Since species extinction became a broad social concern, coinciding with the extinction of the passenger pigeon, we have done a pretty good job of preventing species extinctions.”

Moore bluntly mocked species extinction claims made by biologist Edward O. Wilson from Harvard University. Wilson estimated that up to 50,000 species go extinct every year based on computer models of the number of potential but as yet undiscovered species in the world. Moore: “There’s [...]

Corals use epigenetic tricks to adapt to warmer and “more acidic” water

After half a billion million years of climate change, I’m shocked, shocked I tell you, that life on Earth (and specifically corals) have so many ways to cope with the climate changing. After all, it’s natural (if you are trained by Greenpeace) to assume that corals can only survive in a world with one constant stable temperature just like they never had.

One more tool in the coral-reef-workshop

Corals don’t just have a tool-box, they have a Home Depot Warehouse. h/t to GWPF

We already knew corals chuck out the symbionts that don’t work so well and pick up better partners. Plus, evolution  left a stack of genes lying around that were honed  in a world that was warmer, and natural selection has a way of amplifying better combinations as conditions shift. Then there is the way corals can be reseeded from safe sites, far away. Now we find out that corals can use epigenetics too.

Epigenetics is that kind of spooky effect where people can inherit the exact same DNA code yet it works or doesn’t work depending on whether it was Dad’s copy, or Mum’s, or whether parents were starved, fearful or stressed. It’s weird, see more [...]

Corals already have the genes to survive another 250 years of climate change

A new paper finds that there is already enough genetic variety spread across the Great Barrier Reef to adapt to the imagined “unprecedented” warming coming in the next two centuries. We don’t need to rely on random mutations or consider fantasy solutions of man-made oceanic sunscreens, mass sunshades, or giant reef fans. Corals already have a major immigration program running pretty effectively to juggle 200 million years of genetic material and then spread the successes far and wide. Meddling humans can help things (maybe) by moving a few bits of coral around. That’s it. Cancel the scare please.

Skeptics have been saying this for years — who needs a computer model to predict that the Barrier Reef will adapt? How bad could global warming be? The global oceans span a 32C range and corals prefer the hottest five degrees of that. Indeed, there is a five degree temperature range from one end of the Great Barrier Reef to the other, and corals are clearly, obviously pretty happy about it. Meanwhile, the atmosphere is warming at a mere tenth of a degree per decade. Then there is the well known phenomenon that corals spawn in vast clouds that are [...]

Life adapts — fish evolved from salt to fresh water in just fifty years

In 1964 an earthquake made some parts of the Pacific into ponds on a few islands. Fifty years later and the fish in those ponds are now freshwater fish. Apparently the genes for dealing with that sort of wild extreme change are held by some of the fish in the crowd and natural selection can work its wonders in a decade.

In terms of ocean acidification, this is as catastrophic as it gets, not only did the ocean become “more acidic” but it stopped being an ocean.

I can’t get much worse than this for a fish, and yet somehow life on Earth had the answer.

What’s the pH of those ponds — The ocean pH is 8.1, rain is 5.5. Those ponds will be somewhere in between.

And some people think a man-made “ocean acidication” that’s smaller than this and slower, will devastate the ocean.


Science Daily

Evolution is usually thought of as occurring over long time periods, but it also can happen quickly. Consider a tiny fish whose transformation after the 1964 Alaskan earthquake was uncovered by University of Oregon scientists and their University of Alaska collaborators.

The fish, [...]