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Climate Change Claims Its First Species – Or Does It?

Roger Andrews, Energy Matters

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, but in this case the evidence is rather flimsy.

This post briefly reviews the demise of the Bramble Cay melomys, a rat-like mammal that is no longer to be found on Bramble Cay, a tiny coral atoll between Australia and Papua-New Guinea and the animal’s only known habitat. The acknowledged cause of the extinction – which appears in this case to be real – was a series of storm surges that inundated Bramble Cay and killed off the vegetation. There is, however, no evidence linking these storm surges to human-induced climate change. The University of Queensland’s claim that the Bramble Cay melomys ….. is the first mammal to go extinct due to human-induced climate change must therefore be considered invalid as well as grossly misleading.

For years now CAGW proponents have been relentlessly searching for an example of a species that has incontrovertibly been driven extinct by man-made climate change, but so far without success. Discredited examples have included the Harlequin Frog and the Golden Toad in Costa Rica, the European Land Leech in Europe, the White Possum in Queensland and the Aldabra banded snail (discussed earlier in this post), which after being declared extinct in a Royal Society paper was later found alive and well in a different part of Aldabra Atoll. (The RS nevertheless refused to withdraw the paper). Now, however, we have a new candidate – the Bramble Cay melomys, and this one really has the AGW people stirred up (a Google search for “Bramble Cay melomys extinct” generated 176,000 hits). There’s no shortage of hand-wringing either. As the Guardian puts it:

Farewell, Bramble Cay melomys. We killed you and you will be remembered as the first mammalian extinction caused directly by climate change: wiped off the planet by rising seas ….. It is the beginning of a new wave of loss and we need to start to prepare ourselves for the grief that will inevitably follow.

Here we will look into the question of whether “we” really did kill the unfortunate animal.

Figure 1 shows the location of Bramble Cay off the northeast tip of Queensland and the south coast of Papua-New Guinea along with the locations of four tide gauge stations discussed later:

Figure 1: Location map

And the following photos indeed make one wonder how a mammalian population could continue to survive on a postage stamp-sized (about 4 hectares), barren atoll like Bramble Cay:

Figure 2: Recent photographs of Bramble Cay. The structure in the first photo is a disused lighthouse. The second shows a trap set next to one of the last remaining patches of vegetation.

So is the melomys really extinct? No one knows for sure because there’s a possibility that it may still be present in the Papua-New Guinea rain forest. But a detailed study conducted by the University of Queensland entitled Confirmation of the extinction of the Bramble Cay melomys leaves little doubt that it is no longer present on Bramble Cay.

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