“The weather is changing. We can feel it. Something’s wrong. The places we used to live are becoming inhospitable. The food and water that were never concerns aren’t as available any more.
Chemicals in the rain, the air and the ocean are changing the balance and we don’t know what to do about it.”
The speaker is one of a species dominating the world, commanding top-spot in its food chain and striking fear in all the lesser creatures it harvests as food. He or she represents us well as we confront Climate Change in the Millenium, our eyes wide open, scientifically informed of the consequences of man-made industrial and other pollution. However, the voice is not that of homo sapiens sapiens (modern man):
I wrote those words to speak for Xiphactinus, Gorgonopsid, Liopleuridon, T. Rex and our hominid ancestors. These (and other) dominant, temporarily successful species from earth’s prehistory walked or swam this planet, had their day in the sun and fell victim to subtle long-term changes in earth’s temperature – climate change. We know that it happened, and we know how it happened. Chemical residues in soil samples and ice cores, frozen or buried for aeons have been recovered, analyzed, dated and found to correlate with the following events in earth’s past:
Earth was once covered with glaciers and frozen oceans – virtually, if not entirely (‘ice-ball earth’). Over 600 million years ago, all but the most rudimentary life forms in the oceans perished. Life on earth almost disappeared for good. Sediments that could only be left by glaciers are found even in locations that were then equatorial.
Another climate disaster figured prominently in mass extinction. 251.4 million years ago, over 90% of marine vertebrate animals and 70% of those on land died out. A majority of insect species also vanished. This event has been called ‘The Great Dying,’ and was far more severe than the later, more famous changes, which ended the Mesozoic era of Dinosaurs and dominant sea and flying reptiles. In this earier Permian extinction, temperature change, desertification, rising sea levels and atmospheric poisons ushered death in and a subsequent global volcanic catastrophe finished the job. Does the first part sound familiar?
Carbon samples indicate a 6 degree global warming beginning nearly 56 million years ago. This eliminated the dominant land mammals and made life on land so difficult that some returned to the rising ocean, eventually evolving into whales. The majority of modern day animals in our zoos (and man!) evolved to fill the void left by these Pleistocene casualties of climate change. The findings of the UN Commission on Climate Change don’t need to get as severe as these for us to take notice and take action. We don’t need to echo the words above, nor to follow these species into the eternal night. The UN has performed the science for us.
Snowball Earth – A joint research project of Harvard University and the National Science Foundation.
Climate of the Past – European Geosciences Union
“Climate Warming and the Latest Permian and Permian-Triassic Mass Extinction.” – Geology (The Geological Society of America)