by Judith Curry
The House Natural Resources Committee Subcommittee on Water, Oceans and Wildlife is holding a Hearing today on Responding to the Global Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.
The link to the Hearing page is here [link].
Based on my previous experience with this Committee, the written testimonies will not be posted, and the Hearing will live stream on their Facebook page [link]
Here is the list of witnesses:
- Sir Robert Watson, Immediate Past Chair IPBES
- Dr. Eduardo S. Brondizio, Co-Chair IPBES Global Assessment
- Dr. Yunne Shin, Coordinating Lead Author, IPBES Global Assessment
- Dr. Patrick Moore, Chairman CO2 Coalition [link to written testimony Moore]
- Mr. Marc Morano, Founder Climate Depot [link to written testimony Morano]
- Dr. Jacob Malcolm, Director Center for Conservation Innovation, Defenders of Wildlife
Quite an interesting list. Clearly some of the leading honchos for the IPBES Report. Surprised that the Republicans apparently got to pick several witnesses.
Having Marc Morano on this list is like waving a red cape before a bull. True to form, Marc has prepared an extremely hard hitting report for his written testimony, which was sent to me (and others) via email. Excerpts from Morano’s testimony are provided below:
As a lifelong conservationist, I share concerns about the Earth’s biodiversity and particularly concerns about threats to species. I have advocated for a clean, healthy planet with a co-existence of humans and plants and animals.
But, as an investigative journalist studying the United Nations for decades, there is only one conclusion to be made of this new report: The UN’s Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), hypes and distorts biodiversity issues for lobbying purposes. This report is the latest UN appeal to give it more power, more scientific authority, more money, and more regulatory control.
According to media reports, the UN species report requires that “a huge transformation is needed across the economy and society to protect and restore nature…”
And just how does the UN justify this “huge transformation” of economics and society which it will lead? By invoking what the UN describes as “authoritative science” produced by — the UN of itself of course.
UN IPBES Executive Secretary, Dr. Anne Larigauderie declared: The “IPBES presents the authoritative science, knowledge and the policy options to decision makers for their consideration.”
At best, the UN science panels represent nothing more than “authoritative bureaucracy”, claiming they hype the problem and then come up with the solution that puts them in charge of “solving” the issue in perpetuity. A more accurate term for the UN than “authoritative science” may be “authoritative propaganda.”
This new biodiversity report follows the same tainted IPCC procedures that the U.S. Congress must be made aware of. The report is meddled with by UN politicians, bureaucrats as part of the process.
The report’s summary had to be approved by representatives of all 109 nations,” the AP reported. Let’s repeat, “The report’s summary had to be approved by representatives of all 109 nations.” These representatives are not scientists, but they are politicians, subject to lobbying and media pressure and their own self-interests. This is clearly a political process — not a scientific process.
Canadian UN expert Donna Laframboise, who has written several books on the biased UN “scientific” process, explains how this new species report was crafted behind the scenes:
“[The UN] draft a summary known as the Summary for Policymakers (SPM). Then politicians and bureaucrats representing national governments attend a plenary meeting where the summary gets examined line-by-line and rewritten…But it gets worse. Over the next few weeks, the text being summarized – the underlying, ostensibly scientific document – will also get changed. That’s not how things normally work, of course. Summaries are supposed to be accurate reflections of longer documents. At the UN, they represent an opportunity to alter those documents, to make them fall into line…This is no sober scientific body, which examines multiple perspectives, and considers alternative hypotheses. The job of the IPBES is to muster only one kind of evidence, the kind that promotes UN environmental treaties.”
“That’s how the United Nations works, folks. Machinations in the shadows. Camouflaging its political aspirations by dressing them up in 1,800 pages of scientific clothing.”
Laframboise also found a serious lack of transparency in this new UN biodiversity report, giving the report “a failing grade.” See: UN Biodiversity Officials Fail Transparency Test – ‘Provides no CVs for most members of its influential panel’
Within days of the UN’s report release, major questions about the scientific claims began to emerge. See: ANALYSIS: UN’s ‘1 Million’ Extinction Warning Does Not ADD Up – ‘The word ‘suggesting’ is doing a lot of work’ – ‘We’re just supposed to take it on faith’
Analyst Toby Young: “So how exactly did the [UN] IPBES arrive at the magic one million [species at risk] number? It seems we’re just supposed to take it on faith, which the BBC duly did. What about the IPBES’s claim that ‘around 25% of species… are threatened’? That seems a little pessimistic, given that the number of mammals to have become extinct in the past 500 years or so is around 1.4% and only one bird has met the same fate in Europe since 1852. Not bad when you consider how much economic growth there’s been in the past 167 years.”
