Patrick Foley patfoley at csus.edu
Mon Dec 10 18:11:54 EST 2001

Kenelm and other nonhysterical biologists,

    The evidence for elevated extinction risks is hardly overstated by most
ecologists. While one could argue about the exact rate of added extinction risk
due to human management, the fundamentals are firmly in place for the loss of
between one fourth and one half of the species on earth. This is based on
species-area curves and the amount of land given over to incompatible human
uses. The species on the way out may take a long time to go (hence the
uncertain rate), but they are dead species walking.

Possibly this loss could be avoided, but how? By claiming things are fine or
even getting better? Public attention to environmental problems is exactly why
the air and water quality have improved in the developed world over the last 30

I am no enthusiast of doomsayer environmentalism (when it is unscientific), but
if we do solve our environmental problems it will be because of Ehrlich,
Commoner and their friends, not Lomborg, Simon and other apologists for the
status quo. And if Lomborg is writing as a scientist, not as a propagandist,
why did he not have his chapter on biodiversity reviewed by Robert May, E. O.
Wilson, Peter Raven or some other scientist who is a published scientific
authority on the subject?  Is it possible Lomborg did not want that kind of
scrutiny, that he prefers the professional scrutiny of the Wall Street Journal
and the Economist, those fonts of scientific wisdom?

In short, if Lomborg is writing as a scientist, he is poorly trained in the
fields he critiques and failed to get proper review. If he is merely a
propagandist, then what he is pushing is not what the world needs.

Patrick Foley
patfoley at csus.edu

Kenelm Philip wrote:

> > Lomborg, in his recent book the Skeptical Environmentalist, argues that
> > an extinction rate of 0.7% per 50 years is manageable and hardly worthy
> > of hysteria. To me, this extinction rate will lead to 13% of the species
> > on earth going extinct over the next 1000 years. (exp(-0.007*20 half-
> > centuries)= 0.87). If this doesn't trouble you, consider the results of
> > another 6000 years of human history.
>         One point that Lomborg makes throughout his book is that some
> environmentalists like to extrapolate from very short time series. To
> extrapolate for 1000 (or 6000) years based on a 400 year record plus
> a wild guess about the next 300 years is just the kind of thing that
> Lomborg is talking about. Does anyone think that the extinction rate
> will remain constant for the next 6000 years?
>         As for Lomborg's lack of hysteria. here are quotes: "An extinction
> rate of 0.7% over the next 50 years is not trivial. It is a rate about
> 1500 times higher than the natural background extinction. However, it is
> a much smaller figure than the typically advanced 10-100% over the next
> 50 years (equal to some 20,000 to 200,000 times the background rate). More-
> over, to assess the long-term impact, we must ask ourselves whether it is
> likely that this extinction rate will reamin constant for many hundreds of
> years (accumulating serious damage) or more likely will be alleviated as
> population growth decelerates and the developing world gets rich enough
> to afford to help the environment, reforest, and set aside parks..."
> "Of course, losing 25-100% of all species would be a catastrophe by any
> standards. However, losing 0.7% per 50 years over a limited time span is
> not a catastrophe but a problem--one of many that mankind still needs to
> solve."
>                                                         Ken Philip
> fnkwp at uaf.edu
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