Register for an account


Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.


Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.


Global Warming Shouldn't Hog All the Headlines

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorJuly 2, 2011 9:22 PM


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

Is Mark Lynas, the author of Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet, downgrading global warming in his hiearchy of environmental concerns? In a recent post, he writes that

biodiversity may well qualify as a more important planetary boundary even than climate change itself.

By way of reminder, the "planetary boundary" concept was laid out in this 2009 Nature essay, and nicely translated into laymen terms by Carl Zimmer, who wrote in Yale Environment 360:

They [scientists] propose that humans must keep the planet in what they call a "safe operating space," inside of which we can thrive. If we push past the boundaries of that space "” by wiping out biodiversity, for example, or diverting too much of the world's freshwater "” we risk catastrophe.

It's a controversial concept, but also little discussed, because global warming hogs all the headlines. Jon Foley lamented this one-track mindset here:

In the rush to portray the perils of climate change, many other serious issues have been largely ignored. Climate change has become the poster child of environmental crises, complete with its own celebrities and campaigners. But is it so serious that we can afford to overlook the rise of infectious disease, the collapse of fisheries, the ongoing loss of forests and biodiversity, and the depletion of global water supplies?

I've also echoed this complaint:

The biggest problem I have with the debate over climate change science, politics, and policy is that it's elbowed all other environmental issues off the public stage.

But as I've discovered, people get crotchety when you suggest that other environmental concerns be allowed to share center stage with climate change. A reader at Lynas' blog, evidently annoyed with the post talking up biodiversity, illustrates that attitude:

Please write an entry" My Priorities,' in which you layout, in order, just what it is you care about most. Maybe then we can start having an intelligent discussion.

Hmm, I get the opposite impression from a comment like that, and it leads me to think that some people really don't want to have an "intelligent discussion" unless climate change is at the top of the priority list.

2 Free Articles Left

Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.


Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

Want unlimited access?

Subscribe today and save 70%


Already a subscriber? Register or Log In