“…All I could find online was a press release put out by the IPBES and a ‘summary’ of the report ‘for policymakers’. The press release states: ‘The report finds that around one million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction, many within decades.’ It gives no source for this beyond the as-yet-unpublished report, but the summary makes it clear that it’s partly based on data from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.”
Geologist Gregory Wrightstone just issued a scientific rebuke of the new UN species report. Wrightstone and concluded: “This new [UN] extinction study is just the latest example of misuse and abuse of the scientific process designed to sow fear of an impending climate apocalypse.”
Wrightstone called the report “a case study of how those who promote the notion of man-made catastrophic warming manipulate data and facts to spread the most fear, alarm, and disinformation.”
Wrightstone’s research instead found: “A closer review of the most recent information dating back to 1870 reveals that, instead of a frightening increase, extinctions are actually in a significant decline. What is apparent is that the trend of extinctions is declining rather than increasing, just the opposite of what the new report claims. Also, according to the IPBES report, we can expect 25,000 to 30,000 extinctions per year, yet the average over the last 40 years is about 2 species annually. That means the rate would have to multiply by 12,500 to 15,000 to reach the dizzying heights predicted. Nothing on the horizon is likely to achieve even a small fraction of that.”
Wrightstone added; “In an incredibly ironic twist that poses a difficult conundrum for those who are intent on saving the planet from our carbon dioxide excesses, the new study reports that the number one cause of predicted extinctions is habitat loss. Yet their solution is to pave over vast stretches of land for industrial-scale solar factories and to construct immense wind factories that will cover forests and grasslands, killing the endangered birds and other species they claim to want to save.” (JC BOLD)
Other analyses of the new UN report were also less than charitable.
See: Studies Indicate Species Extinctions Decline With Warming – ‘Since the 1870s, species extinction rates have been plummeting’ – Habitat loss & predator introduction biggest threat — Not warming – May 17, 2019
Analyst Kenneth Richard: “During the last few hundred years, species extinctions primarily occurred due to habitat loss and predator introduction on islands. Extinctions have not been linked to a warming climate or higher CO2 levels. In fact, since the 1870s, species extinction rates have been plummeting.” – “No clear link between mass extinctions and CO2-induced or sudden-onset warming events.”
As we await the full report from the UN on Biodiversity, we must note that the UN track record on species claims has not been admirable.
2014: Der Speigel’s Axel Bojanowski: “The IPCC admits that there is no evidence climate change has led to even a single species becoming extinct thus far. At most, the draft report says, climate change may have played a role in the disappearance of a few amphibians, freshwater fish and mollusks. Yet even the icons of catastrophic global warming, the polar bears, are doing surprisingly well.”
In 2010, the NY Times examined UN species claims.
See: NY Times Andrew Revkin: UN IPCC Claims About Extinction ‘confusing’ — NYT: UN IPCC Scientists “acknowledge there was inconsistency and flawed writing’ in extinction section – ‘In the Summary for Policy Makers of the report on climate impacts, there are different summations of extinction risk within a few pages.”
UN official on species in 2007: “Every hour, three species disappear. Every day, up to 150 species are lost. Every year, between 18,000 and 55,000 species become extinct. The cause: human activities. …Climate change is one of the major driving forces behind the unprecedented loss of biodiversity.” — Speech on 21 May 2007 by Ahmed Djoghlaf, then Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity under the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
Contrary scientific studies abound:
“Re-assessing current extinction rates” by Neil Stork in Biodiversity and Conservation, February 2010. Gated. Open copy. He cites the overwhelming peer-reviewed research evidence that claims of mass extinctions occurring today are exaggerated or false, and explains the reasons for these errors. Conclusions … “So what can we conclude about extinction rates? First, less than 1% of all organisms are recorded to have become extinct in the last few centuries and there are almost no empirical data to support estimates of current extinctions of 100 or even one species a day.”
“Species–area relationships always overestimate extinction rates from habitat loss” by Fangliang He and Stephen P. Hubbell in Nature, 19 May 2011. Gated. “Extinction from habitat loss is the signature conservation problem of the twenty-first century. Despite its importance, estimating extinction rates is still highly uncertain because no proven direct methods or reliable data exist for verifying extinctions.”
