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Whither biodiversity?

October 20, 2013

Some hopeful research (published in Science) claims there is a key 17% of land whose protection would preserve two-thirds of plant species at risk. On the other hand, that 17% may be shifting. As climate change moves ecological zones, plants and dependent species must move their habitats.

Orangutans (see photo) communicate their travel plans with each other, according to Carel van Schaik. Which won’t help them, if they are left too little habitat.

The Economist has an article arguing the benefits of economic growth to environmental preservation. And they recognize the two big issues:

Thousands of species are teetering on the edge of extinction. Whether or not they tip over depends in large part on two factors. One is climate change. If the temperature increase is at the medium to high end of the estimated range, then a biodiversity catastrophe is very likely. If it remains at the lower end — which the current hiatus in warming suggests is possible—then most species should not be too badly affected. The second is the demand for land. Habitat loss is the biggest threat to biodiversity.

What they fail to point out is that not all habitat is equal, and that both ameliorating climate change and protecting the important habitat will require political effort, not just economic growth. By all means, let’s have growth. But not the laissez faire philosophy that sacrifices any other concern to it.

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