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A good example of how not to use data.

Posted by TrevorKeenan on 11 Jun 2015 at 12:14 GMT

This paper has many issues, but the majority of their startling results are based on one (bad) assumption - that plants will not thrive in any future conditions that do not yet exist. Future climates (in many regions) will likely be unlike anything currently experienced anywhere on Earth, but assuming plants will not survive in those climates simply because those climates do not currently exist is just plain wrong.

The tropics are a good example of why the authors’ reasoning is fundamentally flawed. There is nowhere on Earth as warm and wet as the tropics (conditions in which plants thrive like nowhere else). So what happens when the tropics get warmer under climate change? The author’s statistical approach predicts that plants will not be able to survive, as currently no plants are found in conditions warmer and as wet as the tropics (given no such conditions exist). The problem is that there is simply no information in the data used by the authors to inform many of their predictions.

The truth is we still do not fully understand how plants will respond to future climate change, neither in the tropics nor anywhere else. We do know however, that models, theory and observations all suggest that the dire (and unfounded) predictions from this study are very very unlikely.

No competing interests declared.