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UN’s Extinction Warning Does Not ADD Up

May 9, 2019

By Paul Homewood



Toby Young has taken a close look at the UN’s claims that a million species are at imminent risk of extinction, and finds that they don’t stack up.

From the Spectator:


Anyone watching the BBC’s News at Ten on Monday would have been surprised to learn that economic growth poses a dire threat to the future of life on this planet. We’re used to hearing this from climate change campaigners, but I’ve always taken such claims with a pinch of salt, suspecting that the anti-capitalist left is distorting the evidence. Apparently not. ‘One million species at risk of imminent extinction according to a major UN report,’ intoned the BBC. ‘It says the Earth’s ecosystems are being destroyed by the relentless pursuit of economic growth.’ So does this mean the Extinction Rebellion protestors are right?

I decided to do some digging to see if one million species really do ‘face extinction in the next few decades’, as the BBC put it. That claim is based on a report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), but it hasn’t been published yet. All I could find online was a press release put out by the IPBES and a ‘summary’ of the report ‘for policymakers’. The press release states: ‘The report finds that around one million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction, many within decades.’ It gives no source for this beyond the as-yet-unpublished report, but the summary makes it clear that it’s partly based on data from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

The IUCN’s Red List website says that ‘more than 27,000’ species ‘are threatened with extinction’. So how did the IPBES arrive at the one million figure? The key passage in the summary for policymakers reads as follows: ‘An average of around 25 per cent of species in assessed animal and plant groups are threatened, suggesting that around one million species already face extinction, many within decades, unless action is taken.’ The word ‘suggesting’ is doing a lot of work there. On the Red List website, it says 98,500 species have been ‘assessed’ — and the IPBES worked out what percentage 98,500 was of the total number of species and multiplied the 27,000 figure accordingly. That’s a difficult calculation to make, given that the number of species in the world is unknown. The most reliable estimate is 8.7 million (with a margin of error of plus or minus 1.3 million), but even the compilers of that stat acknowledge that 86 per cent of all species on land and 91 per cent of those in the seas have yet to be discovered, described and catalogued.

So how exactly did the IPBES arrive at the magic one million number? It seems we’re just supposed to take it on faith, which the BBC duly did. What about the IPBES’s claim that ‘around 25 per cent of species… are threatened’? That seems a little pessimistic, given that the number of mammals to have become extinct in the past 500 years or so is around 1.4 per cent and only one bird has met the same fate in Europe since 1852. Not bad when you consider how much economic growth there’s been in the past 167 years. So what does ‘threatened’ mean? The IPBES is using the IUCN’s definition, which is ‘at high risk of extinction in the wild’. Rather implausibly, the IUCN includes species in this category that it designates as ‘vulnerable’, which it defines as facing a ‘probability of extinction in the wild’ of ‘at least 10 per cent within 100 years’. About half the species the IPBES includes in its 25 per cent figure are in this ‘vulnerable’ category..

You can read the full story here.

  1. HotScot permalink
    May 9, 2019 6:29 pm


    Matt Ridley also responded to the ridiculous claims describing them as “weird”.

    • The Man at the Back permalink
      May 9, 2019 7:03 pm

      Yes HotScot. I had read his piece – the usual rational, lucid and articulate contribution one expects from Matt Ridley.

      The other article “The freedom to save your life” published on his blog about the same time is equally full of commonsense.

  2. Stonyground permalink
    May 9, 2019 6:37 pm

    It would appear that these UN funded pressure groups can get away with spouting their endless lies because almost no one does any serious journalism anymore. They know that the newspapers TV and radio will just parrot their press releases completely uncritically so they can say anything no matter how absurd knowing that they won’t be called out on it.

  3. MrGrimNasty permalink
    May 9, 2019 6:42 pm

    I’ve seen several reports of similar dire predictions resurface over the last few days.

    It seems eco-loons can’t resist re-heating the dog’s dinner leftovers from yesteryear.

