Climate activists have been quick to claim that rising temperatures would be harmful to many species. Taken to an extreme, that would be obvious. Plant and animal species have a range of temperatures (and other weather conditions) within which they comfortably live and reproduce. Going outside that range makes life difficult for them, forcing them to adapt or suffer the consequences.
But temperatures (and other weather conditions) may not see an extreme. Since 2011, a number of studies indicate there is a strong possibility that atmospheric sensitivity may be much lower than original, alarming estimates, limiting the positive feedback added to the effect of CO2. Plus, for two years in a row, CO2 emissions have not risen, despite good economic growth.
The effects of more moderate temperature rises may well be beneficial. This story in the UK’s Telegraph certainly suggest that is so far the case: “Climate change has so far helped more species than it has hurt in the UK, a major study by wildlife groups including the RSPB has found.
The study of the fortunes of 398 plant and animal species since 1970 found that 152 had been affected in some way by climate change, with “more species impacted positively than negatively in the short-term at least.”
While 61 species had experienced a negative impact overall, 91 species had benefited from having 14 of the warmest years on record in the past 15 years.
As I have often argued at this blog, the most negative impacts on the species with whom we share this planet are other harmful things that people do. “The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, found that the biggest impact on wildlife over the period had been the dramatic shift to intensive farming methods, which have led to the loss of hedgerows and farm ponds and the use of novel pesticides and herbicides.
“These changes have had overwhelmingly negative impacts across many groups of animals and plants – including butterflies, beetles, bees, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, grasshoppers, birds and plants,” the RSPB said.”
This is not necessarily a Get Out of Jail Free card for climate change. Temperatures may rise more than we Lukewarmers expect. The changes in weather apart from temperatures may prove more harmful than we now see. The impacts of further climate change may combine with our other harmful activities–introduction of alien species, habitat loss, over-hunting/fishing–to place too heavy a burden on some, perhaps many species.
But it stands as a useful counterpoint, if not an antidote, to some of the screaming from activists about Extreme Weather and Mass Extinction. Let’s hope for similar reports from other countries–and let’s hope they continue.