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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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The climate blame game

Whatever your research, always try to mention climate change. That way lies attention

A scientist does a study of how Arctic seabirds die. It's not a bad idea: die they do, but not from the usual diseases and predators that kill birds in more temperate zones. So what does kill them?

He pores over thousands of records from birdwatchers in the Arctic and concludes that weather-related events kill a lot of them. Fulmars run into cliffs in fog, Murres get buried in landslides when cliffs collapse. Birds get swept away in storms. And so on.

Now the scientist has two options. He can say in a paper that a lot of Arctic birds die due to `factors related to weather' and bask in perpetual obscurity. Or he can slip in, just before the word `weather', the phrase `climate and'.

Kazam!

He could even add a little speculation that

`If temperatures warm and intense storms in the Arctic increase, along with otherclimate factors, "we might see mortality in these birds from these things increase from what they are now."

Note:if, and, might. Note too:

Mallory adds that he and his team are not sounding an alarm bell that climate change is going to kill off all of the seabirds.

Yet suddenly he's on the front page of the Huffington Post! `Strange, Random, Arctic Bird Deaths Caused by Climate Change' shouts the headline. No ifs and mights there. No `not sounding an alarm bell'.

It's not his fault, of course. None the less, now do you understand why scientists are tempted to link their work to climate change whenever possible? Why the incentives -- financial and reputational -- to sound alarm bells are so massive?

Here's a list of just some of the things that have been `linked to climate change'.

