Gloom & Doom, Inc.

If a doom-monger came up with a set of recommendations that would imply less money and power to the class of people to whom he or she belongs, I would at least listen with interest.

We shouldn’t listen to the latest “obey us, or face doom” message.

A recent commentary in Nature (subscription necessary) calls for an international body of biodiversity experts.

…it should have a formal link to, and be funded by, governments. This feature, which distinguishes it from previous biodiversity initiatives, would ensure that negotiations within international biodiversity conventions are based on validated scientific information and lead to action at national and global levels.

So, because governments would (use taxpayers’ money to) pay for this, that would ensure action “at national and global levels”? And this “action” would be effective? The authors of the proposal owe a payment for ecosystem services to the owners of the ecosystem that produced whatever they smoked.

The consultation process, supervised by an international steering committee, will last 18 months and proceed in two phases. During the first phase, a number of studies will define the need for, and goals of, an international panel on biodiversity. These studies will examine the global decision-making landscape concerned with biodiversity, analyse successes and failures of biodiversity conservation efforts at different scales, and assess existing international mechanisms that deliver scientific expertise. In a second phase, this information will be used to articulate a set of recommendations for an international panel, which will be presented at a set of regional meetings to seek input from all sectors of society and all regions of the world.

This is not about action, or doing science, this is about creating and getting money for a talking shop.

We urgently need a scientific body of knowledge on conservation. What works, what doesn’t work, what are the cost and the benefits? We can’t do systematic reviews before the field trials have been done. Diverting scientists away from science and getting funds for scientists to pontificate on the basis of weak science is a waste both of scientists and of money.


11 thoughts on “Gloom & Doom, Inc.

  1. Lars, I can’t use the link without access priviledges, but out of curiousity, who are the oauthros and what is their affiliation. My money is on one or more of the global conservation non-profits (WWF, CI and TNC).

  2. Tim,

    Here are the authors,


    Diversity without representation

    Michel Loreau1, Alfred Oteng-Yeboah2, M. T. K. Arroyo, D. Babin, R. Barbault, M. Donoghue, M. Gadgil, C. Häuser, C. Heip, A. Larigauderie, K. Ma, G. Mace, H. A. Mooney, C. Perrings, P. Raven, J. Sarukhan, P. Schei, R. J. Scholes and R. T. Watson.

    1. Michel Loreau is in the Department of Biology, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec H3A 1B1, Canada
    2. Alfred Oteng-Yeboah is at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Accra, Ghana.


    For policymakers, biodiversity can present more complex challenges than climate change, argue Michel Loreau, Alfred Oteng-Yeboah and their co-authors. So why isn’t there an international panel of experts for biodiversity?

  3. Pingback: Biopolitical

  4. Lars,

    I do not share your pessimism on this issue. The IPCC has given academics the framework to conduct research on climate change, and has made their research more direct, focused, and accountable. I think that biodiversity needs this, even though you think it is a talking shop, so as to give biodiversity greater importance throughout decision-making and research circles, and also to the media. Governments are dedicating resources to this project which might have otherwise not have been spent on biodiversity. An organisation like this should be embraced and to be made accountable from day one, so as to promote accurate, concise and fair analysis on biodiversity.

  5. While the resources might not be directly spent on basic research, this is an organisation which will coordinate research and bring more attention toward the cause of biodiversity conservation. Surely we should all embrace an organsiation which will highlight this cause and it will draw more resources to this area of research.

    Furthermore, this could be the important middle man which brings academic research closer to the policy making process.

  6. This guy is arguing that climate change agreements have been below par with the IPCC, but we might not even have sustained agreements if the IPCC did not exist. He makes a counter factual cliam in which systematic evidence is impossible.

    Regarding the refugees, is he arguing that the IPB would displace millions of people for the sake of biodiversity? Isn’t that a bit naive? An IPB would coordinate an area of research which is currently expanding but lacking some direction. Indeed, I find that the statistics on biodiversity is somewhat unreliable and implausible, and as a result biodiversity is lacking within economic analysis. Therefore this IPB could make such statistics more reliable and would help economists to incorporate biodiversity into empirical analsis.

  7. We agree, statistics on biodiversity is unreliable and implausible, and biodiversity is lacking within economic analysis. So why doesn’t scientist work on this before they start advising politicians? If they advised politicians now, on what basis would it be? There is just no solid scientific foundation.

    For example, millions have been spent on Integrated Conservation and Development Projects. Please quote me 10, or even 5 studies that include calculations of the fraction of the total amount spent on ICDPs that actually end up in the pockets of local recipients (in ways that encourage conservation)?

  8. I believe that it would be better to have an international panel which could commission and co-ordinate research into areas of biodiversity which urgently need attention, rather than wait for the academic community to get its research into some sort of order. Maybe this will give the academics a much needed boost that it needs. Furthermore, this panel could reduce duplication of research and invest money into crucial research which would directly feed into the policy process.

    To be honest, I think that the conservation/biodiversity field should not turn its back towards greater attention both in the policy process and within the media. To do so however would be a great opportunity missed for biodiversity.

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