John C. Briggs (Prof Marine Science, U South FL) in Science, 14 November 2014. – “Most extinctions have occurred on oceanic islands or in restricted freshwater locations, with very few occurring on Earth’s continents or in the oceans.”
Perhaps the most high profile species prediction failure of the UN and former Vice President Al Gore has been with polar bears.
Why has Al Gore has gone silent on the extinction scare of polar bears? Gore featured the bears in 2006 film, but how many references to polar bears were in Gore’s 2017 sequel? Five references? Three? No. How about zero. The polar bears were completely absent in his 2017 sequel. The reason? Simple. The polar bear population keeps rising.
Alaska’s coordinator for endangered species: ‘Polar bears are at an all-time high of abundance level’ – ‘The only reason the service listed them was based on speculation from fairly untested models based on what the fate of polar bears may be in the future’
This new May 2019 UN report is extrapolating huge future species extinction predictions from a much less alarming current reality and has only released its Summary for Policymakers which is fiddled with by UN politicians and bureaucrats and the underlying science report remains at large. And that underlying report must follow the dictates of the Summary for Policymakers. This UN political process that interferes with the scientific process has been called into question for violating the U.S. science policy guidelines.
Let me clear: I am not talking about the UN and its science reports in some abstract or vague way. I am here to say that the three lead witnesses representing the United Nations today on this new biodiversity report are explicitly part of these UN scientific manipulations.
I will be presenting and submitting for the record, the voices of current and past scientists that reveal the UN’s pre-determined narrative process and expose how the UN’s panels are not rooted in honest science.
[JC note: read the full testimony for much material critical of the IPCC process]
I have been passionate about environmental issues since I began my career in 1991 as a journalist. I produced a documentary on the myths surrounding the Amazon Rainforest in 2000, which dealt extensively claimed species extinctions and how such claims are used to instill fear for political lobbying.
I have done extensive investigating reporting on species extinction claims, including how hyped up species concerns are used to shut down American mining and private breeders. One of my stories was a report titled Desert Stormtroopers and how nearly 30 state, local and federal agencies descended onto the Molycorp mine in California’s Mojave desert to protect the threatened Desert Tortoise. Based on these endangered species claims, the mine’s operations were halted, employees were forced to undergo “tortoise sensitivity training” and the U.S. federal government felt compelled to use heavy-handed tactics. It turned out that the Desert Tortoise was not even considered an “endangered” species, but a “threatened” species.
Concern over species can be used to justify massive government intrusion into business, private lives and property rights, therefore, it is extremely important that we get the science right.
Other efforts to “save” species have had mixed and sometimes woeful results.
New 2018 report highlights failures of the Endangered Species Act: “The Endangered Species Act (ESA) has been so ineffective at recovering species that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has fabricated a record of success.” – Robert Gordon, The Heritage Foundation…Enacted in 1973, the ESA has managed to “recover” only 40 species, or slightly less than one species per year…“Federally Funded Fiction” – Even worse, almost half of the “recovered” species – 18 out of 40 – are what Gordon calls “federally funded fiction.” It turns out that these 18 “recovered” species were never endangered in the first place and were placed on the endangered species list due to poor data. This, however, has not kept the Department of Interior’s Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) from trumpeting their “recovery” as a success.”
My 2000 Amazon Rainforest documentary “Clear-cutting the Myths,” exposed the hopeful news on species and the natural world’s biodiversity.
Excerpt: “Duke University, published a study on the effects of logging in Indonesian rainforests. Dr. Charles Cannon examined land both one year and eight years after it had been commercially logged. What he found surprised many. Indonesia’s forests were recovering quickly from logging operations, with a healthy mix of plant species…Robin Chazdon, an ecologist from the University of Connecticut, has studied tropical rainforests for more than 20 years. Dr. Chazdon wrote this editorial that accompanied Dr. Cannon’s study in Science Magazine. “I do think that we have underestimated the ability of the forest to regenerate,” Chazon said. Scientific reforestation efforts are paying off in parts of the Amazon. In 1982, miners cleared a large tract of land in western Brazil. Once finished, they hired scientists to reforest the territory. New studies show that the rejuvenated forest is virtually indistinguishable from its original form. Ninety-five percent of the original animal species have returned. Proponents say these attempts at sustainable logging lowered costs and increased productivity, proving that man and nature can coexist in the Amazon.
UK scientist Professor Philip Stott, emeritus professor of Biogeography at the University of London, dismissed current species explained in my Amazon rainforest documentary.
“The earth has gone through many periods of major extinctions, some much bigger in size than even being contemplated today,” Stott, the author of a book on tropical rainforests, said in the documentary.
“Change is necessary to keep up with change in nature itself. In other words, change is the essence. And the idea that we can keep all species that now exist would be anti-evolutionary, anti-nature and anti the very nature of the earth in which we live,” Stott said.
But this is not the first time we have warned about species. As early as 1864, “tipping points” about the “extinction of the species” were issued. And it turns out, economic prosperity may help save the species.
Analyst Jo Nova: “Wealthy countries are solving all of these problems faster than poor countries are. The best way to save the wilderness is to increase the GDP of those in poverty. Free trade, fair agricultural markets. Less red tape. Less corruption. We’ve tied up lots of land, so the last thing we want is to use wilderness for useless solar and wind farms, or palm oil plantations. Why keep coal and uranium underground when we can save the forest instead? Again, in nations where there are healthy economies, fish stocks are being protected and are recovering. Whales too. Even great white sharks.”
Yet, despite a massive track record of scientific failure about climate and species “crises” the UN, the media and the usual suspect scientists like failed overpopulation guru Paul Ehrlich, are at it again.
This latest report has been touted as the IPCC for nature by the UN. “The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) included more than 450 researchers who used 15,000 scientific and government reports.
Environmental activist Tim Keating of Rainforest Relief was asked in the 2000 documentary if he could name any of the alleged 50,000 species that have gone extinct and he was unable.
“No, we can’t [name them], because we don’t know what those species are. But most of the species that we’re talking about in those estimates are things like insects and even microorganisms, like bacteria,” Keating explained.
Larry Kummer in 2018 countered: Who are those extinct animals? Mostly bugs. For the most accurate list of extinct and endangered species, see the IUCN Red List of extinctions. Wikipedia posts this in a more easily viewed form. Seldom mentioned in the alarmist articles is the big fact: most Animalia are bugs
But the persistent claims that not only are humans driving this driving a species catastrophe but that humans themselves go extinct will not go away.
Is the Insect Apocalypse Really Upon Us? ‘Claims that insects will disappear within a century are absurd’ – The data on insect declines are too patchy, unrepresentative, and piecemeal to justify some of the more hyperbolic alarms. At the same time, what little information we have tends to point in the same worrying direction…The claim that insects will all be annihilated within the century is absurd. Almost everyone I spoke with says that it’s not even plausible, let alone probable. “Not going to happen,” says Elsa Youngsteadt from North Carolina State University. “They’re the most diverse group of organisms on the planet…The sheer diversity of insects makes them, as a group, resilient—but also impossible to fully comprehend. There are more species of ladybugs than mammals, of ants than birds, of weevils than fish.
Scientists uncover 1,451 new species in the ocean in the past year – UK Daily Mail 2015: From a frilled shark to the frogfish, we’re finding four new sea creatures every day: Scientists uncover 1,451 new species in the ocean in the past year alone. Despite the expansion of our knowledge however, scientists estimate we still only know about a tenth of the marine life on Earth. The World Register of Marine Species – which aims to become an inventory of all known ocean life – numbers 228,000 species, with new names being added every day.
One Million New Plankton Species Found: ‘A worldwide expedition of the oceans to find out about climate change reveals a million new species of plankton’ – ‘These planktonic organisms are the life support system of the planet.’ — ‘They are the base of the food chain … if there’s no plankton, there’s no fish in the oceans…And they take CO2 out of the atmosphere by taking it into the interior of the ocean where it can be stored for thousands of millions of years so they’re an essential buffer against climate change due to carbon dioxide in the atmosphere’
UN Earth Summit Rebuttal: ‘There is no scientific basis for claims that hundreds or even thousands of species are at risk’ – ‘Of 191 bird and mammal species recorded as having gone extinct since 1500, 95% were on islands…On continents, just six bird and three mammal species were driven to extinction…the greatest threats to species are the very policies and programs being advocated in Rio. Those policies would ban fossil fuels; greatly increase renewable energy use; reduce jobs and living standards in rich nations; and perpetuate poverty, disease, death and desperation in poor countries’
Nature Conservancy chief scientist admits ‘data simply do not support idea of a fragile nature at risk of collapse’ –demise of formerly abundant species can be inconsequential to ecosystem function’ – ‘Ecologists now know that disappearance of one species does not necessarily lead to extinction of any others, much less all others in the same ecosystem…A thorough review of the literature identified 240 studies of ecosystems following deforestation, mining, oil spills, & other types of pollution. The abundance of plant & animal species & other measures of ecosystem function recovered, at least partially, in 173 (72%) of these studies’
While I have read Morano’s recent book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Climate Change (I recommend this book), I was unaware that Morano had been following the species extinction issue so closely.
