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Planet Earth

Head For the Cool

The LoomBy Carl ZimmerJanuary 23, 2007 11:23 AM

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The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is about to release its newest edition of its report on global warming. In this AP report, one of the scientists who co-authored part of the IPCC study promises that it will contain much more than a smoking gun. It will contain "a batallion of intergalactic smoking missiles." The IPCC has been strengthening its conclusions about human responsibility for the rise in global temperatures for a few years now. One thing that apparently will set this new edition apart will be a section that looks at the impact global warming is having on nature--plants blooming earlier, species moving towards the poles, and so on. (Here's a sneak preview of sorts from Camille Parmesan at the University of Texas [pdf]) Global warming now raises a new, difficult question for conservation biologists. It may be shrinking the ranges of many species, pushing already endangered species towards extinction. In theory, at least, some species might thrive if they could somehow move far enough to find their old climate in a new habitat. But in some cases, they may not be able to get there unless people move them. Should we? As I report in today's New York Times I met some conservation biologists who are asking this question. In a time when global warming can trigger staggeringly fierce reactions, they have been surprisingly candid about their mixed feelings and the complexity of the debate they are trying to grapple with. Which is worse: the risk of creating a new invasive species through assisted migration, or just watching a species become exinct? The scientists have a paper coming out soon in Conservation Biology, but it's not on the journal web site yet. Along with my own article, you can also check out Douglas Fox's news article in the January issue of Conservation in Practice.

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