Study: Computer Models Can’t Predict Extinctions From Global Warming

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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Global warming’s impact on animals will be much less serious than computer models predicted, according to new research published Monday by scientists at Clemson University.

Researchers found global warming is far less likely to harm lizards than previous computer models predicted, as none of the models could examine the full range of animal behavior. They contrasted real world experiments with computer modeling and found real lizards adapt far better by using shade.

The team surgically implanted tiny temperature sensors into dozens of spiny lizards, and then did experiments in special enclosures constructed in the New Mexico desert. They found climate models can’t make accurate predictions for many species, because they don’t factor in various real world impacts

“Depending on the complexity of the environment, previous estimates of extinction may be too high or they might not be high enough,” Mike Sears, the lead author of the study and a professor at Clemson University, said in a press statement. “If we really want to understand how populations of organisms will respond to climate change, we can’t use a simple, back-of-the-envelope method.”

The research was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science and financially supported by grants from the National Science Foundation.

The study is the latest example of scientists finding organisms are far more adaptable to environmental changes than previously believed. Even the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) believes the evidence linking global warming to extinctions is sparse.

Global warming will likely have many positive environmental impacts such as helping Canadian trees recover from a devastating insect infestation, creating more food for fish in the oceanmaking life easier for Canadian moose, improving the environment better for bees, could increase agricultural production and literally causing deserts to bloom with foliage.

Despite this changing consensus, environmental groups still believe plants and animals aren’t capable of adapting to changing temperatures, leading to mass extinctions caused by global warming.

“One-fourth of the Earth’s species could be headed for extinction by 2050 due to climate change,” The Nature Conservancy claims. “Rising temperatures are changing weather and vegetation patterns across the globe, forcing animal species to migrate to new, cooler areas in order to survive.”

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