Acne, agricultural land increase, Afghan poppies destroyed, aged deaths, poppies more potent, Africa devastated,  Africa in conflict, African aid threatened, African summer frost, aggressive weeds, Air France crash, air pressure changes,  airport farewells virtual, airport malaria, Agulhas current, Alaskan towns slowly destroyed, Al Qaeda and Taliban Being Helped, allergy increase, allergy season longer, alligators in the Thames, Alps melting, Amazon a desert, American dream end,  amphibians breeding earlier (or not),  anaphylactic reactions to bee stings,  ancient forests dramatically changed, animals head for the hills, animals shrink,  Antarctic grass flourishes, Antarctic ice grows, Antarctic ice shrinks, Antarctic sea life at risk,   anxiety treatment, algal blooms, archaeological sites threatened, Arctic bogs melt, Arctic in bloom, Arctic ice free, Arctic ice melt faster, Arctic lakes disappear,  Arctic tundra lost, Arctic warming (not), a rose by any other name smells of nothing, asteroid strike risk, asthma, Atlantic less salty, Atlantic more salty,   atmospheric circulation modified, attack of the killer jellyfish, avalanches reduced, avalanches increased,  Baghdad snow, Bahrain under water,  bananas grow, barbarisation, bats decline,  beer and bread prices to soar, beer better,  beer worse, beetle infestation, bet for $10,000, big melt faster, billion dollar research projects, billion homeless, billions face risk, billions of deaths, bird distributions change, bird loss accelerating, bird strikes, bird visitors drop, birds confused, birds decline (Wales), birds driven north, birds face longer migrations, birds return early, birds shrink(Aus), birds shrink (USA), bittern boom ends, blackbirds stop singing, blackbirds threatened, Black Hawk down,  blizzards, blood contaminated, blue mussels return, borders redrawn,  bluetongue, brain eating amoebae, brains shrink, bridge collapse (Minneapolis), Britain one big city, Britain Siberian, Britain's bananas, British monsoon,  brothels struggle, brown Ireland, bubonic plague,  Buddhist temple threatened,  building collapse, building season extension, bushfires,   butterflies move north, butterflies reeling, carbon crimes, camel deaths,  cancer deaths in England, cannibalism,  caterpillar biomass shift, cave paintings threatened,  childhood insomnia, Cholera, circumcision in decline, cirrus disappearance, civil unrest, cloud increase,  coast beauty spots lost, cockroach migration, cod go south,  coffee threatened, coffee berry borer, coffee berry disease, cold climate creatures survive, cold spells (Australia), cold wave (India), cold weather (world), computer models, conferences, conflict, conflict with Russia,  consumers foot the bill, coral bleaching, coral fish suffer, coral reefs dying, coral reefs grow, coral reefs shrink, coral reefs twilight, cost of trillions, cougar attacks, crabgrass menace,  cradle of civilisation threatened, creatures move uphill, crime increase, crocodile sex, crops devastated, crumbling roads, buildings and sewage systems, curriculum change,  cyclones (Australia),   danger to kid's health,  Dartford Warbler plague,  deadly virus outbreaks, death rate increase (US), deaths to reach 6 million, Dengue hemorrhagic fever, depression, desert advance,  desert retreat,  destruction of the environment,  dig sites threatened,  disasters, diseases move north, dog disease,  dozen deadly diseases - or not, drought,   ducks and geese decline, dust bowl in the corn belt,  earlier pollen season,  Earth axis tilt, Earth biodiversity crisis, Earth dying, Earth even hotter, Earth light dimming, Earth lopsided, Earth melting, Earth morbid fever, Earth on fast track, Earth past point of no return, Earth slowing down,  Earth spins faster, Earth to explode, earth upside down,  earthquakes, earthquakes redux, El Niño intensification, end of the world as we know it, erosion, emerging infections, encephalitis, English villages lost, equality threatened, Europe simultaneously baking and freezing,  eutrophication, evolution accelerating, expansion of university climate groups, extinctions (human, civilisation, koalas,  logic, Inuit, smallest butterfly, cod,  penguins, pikas, polar bears,   possums,  walrus,  tigers,  toads, turtles, plants, ladybirds, rhinoceros, salmon, trout,  wild flowers, woodlice,  a million species, half of all animal and plant species, mountain species,  not polar bears, barrier reef, leaches, salamanders, tropical insects) experts muzzled, extreme changes to California, fading fall foliage, fainting,  famine, farmers benefit, farmers go under, farm output boost, farming soil decline,  fashion disaster, fever, figurehead sacked, fir cone bonanza, fires fanned in Nepal, fish bigger, fish catches drop, fish downsize,   fish deaf, fish get lost, fish head north, fish shrinking,  fish stocks at risk, fish stocks decline, five million illnesses, flesh eating disease, flies on Everest,  flood patterns change, floods,  floods of beaches and cities, flood of migrants, flood preparation for crisis, flora dispersed, Florida economic decline, flowers in peril, fog increase in San Francisco, fog decrease in San Francisco, food poisoning, food prices rise, food prices soar, food security threat (SA), football team migration,   forest decline, forest expansion, foundations threatened, frog with extra heads, frosts, frostbite, frost damage increased,   fungi fruitful, fungi invasion, games change, Garden of Eden wilts, geese decline in Hampshire, genetic changes, genetic diversity decline, gene pools slashed, geysers imperiled, giant icebergs (Australia), giant oysters invade,  giant pythons invade, giant squid migrate, gingerbread houses collapse, glacial earthquakes, glacial retreat,   glacier grows (California), glaciers on Snowden, glacier wrapped, global cooling,  glowing clouds,  golf course to drown, golf Masters wrecked, grain output drop (China), grandstanding, grasslands wetter, gravity shift,  Great Barrier Reef 95% dead, Great Lakes drop,  great tits cope, greening of the North,  Grey whales lose weight, Gulf Stream failure, habitat loss, haggis threatened, Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome,    harvest increase, harvest shrinkage, hay fever epidemic, health affected, health of children harmed, health risks, health risks (even more), heart disease, heart attacks and strokes (Australia), heat waves, hedgehogs bald, hibernation affected,   hibernation ends too soon, hibernation ends too late,  homeless 50 million, hornets,  human development faces unprecedented reversal, human fertility reduced, human health risk, human race oblivion, hurricanes,  hurricane