Talk:Extinction risk from global warming

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Deletion of section on precedents[edit]

On July 29, user:Polargeo deleted the entire section "Historical precedents", with the comment "Completely garbled stuff which comes to absolutely no point with regard to the article".

I find this completely unjustified. The section (largely written by me) mentioned the fact that some scientists believe most of the mass extinctions of the past were due to climate change (with reference). It then discussed the question of whether hot periods in the past have caused mass extinctions, specifically the Eemian and the Holocene thermal maximum. It considered to what extent these were similar to or different from the global warming we expect in the future.

The section did not "come to a point" because it was meant to be neutral, neither taking the position that global warming must lead to mass extinction nor the position that everything will be fine.

I am putting the section back in (just changing the title from "Historical precedents" to "Precedents" since some may claim that we're talking here about prehistory). I suggest that if Polargeo wants to improve the section, he do so in a constructive way.

For the record, the section in question was as follows:

Some scientists believe that most of the mass extinction events of the past were due to climate change. A prominent advocate of this theory is Peter Ward of the University of Washington.[1] An example of a [mass extinction]] possibly caused by climate change is the Permian–Triassic extinction event; however there is considerable uncertainty concerning this event, and climate change is not the leading contender as the cause.
On the other side, there have been times of global warming that were not linked to significant mass extinctions, for instance the interglacial periods during the Quaternary glaciation. During the most recent of these (the Eemian) about 125,000 years ago, temperatures were about 3° C warmer than today and sea levels were 4 to 6 metres higher. The temperature rise was perhaps more gradual than what we may experience in the future. On the other hand, the Younger Dryas cool period (about 10,800 to 9500 BC) ended with rapid global warming (around 10° C over only 40 to 50 years, see article Younger Dryas), leading eventually to the Holocene thermal maximum around 5000 BC when the world was generally warmer than today. Although there were extinctions around 40,000 to 10,000 years ago (see Quaternary extinction event), they did not coincide with this rapid warming at the end of the Younger Dryas -- in fact some of these extinctions occurred when the climate cooled at the beginning of the Younger Dryas period (see Younger Dryas event).

Eric Kvaalen (talk) 09:36, 12 August 2009 (UTC)

Thank you very much for your addition. Please note, however, that there are numerous problems with the climate change hypothesis of the interglacial extinctions, that prevent it from being a full theory. I cannot remember all of them, but here are three:
  • Other interglacials did not cause extinctions
  • European extinctions were not as marked as in the Americas
  • Some island populations were not affected while the same species on large landmasses became extinct.

The 'missing link', if you excuse the expression, might appear to be anthropogenic. Hunting, disease, man-made fire. It explains why the Americas' and Australian extinctions were so swift and complete, and to show that it was not entirely the doing of anthropogenic forces, there is the lack of extinctions in Asia, where humans were not capable of wiping out species in the absence of climate change. Unfortunately, this combination theory is not accepted as the only explanation either; scientists still debate back and forth about which of climate change and anthropogenic was the sole cause. Anarchangel (talk) 11:07, 12 August 2009 (UTC)

Anarchangel, it appears you haven't fully read or understood the addition that Kvaalen made. Polargeo (talk) 12:26, 17 August 2009 (UTC)
That does not mean that any of these hypotheses cannot be discussed on Wikipedia. To adhere perfectly to full disclosure, though, it should be made clear that they are hypotheses and not full theories.
And yes, Polargeo acts overzealously. See Talk:Anthropocene extinction event and related pages. Hopefully he will not continue to obstruct edits. Anarchangel (talk) 11:45, 12 August 2009 (UTC)
Okay I am overzealous. But I have now tagged the section. You cannot just throw this much waffle onto wikipedia and expect other editors to tidy it up. I hope you can improve this section and I am sorry that I just took one look at it. I thought that it was too much for me to even think about correcting and I think a fresh start would be the best option unless you wish to spend lots of time on it. If so, good luck :) Polargeo (talk) 14:14, 16 August 2009 (UTC)
And also, it seems the wikipedia unofficial convention is to separate climate change from global warming. Global warming meaning the recent, possibily human influenced warming. Climate change being far more general. This is strange because the scientific community does not do this in the same way and now avoids the phrase "global warming" and talks about current climate change (because warming is not the only thing that is happening from human actions). But there you go!! Polargeo (talk) 14:25, 16 August 2009 (UTC)

The single source cited in the section is "Gaia's evil twin: Is life its own worst enemy?". It has such gems as "If we were to choose a mythical mother figure to characterise the biosphere, it would more accurately be Medea, the murderous wife of Jason of the Argonauts. She was a sorceress, a princess - and a killer of her own children" and "Around 2.3 billion years ago, for example, Earth endured a gigantic episode of glaciation that lasted 100 million years. It was so intense that the oceans froze completely, creating a "snowball Earth". The cause was life itself" This guy is a complete and utter fruitcake!! Then the large chunk of completely unsourced and slightly rambling text below this has nothing to do with precedents and nothing to do with extinction risk from global warming because it is simply listing a whole load of extinctions that are probably not to do with global warming. This is insane, most scientists seem to believe that most extinctions were not to do do with global warming anyway and that is what this section stated before you went and put in the Peter Ward nonsense. My edit is not so overzealous when you see that other editors had recently tried to clear this section up [1] Polargeo (talk) 12:21, 17 August 2009 (UTC)
Well, yes and no. I agree this article is still of quite poor quality and the source you name should be removed for the reasons you cite. However, I think there are quite a few studies that suggest that past extinctions are related to change of climate (in particular warming). Here are two articles that could be added to the article: [2][3](or the publications they are based on). And here is another link, though not suitable as a source for our article, it may be a starting point to look for further material on the topic... SPLETTE :] How's my driving? 13:11, 17 August 2009 (UTC)
You are right. I was just trying to defend my removal of a section that didn't have any of this in it. The best thing is to remove all of the material in the section and start again or to put the section back to how William Connolley left it. Polargeo (talk) 13:16, 17 August 2009 (UTC)
OK, removed. Start again. Vsmith (talk) 13:29, 17 August 2009 (UTC)

