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Welcome to Matt Ridley's Blog
Matt Ridley is the author of provocative books on evolution, genetics and society. His books have sold over a million copies, been translated into thirty languages, and have won several awards.

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Seeing a cloud in every silver lining

Ever since opening my own eyes by researching my book, I keep a watching brief for egregious examples of pessimistic bias in the media. Once your eyes adjust, the media's tendency to spot a cloud in every silver lining is very striking.

But just as striking is its ability to ignore anything that reaches optimistic conclusions.

As I have mentioned before, almost nobody has heard of the CO2-fertilisation effect. There is a new book by the Idsos that is well worth reading on this: there is a huge peer-reviewed literature on the benefits of CO2 enrichment and it is skilfully summarised here.

Now comes a paper that reported a study of the future of Australian marine fisheries under the most severe global warming conditions. As World Climate Report takes up the tale,

With the 12 models fired up and ready to go, the team had to make a decision regarding greenhouse gas emissions in the future. In their own words they note "We used predictions under the standard IPCC emission scenario A2. This scenario was devised as a high emission scenario, although recent observations suggest climate change is occurring more rapidly than this scenario predicts. IPCC emissions scenarios have not yet been updated, so we consider the A2 scenario as a mid-range scenario." Interesting.

Now for the devastating results-the authors find "Under a plausible climate change scenario, primary production will increase around Australia and generally this benefits fisheries catch and value and leads to increased biomass of threatened marine animals such as turtles and sharks." Stop the presses!!! Are they kidding us-did they not get the memo or read the million websites on the subject? Look at all the red in the maps (Figure 1) below-the red areas have an increase in fishery production, and the red areas are everywhere.

Ah yes, but surely the rare fauna will struggle? No, they find that in their models the warmer seas

supported higher biomasses of animals such as sharks, turtles and seabirds, which are currently threatened by human activities

Now I am no great fan of model studies and I don't trust this study any more than I trust a pessimistic model. I just draw attention to its existence.

Here's another example, of a study of the Arctic that concludes that because an unfrozen sea loses a lot of heat to the atmosphere, the summer melting of sea ice in the Arctic is not going to result in a tipping point. The sea ice can return quite easily.

paper just published in Geophysical Research Letters ran climate models of Arctic ice decline and found no tipping points. Whatever the extent of the loss, it concludes; the ice can recover in just a few years.

This is consistent with the fact that more and more evidence is pointing to the Arctic ocean having been much warmer 7,000 years ago. For example:

The combined sea ice data suggest that the seasonal Arctic sea ice cover was strongly reduced during most of the early Holocene and there appear to have been periods of ice free summers in the central Arctic Ocean.