Wednesday, March 03, 2010

A toad of truth: golden toads not killed by GW

On Monday, Phys Org, Science Now, and even Tree Hugger, among others, wrote about a fresh article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that analyzed the reasons behind the demise of golden toads in Costa Rica.

The authors reconstructed the events in the late 1980s and figured out that they suffered from a fungal epidemic specific to amphibians. The pathogens quickly spread, especially because of group sex, and this unwelcome dynamics was supported by the 1986-1987 El Nino.

That is a detailed debunking of some earlier claims that their disappearance was caused by "global warming". Needless to say, the authors of the original speculation don't like the new paper. They say that its authors missed the "long-term trends" by not looking at "day-to-day humidity variations". They probably don't realize that a listener must be truly scientifically illiterate to buy this bizarre combination of "daily" and "long-term" changes. But the new paper contains some detailed insights that can no longer be "unlearned": they could only be "censored".

The very idea that global warming causes any of these things is utterly ludicrous. If you want to kill a toad, you must give it a poison or shoot it or something like that. You can't do it by raising the temperature by half a degree. There exists a long list of 690+ consequences of global warming, with links to the media.

Needless to say, all these things are absurd because of many reasons. One of the simplest reasons is that there hasn't been any warming for 10 years and no statistically significant one for 15 years. So if it didn't take place, it couldn't have caused anything in the recent years, either. We don't even have to debate whether the warming was natural or man-made: it didn't exist so all the reports in the media are just bogus.

But even if one looks at longer timeframes than 15 years where you find some climate change - which has usually been of natural origin in the past - it's still self-evident that the temperature change has played at most a secondary role in natural selection, i.e. determining which species survive etc.

Most existing life forms are "optimized" to similar temperature ranges so a hypothetical substantial change of the temperature is more likely to affect all of them rather than the differences. And what is the direction of the influence? Well, compare e.g. the Amazon rainforests and the Antarctica. Which of them is better for life? Which of them can boast a richer biodiversity?

But you need something like 60 °C of temperature change to go from one to the other. If the change is 0.6 °C only, you expect just 1/100 of the changes, e.g. the increase of the number of organisms by one percent or so. That's equivalent to a one-year population growth but it is added after long 100 years worth of temperature change.

While many people have always believed really crazy things and - in some cases - fringe theories, the idea that man-made CO2 emissions govern "almost everything" on the Earth, including the fate of golden toads in Costa Rica, is arguably the first superstition of the modern age that has made it into many official institutions, even - and maybe especially - in the civilized countries of the world. The reason is that one can achieve many political goals and/or make a lot of money out of these particular superstitions.

The term "toad of truth" was coined by Sheldon Cooper in The Big Bang Theory. He was looking for a toad of truth about the dispersion relations of electrons in the graphene - but completely forgot about the wave properties of the elementary particles for quite some time. Pretty embarrassing.

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