Witnesses selected by the minority party (at present the Republicans), typically have a week at best to prepare written testimony. So it is clear that Morano’s materials must have been collected and examined over a period of time.
Without having read all the sources linked to by Morano, what he states is generally consistent with my more limited understanding of this issue (although there are many relevant issues not covered in his testimony).
And of course I haven’t read the full Biodiversity Report, since it is not yet available. I am appalled that they published the relatively short Summary for Policy Makers well in advance of publishing the full report (I haven’t even seen a publication date for the main report). This fact in itself supports Morano’s contention that the intention of this Report is propaganda. They got their headline regarding ‘1 million species at risk from extinction’ without providing the documentation that apparently can’t be very convincing.
It is very difficult to rebut Morano’s points without the full Report and its documentation.
The biodiversity and species extinction issue is associated with substantially much more uncertainty than say the IPCC WGI report on the physical basis for climate change. The species issue is potentially uncertain by orders of magnitude, with the sign of some this even being uncertain.
And the irony of all this is that the biodiversity narrative rather gets in the way of the climate catastrophe narrative. The climate issue is at best a minor issue in any biodiversity challenge. At the same time, climate change ‘solutions’ are arguably a much bigger threat to species and biodiversity than climate change itself.
That said, the Report raises some serious issues and we can and should do better at reducing our impact on habitats and species. But any sensible policies in this regard would undoubtedly get drowned out in climate change alarmism, and criticism of the Report.
Notes from the Hearing
I am watching the live hearing now (I tuned in a bit late). I thought that the oral testimonies of Shin, Moore, and Watson were very effective. Both Shin and Watson highlighted ocean issues, mainly overfishing and coastal habitats, which are of substantial concern. I don’t always agree with Moore’s statements about climate change, but with regards to biodiversity this topic is squarely in his domain of expertise. Morano’s oral statements were a bit over the top and confrontational, and the Committee Chair is being rather hostile towards Morano.
The Ranking Member (Republican) is seeking common ground, and it appears that the ocean related issues of the Report are having an impact.
Watson agrees that monoculture biofuel production is not good for biodiversity. Watson clearly coupled the biodiversity and climate change issues, stressing the importance of dealing with both together (makes sense especially if this causes reconsideration of biofuels and wind power)
In the questioning, Moore is challenging whether CO2 influences climate, CO2 is overall beneficial.
Interesting comment by one of the Members: We are no longer seeing climate denial from the Republicans in Congress, but rather we are seeing climate avoidance, in terms of doing anything meaningful about it.
Morano was asked a question about ‘97% of scientists agree.’ Morano nailed it. Moore effectively chimed in on this issue also.
Hard hitting remarks from one of the members about the fact that full Report has not yet been published, only the Executive Summary.
Moore is effectively communicating the ‘global greening’ seen by satellite.
Member Bishop raises concern about scientific integrity, in context of the Report not being released.
The Chairman in his 5 minutes is attacking Morano and the Republicans for inviting him. Also criticizing ‘junior varsity think tanks.’
Watson admits CO2 contributes to greening. He then hypes extreme weather, including drying as problems associated with CO2. He started talking about economics and policy, and the Chair pulled him back to the science.
Shin brought that particular conversation back to ocean acidification.
The Chair criticized Republicans for inviting a political person (Morano) to testify. But then Watson clearly wanted to talk about these issues also.
Moore hits hard on the ‘extrapolation’ issue, and the large number of the estimated 8 million species that haven’t been identified.
Moore raises the valid point about differences between biodiversity (species number) and species mass. He understands that ocean biomass is decreasing, but is unaware of any actual species loss.
The Chair is now going after Moore. Entering into the Congressional Record a statement from Greenpeace about Patrick Moore.
Watson can’t let go of the CO2/climate change issue regarding biodiversity.
Hearing is over.