Mass extinction[edit]

I cannot find the reference which fully supports that sentence. Polargeo (talk) 12:58, 5 November 2009 (UTC)

Thomas et al. and AR4 in the body. 40-70% (or 15-37%) of species in that timeperiod certainly is a mass-extinction. (see def at end-point) --Kim D. Petersen (talk) 13:31, 5 November 2009 (UTC)
I suppose I am not sure what is defined as a mass extinction. If it is over 50% then Thomas et. al does not qualify. The upper bound of the IPPC report for 3.5 degrees does qualify but the lede comment should not necessarily take the upper bound. Polargeo (talk) 21:29, 5 November 2009 (UTC)
Anyway it is a terribly weasely sentence. Dropping it for something better would be a good idea. Polargeo (talk) 21:32, 5 November 2009 (UTC)
Well, Thomas considers that amount a mass extinction[4]. You have to take two aspects into account: Number of species lost and the period of time you lose them in. A timeperiod of 150 years with a species loss of even 15% is a mass-extinction - consider the 5 major extinction events and the timescale they happened over, and compare. I do not agree with dropping it, it would be better to find additional references or more specific ones. Holocene extinction has a few more. --Kim D. Petersen (talk) 21:42, 5 November 2009 (UTC)
We cannot use that reference as what Thomas considers because 'mass extinction' is not in the quote from Thomas it is the title of the news item and we all know they are thought up by an editor in a news room at the last minute. Polargeo (talk) 08:54, 6 November 2009 (UTC)
Consider this comment by Thomas (underlined) even while it doesn't use the specific wording, it states the same: “We’re already seeing biological communities respond very rapidly to climate warming,” said Thomas, who added that the feared extinctions could be one of the worst since the dinosaurs were wiped out 65 million years ago. “This could be on a par with some of the geologically significant extinctions,” he said.. --Kim D. Petersen (talk) 09:38, 6 November 2009 (UTC)
I also think we should put it back in (though the wording might need some improvement). Here is another, more recent paper on the subject: [5] SPLETTE :] How's my driving? 21:46, 5 November 2009 (UTC)
Hi Splette a good ref but my first reaction is that it actually defines mass extinction as the five largest events. My thoughts on the ones in Holocene article is 'argh!' as there are several AJL ones in there but I will have a look through. Polargeo (talk) 08:31, 6 November 2009 (UTC)
Ahh, okay. I thought you were looking for a ref that global warming significantly increases extinction risk (because some people contest that because they believe 'higher temp = more biodiversity'). SPLETTE :] How's my driving? 08:47, 6 November 2009 (UTC)

External Link to Konica Minolta[edit]

I would like to discuss why is not/should not be listed as an external link. My reasons:

  • It does not appear to be a creditable, scholarly source, but rather a light-content site aimed at kids.
  • Konica-Minolta's business domains do not include Biology, Animal Management, Ecology or the like that are relevant to the article.[2]
  • The site provides a single link to IUCN, but no other links to or information about expert third-parties

Please help me understand why you think the site should be included. Thank you — Safety Cap (talk) 02:48, 24 June 2011 (UTC)


  1. ^ Peter Ward, "Gaia's evil twin: Is life its own worse enemy?", New Scientist, June 20, 2009, pp. 28-31, and Zeeya Merali, "Climate blamed for mass extinctions", New Scientist, April 3, 2006, p. 18
  2. ^ "Business Domain". Konica Minolta. Retrieved 24 June 2011. 

Why was this deleted?[edit]

Many species are under threat, and model predictions demonstrate that global warming has the potential to cause a mass extinction. (talk) 06:29, 4 October 2011 (UTC)

I didn't do it.... but [[threatened species|species are under threat]] is an WP:EGG, and it's unreferenced, anyway. — Arthur Rubin (talk) 07:43, 4 October 2011 (UTC)

Spontaneous guilt response ... curious, or not? (talk) 04:40, 27 October 2011 (UTC)

Better explanation requested for deletion of quote below[edit]

However, Maclean & Wilson compared observed and predicted responses to climate change across the globe and concluded that "recent ecological response to climate change support predictions of high extinction risk"[1].

with cite journal |last=Maclean |first=I. M. D. |coauthors=Wilson, R.J. |year=2011 |title=Recent ecological responses to climate change support predictions of high extinction risk |journal=PNAS |volume=108 |issue=30 |pages=12337–12342 |doi=10.1073/pnas.1017352108 |url = |format= PDF (talk) 01:40, 26 October 2011 (UTC)

It doesn't appear to add particularly to the article. It is "recent", but it's just piling on. — Arthur Rubin (talk) 05:17, 28 October 2011 (UTC)
Ilya Macleean and Robert Wilson, per .edu link. (talk) 20:54, 29 October 2011 (UTC)