Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Statistical Jungle

An important reminder from Phillip Stott on the use of statistics in ecomyths.
It is a widely accepted ecomyth that tropical rainforests are in sharp decline owing to massive clearcutting.  Associated with this supposed decline are estimates for species extinction and links to the impact on climate change of lost carbon sinks, etc..  In the 1980s and early 1990s the fate of Amazonia was a celebrity cause with the likes of Sting and others predicting dire consequences for the globe if a treaty on bio-diversity could not be imposed.  The loss of tropical rainforest was the poster statistic for this ecomyth.
Which is all fine and dandy, except that the tropical rainforests are not actually in decline over all -- a fact that Lomborg pointed out and a fact that he was disparaged for highlighting.  Stott brings attention to the latest empirical science that shows there has been no net loss of tropical rainforest over the past 3 decades.  He also suggests where, and how, the ecomyth of the tropical rainforest was invented.