    Lomborg pointed out the Global 2000 report (1980) for starters, so how accurate was that?

    “It reads like something out of ‘The Empire Strikes Back.’ The time: the year 2000.
    The place: Earth, a desolate planet slowly dying of its own accumulating follies. Half
    of the forests are gone; sand dunes spread where fertile farm lands once lay. Nearly
    2 million species of plants, birds, insects and animals have vanished. Yet man is propagating so fast that his cities have grown as large as his nations of a century before. ”

    Click to access global2000reporttothepresident–enteringthe21stcentury-01011991.pdf

    • MrGrimNasty permalink
      May 9, 2019 6:43 pm

      Sorry about the formatting!

  4. Broadlands permalink
    May 9, 2019 6:43 pm

    This was discussed here at an earlier post…”Nature Crisis”…

    What has been forgotten in such reports about species supposedly facing extinction, those endangered and threatened, is the fact that thousands of new species are being described every year….

    Past Years Top 10 New Species…

    “The IISE… International Institute for Species Exploration, which is dedicated to finding 10 million new species of life on Earth during the next half century, says about 18,000 new species were discovered in 2012. Scientists estimate that they’ve only identified about 2 million of an estimated 12 million living species, with millions more species existing in the microbial world.”

    It should be the NET loss (or gain) of species diversity that should be evaluated and reported. Speculating about millions and mass extinctions attracts environmental journalists and adds to funding for those in charge of the listing and threatening?

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      May 9, 2019 7:40 pm

      It doesn’t just attract ‘environmental journalists’, it brings in those who don’t even deserve the name ‘journalist’. I give you, exhibit one, the idiot,: Jeremy Vine. I tend to switch him off but before I could I caught his over-excited report on this. Talk about being OTT! The man’s an idiot and should follow Danny Baker as an ex-BBC presenter.

  5. Dodgy Geezer permalink
    May 9, 2019 6:48 pm

    ‘The report finds that around one million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction, many within decades.’

    ALL life forms are ‘threatened with extinction’. Indeed, they will all go extinct at some point, to be replaced by new species. That is what Evolution is all about.

    ‘Many within decades’ is a meaningless statement unless you can tell me how many. And, more importantly, what the ‘correct’ number of species to go extinct per decade is.

    I suspect that Greens believe that no species should go extinct, which suggests that they do not believe in Darwinism…

    • MrGrimNasty permalink
      May 9, 2019 7:05 pm

      They certainly believe in UN-intelligent design when it comes to power generation and society.

    • The Man at the Back permalink
      May 9, 2019 7:10 pm

      As we have noted before – in 600 to 800 million years all multi-cell life on Earth will have ceased to exist – so we will have to be somewhere else long before then.

  6. MrGrimNasty permalink
    May 9, 2019 6:51 pm

    A large % of species declared extinct are subsequently rediscovered 60%+ was it I read somewhere? I wonder if any models/analysis was worked on counts of declared extinctions, but failed to exclude those subsequently rediscovered?

  7. May 9, 2019 7:50 pm

    This is being billed as the sixth great extinction.

  8. jack broughton permalink
    May 9, 2019 8:11 pm

    The number of species depends on which definition one selects, apparently there are about 1 trillion (from a google search) but that includes for estimated undiscovered species.

    Species die out when they fail in evolution all the time, but most are not significant to us. It is the sixth extinction that is being threatened now with no real evidence beyond theoretical models. That reminds me, it is now 30 years since Hansen’s senate appearance that helped kick-start the climate lunacy. It is Big Brother that threatens us not the environment!

  9. Jon Scott permalink
    May 9, 2019 10:14 pm

    It is no different to all their other scare stories. Notice like climate that extinction is NOT natural! Only naughty man causes extinction. The fact that they do not put even history into context…. because they know when the calls them “scientists” or “experts” then the great unwashed just roll over and accept their garbage which is window dressing for their real agenda which is you and me! Otherwise this lot of charlatans have turned the scientific method on it’s head. In every other avenue of the sciences the burden of proof is on the person or persons making the claim. Regarding the climate and the enviromment while they are all flush with tax payers money they make their wild claims knowing the poor few self funded souls who have integrity and try to check up on them are swamped. However Read their words carefully. There extinction numbers are pulled from thin air. This is about bringing Western society to a halt. These people are so inductrinated with self lothing that they want to give the planet to the third world or anyone except for people of European extraction.