reduction, hurricanes fewer, hurricanes more intense, hurricanes not,  hydropower problems, hyperthermia deaths, ice age, ice sheet growth, ice sheet shrinkage, icebergs,  illness and death, inclement weather, India drowning, infrastructure failure (Canada),  indigestion, industry threatened, infectious diseases,  inflation in China, insect explosion, insect invasion, insurance premium rises, Inuit displacement, Inuit poisoned, Inuit suing, invasion of alien worms, invasion of Antarctic aliens,  invasion of Asian carp, invasion of cats,  invasion of crabgrass, invasion of herons, invasion of jellyfish, invasion of king crabs, invasion of midges, invasion of slugs,  island disappears, islands sinking, Italy robbed of pasta, itchier poison ivy, jellyfish explosion, jet stream drifts north, jets fall from sky,  Kew Gardens taxed, kidney stones, killer cornflakes, killing us, kitten boom, koalas under threat, krill decline, lake and stream productivity decline, lake empties, lake shrinking and growing, landslides, landslides of ice at 140 mph, large trees decline, lawsuits increase, lawsuit successful,  lawyers' income increased (surprise surprise!),  lawyers want more, legionnaires' surge,  lives lost, lives saved, Loch Ness monster dead, locust plagues suppressed, lush growth in rain forests,  Lyme disease,  Malaria,    malnutrition, mammoth dung melt, mango harvest fails, Maple production advanced, Maple syrup shortage, marine diseases, marine food chain decimated, Meaching (end of the world), Meat eating to stop, Mediterranean rises, megacryometeors, Melanoma, Melanoma decline, mental illness, methane emissions from plants, methane burps, methane runaway, melting permafrost, Middle Kingdom convulses, migration,  migratory birds huge losses, microbes to decompose soil carbon more rapidly, minorities hit, monkeys at risk,  monkeys on the move, Mont Blanc grows,monuments imperiled, moose dying, more bad air days,   more research needed, mortality increased, mosquitoes adapting, mountain (Everest) shrinking,  mountaineers fears,  mountains break up, mountains green and flowering,   mountains taller, mortality lower, murder rate increase,  musk ox decline, Myanmar cyclone, narwhals at risk, National Parks damaged, National security implications, native wildlife overwhelmed, natural disasters  quadruple, new islands, next ice age, NFL threatened, Nile delta damaged, noctilucent clouds, no effect in India, Northwest Passage opened, nuclear plants bloom, oaks dying,  oaks move north,  oblivion, ocean acidification, ocean acidification faster, ocean dead spots, ocean dead zones unleashed, ocean deserts expand, ocean waves speed up,  Olympic Games to end, opera house to be destroyed, outdoor hockey threatened,   oxygen depletion zones, ozone repair slowed, ozone rise,  penguin chicks frozen, penguin chicks smaller, penguins replaced by jellyfish, personal carbon rationing, pest outbreaks, pests increase, phenology shifts,  pines decline, pirate population decrease, plankton blooms,   plankton wiped out, plants lose protein, plants march north, plants move uphill,  polar bears aggressive, polar bears cannibalistic, polar bears deaf,  polar bears drowning,   polar tours scrapped, popcorn rise, porpoise astray, profits collapse, psychiatric illness,   puffin decline, pushes poor women into prostitution, rabid bats,  radars taken out, railroad tracks deformed, rainfall increase, rape wave, refugees,  reindeer endangered, reindeer larger, release of ancient frozen viruses, resorts disappear, rice threatened, rice yields crash,  rift on Capitol Hill, rioting and nuclear war,   river flow impacted, rivers raised, road accidents, roads wear out, robins rampant,   rocky peaks crack apart, roof of the world a desert, rooftop bars, Ross river disease,  ruins ruined,  Russia under pressure, salinity reduction, salinity increase,  Salmonella,  salmon stronger, satellites accelerate, school closures, sea level rise, sea level rise faster, seals mating more, seismic activity, sewer bills rise, severe thunderstorms, sex change, sexual promiscuity, shark attacks, sharks booming, sharks moving north, sheep change colour, sheep shrink, shop closures, short-nosed dogs endangered,  shrimp sex problems, shrinking ponds, shrinking sheep,  shrinking shrine, Sidney Opera House wiped out, ski resorts threatened, slow death,  smaller brains, smelt down, smog, snowfall decrease, snowfall increase, snowfall heavy,  snow thicker,  soaring food prices, societal collapse, soil change, songbirds change eating habits, sour grapes, space problem, spectacular orchids, spiders getting bigger, spiders invade Scotland,  squid larger, squid population explosion, squid tamed, squirrels reproduce earlier,  stingray invasion, storms wetter,  stratospheric cooling, street crime to increase, subsidence, suicide, swordfish in the Baltic, Tabasco tragedy, taxes, tectonic plate movement,   terrorists (India), thatched cottages at risk, threat to peace, ticks move northward (Sweden), tides rise, tigers eat people, tomatoes rot, tornado outbreak, tourism increase, toxic seaweed,  trade barriers, trade winds weakened, traffic jams,  transportation threatened, tree foliage increase (UK),   tree growth slowed, tree growth faster, trees in trouble, trees less colourful,  trees more colourful, trees lush, trees on Antarctica, treelines change, tropics expansion, tropopause raised, truffle shortage, truffles down,  turtles crash, turtle feminised, turtles lay earlier, UFO sightings, UK coastal impact, UK Katrina,  Vampire moths, Venice flooded, violin decline, volcanic eruptions,  walrus pups orphaned,  walrus stampede,  wars over water, wars sparked, wars threaten billions, wasps, water bills double, water scarcity (20% of increase),  wave of natural disasters, waves bigger, weather out of its mind, weather patterns awry, weather patterns last longer, Western aid cancelled out,  West Nile fever, whale beachings, whales lose weight, whales move north,  whales wiped out, wheat yields crushed in Australia,  wildfires, wind shift, wind reduced, winds stronger, winds weaker,  wine - Australian baked, wine - harm to Australian industry, wine industry damage (California),  wine industry disaster (US),  wine - more English, wine -  England too hot, wine -German boon, wine - no more French ,  wine passé (Napa), wine - Scotland best,  wine stronger, winters in Britain colder, winter in Britain dead, witchcraft executions, wolverine decline, wolves eat more moose, wolves eat less, workers laid off, World at war, World War 4, World bankruptcy, World in crisis, World in flames, Yellow fever, zebra mussel threat, zoonotic diseases.