August 1, 2021

“The ‘biodiversity-skepticism’, more discreet than that against climate change, is in a sense much more worrying”

SMind you, that was ten years ago. As soon as it was published, each press article, each report, each interview detailing the current and future effects of climate change was put into perspective, attacked, suspected of alarmism, activism, etc. Each was positioned on either side of what seemed to be a genuine scholarly controversy. In reality, a real scientific dispute, it has never existed: it is only by making the headquarters of television sets, bookshops shelves and the covers of weeklies that a dozen jugglers have succeeded, in France, to implant climate skepticism in public opinion.

A new “skepticism” is emerging. It is tackling the other great environmental crisis, that of biodiversity; it is undoubtedly already at work in the government’s choice to sharply reduce its support for organic farming. More discreet than its climate twin, this “biodiversity-skepticism” is in a sense much more worrying. Because it is rooted in scholarly literature itself. It is not in the talk shows of the 24-hour news channels that it is built, but in the most highly rated scientific journals.

In November 2020, Nature published, for example, a study relativizing the Living Planet index, developed by researchers in partnership with WWF, and according to which 68% of vertebrate populations have disappeared from the surface of the Earth in half a century. The authors argued that this was an alarmist presentation, the trend being pulled down by only a small proportion of sharply declining species, in the order of 3% of vertebrate species. By removing from the analysis these species on the verge of extinction, the catastrophic decline disappeared!

Decline of incredible rapidity

We are perhaps there, in reality, on the borders of science and the game of bonneteau. Because, as my colleague Perrine Mouterde noted in the article she devoted to the debate, the authors of the study were much more discreet about the fact that, if we also remove the species from the analysis which proliferate in contact with humans, we see that the fall in vertebrate populations remains very strong, over 40% in half a century. Should we really put the disappearance of the common snipe, the European greenfinch or the laughing wheatear into perspective on the grounds that pigeons and crows proliferate, thriving on our waste?

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