News Flash! Pikas Adapt to Changing Environment

It's always a pleasure to report good news on the climate front, particularly on a beautiful sunny Friday heralding the long Victoria Day weekend.

A new study in the journal Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research has revealed that the American pika (Ochotona princeps, shown above) has begun "inhabiting areas with moisture and temperature conditions that are more extreme than early habitat records." What does this mean? It means that pikas are adapting to environmental change and are no longer thought to be at risk for "devastating population decline," which until now has been their fate according to the many environmentalists, journalists and lawyers who have been obsessing about the species for the last decade.

According to the pika press, scientists are surprised by this wonderful discovery. This is itself surprising, since earlier studies predicting the pika's extinction "relied on statistical modelling, which involved some uncertainty for a number of variables, such as quantifying future greenhouse gas emissions." No one harbouring even the slightest degree of doubt about the omniscience of climate modelling will be shocked to hear this, of course, but it won't come as good news to the activists who are today spearheading more than 1500 climate-related lawsuits worldwide. Al Gore has not yet tweeted on the subject of the hardy and resilient pika. The New York Times has not yet posted an interactive map inviting readers to plot the migration patterns of this beloved species over the next ten thousand years (but given the pika's preference for high elevations, it seems likely to survive even the 170-foot ocean deluge forecast by that venerable journal). As for the environmental-law organization Earthjustice—which was recently "enmeshed in a three-year fight with the [California] Fish and Game Commission" to have the pika declared endangered—it has not yet revised its official position that "pika are threatened by global warming." So we have that to look forward to, and so much more.

As for the delightful little pikas themselves (click the link above), as yet there is no word on whether they have a future as the poster species for climate skeptics. But they do have a future. And that's terrific news.