  10. Jon Scott permalink
    May 9, 2019 10:26 pm

    These documents fit a pattern. They largely are guess work but arrogantly are put out for goverment guidance

    • jack broughton permalink
      May 12, 2019 11:32 am

      They have learned that the essence of a “Fear campaign” is to present some claims backed by a few eminences / national-treasures as proven. This allows any measures to be taken such as the disastrous CCA in the UK. The Yes Minister episodes where Jim Hacker takes climate change as a tax and legacy opportunity are classics but, sadly, too true!

  11. hsabin permalink
    May 10, 2019 3:04 am

    In Colorado, we looked at a home that had a big pond but you could do NOTHING with it or to it as the PRIBBLE MOUSE lived in the grasses around the pond. It was on the “soon to be extinct list” and had to be protected. YET… a couple of hours to Wyoming and no such protection for this mouse existed. Anything out of the UN, local governments etc is worthless. They have an agenda to pursue and they are committed to it.

  12. Pancho Plail permalink
    May 10, 2019 9:12 am

    Given the large proportion of species still to be discovered and the obvious ease with which they avoid discovery, who is to know if a known species has become extinct or is just hiding along with all the other undiscovered bugs, beasts and bacteria. I recall on numerous occasions in the past the rediscovery of creatures previously declared extinct.

  13. tom0mason permalink
    May 10, 2019 9:18 am

    The whole dumb idea is just like left-wing economics, where by with their logic there is only a finite size to the wealth, and anyone gaining more than others must be at the expense of the less well off. It effectively is saying the wealth ‘pie’ is a fix amount — this is well known economic nonsense.

    Similarly with this utterly left-wing nonsense about extinction. It too assumes that the ‘pie’ (the total ‘pie’ of life) on the planet is only a finite and fixed. That the amount of ‘life’ available on the planet is unvarying and if any one species’ population grows rapidly it must be at the detriment of other, weaker, lifeforms on the planet. It is again this is utter nonsense.

    These people at the UN have not taken on board what Darwin was about, what ‘Survival of the fittest’ is about. They do not understand that natural competition (red in tooth and claw) governs the way species naturally evolve (flourish, get by, or perish). This natural process is a competitive and NOT a cooperative process. They do not understand that over 99.999% of all life that has been on this planet is already become extinct, and that all the species that currently are here are the survivors of all natural changes that endangered life previously.
    They do no understand that this nature survival (and extinction) process is still going on, will continue for as long as life and the processes of nature governs this planet. Humans are not in charge NATURE is!

  14. Phoenix44 permalink
    May 10, 2019 10:11 am

    Anyone can get to any figure using theses sorts of calculations. It’s not science it’s finding a way to get a big (or small) number that suits your claims.

    Using 27,000 out of 98,500 and extrapolating that to the millions of species is absurd. The species we have discovered and described are far more likely to be in danger than those we have not – for the simple reason that we will have discovered those that we come in contact with, and it is that contact that endangers them.

    It is scandalous that the BBC gives such nonsense publicity – this is not about whether Climate Change is real or not, but whether this is a claim that stands up to scrutiny – an it is immediately obvious that it does not.

  15. saparonia permalink
    May 15, 2019 4:53 pm

    It’s something else when people believe the myth of global warming and yet the Italians can’t even grow vineyards without protection from the cold!!!!


  1. UN’s ‘1 Million’ Extinction Warning Does Not ADD Up – ‘The word ‘suggesting’ is doing a lot of work’ – ‘We’re just supposed to take it on faith’ — – NZ Conservative Coalition

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