Unsplash

Biologists Warn ‘Extinction Denial’ Is The Latest Anti-Science Conspiracy Theory

In this article Mike Shanahan describes how the denial of extinction crisis ignores widespread, scientific evidence.

Featured Image: Ross Sokolovski via Unsplash


  • There’s a growing refusal by some groups to acknowledge the ongoing global extinction crisis being driven by human actions, conservation scientists say.
  • These views are pushed by many of the same people who also downplay the impacts of climate change, and go against the actual evidence of widespread species population declines and recent extinctions.
  • Scientists say this phenomenon will likely spike again this week, since a major Convention on Biological Diversity report is due to be released.
  • The authors of a new report on extinction denial advise experts to proactively challenge its occurrence, and present the “cold hard scientific facts.”

Biodiversity scientists are being urged to “fight the creeping rise of extinction denial” that has spread from fringe blogs to influential media outlets and even into a U.S. Congressional hearing. The call to arms came in a paper published in Nature Ecology & Evolution last month by Alexander Lees, senior lecturer in conservation biology at Manchester Metropolitan University, and colleagues.

“Many of the same individuals that routinely seek to downplay the impacts of climate change have written articles understating the biodiversity loss crisis,” Lees says. “Denialists have sought to obfuscate the magnitude of both extinctions and loss of bio-abundance.”

The paper describes and debunks three types of extinction denial.

The first, “literal denial,” argues that extinction is largely a historical problem. Arguments like this, such as contained in this article claiming that “the onset of further wildlife extinctions seems far-fetched,” ignore the conservatism of biologists in declaring extinctions, as well as actual evidence of recent extinctions and of the widespread population declines that suggest many more future losses are on the way, the authors write.

They point out, for example, that denialists have long stated that the Atlantic Forest in Brazil has suffered no extinctions despite having shrunk in area by 90%. Yet two bird species were declared extinct there in 2019, and seven more are down to their last few individuals or have not been seen for a decade or longer.

“The problem is most of the losses are not the big ‘exciting’ species but smaller and less charismatic ones in areas that lost the big exciting things years ago,” Lees says. “We are now reaching critical loss of habitat for many species in the tropics in places like the Philippines and eastern Brazil. It is in these places that the next wave of extinctions is taking place.”

Lees and colleagues also discuss “interpretive denial,” which acknowledges the loss of biodiversity but argues that economic growth alone will fix it. One example is a 2019 Washington Examiner article, “How capitalism will save endangered species.”

The third form of denial is “implicatory,” arguing for example that technological fixes and targeted conservation interventions — rather than comprehensive changes to socioeconomic systems — will overcome extinction. The authors write that these two forms of denial may use evidence from temperate ecosystems to make inappropriate claims about reduced impacts in the tropics, where habitat loss is accelerating and species are far more sensitive to change.


This article, written by Mike Shanahan was originally published on 14 September 2020 in Mongabay. You can find teh full and original article here:

Biologists warn ‘extinction denial’ is the latest anti-science conspiracy theory

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *