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Bjorn and bears
Statistician and darling of climate change deniers Bjorn Lomborg today tried to make a point about global warming 'hype'. There's nothing wrong with tackling hype, but when it's discussed in terms of climate change, it's usually used as a tool to dismiss the subject like you would the next boy band or fad food. Today Bjorn put his foot in it. Big time.
After berating green groups and the media for using polar bears as the poster child for climate change, he then conceded that for polar bears it would be that "likely disappearing ice will make it harder for polar bears to continue their traditional foraging patterns", so many can turn to the lifestyles of brown bears, "from which they are evolved". He concludes that polar bears "may eventually decline, though dramatic declines seem unlikely."
Essentially he's saying that polar bears can adapt as some kind of reverse evolutionary technique, back to the state of their forebears (no pun intended), as if bears are like some kind of migrant worker, changing skills and moving around for work. I wouldn't doubt the resourcefulness of polar bears, but it's reasonable to expect that any creature that has become highly specialised in adapting to a particular environment would have difficulty if that environment changed drastically. Extinctions are made of such things.
Let's ignore that he's not a biologist. He's a statistician. But for someone who trades on his credentials as an objective observer and interpreter of statistics, he has made a frighteningly subjective and unquantifiable statement, using an unqualified term such as "unlikely".
We need people to challenge preconceptions, even if they are wrong. But with gems like hoping polar bears will 'evolve out of trouble', Lomborg will lose further credibility, so much so that at some point even the most fundamentalist climate change sceptics grasping at any shred of justification for inaction won't listen to him.
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