Wednesday, January 01, 2003

Two new studies of global climate change have concluded that the habitats of various Northern-Hemisphere species have moved noticeably northward. A biology professor involved in one of the studies called the results disconcerting, and suggested that some species may even become extinct as a result of these northward shifts.

Now, nobody knows if the current brief spell of "global warming" is the beginning of a major long-term trend or just a tiny blip that is about to disappear into the noise of normal climactic fluctuations. Nor is it known whether what we've seen so far (and any continuation of it that we might see) is a man-made or natural phenomenon, or a combination of both. But I simply cannot believe that one of its effects, if it persists, wouldn't be a marked increase in the world's biodiversity, since warmer climates are on average far richer in species than colder ones. It would thus surely benefit far more species than would suffer--and the net beneficiaries would likely include humans as well. (The two regions mentioned in the study--Europe and North America--would almost certainly experience an increase in comfortably habitable land area as a result. As a Canadian, I'd say my country clearly has everything to gain.) Indeed, if the effect were somehow determined to be a completely natural one, it might well be viewed as the equivalent of the end of an ice age--an excitingly rapid efflorescence of abundant new life.

Why, then, would any nature-lover view its potential onset with alarm? Because its cause might be at least partially artificial? Why would that make any difference to a opposed to a human-hater?

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