Letter to The Editor - Another Endangered Species?

     Earth is a dangerous place. Of all the species that have ever lived, over 95% have already been extinguished by natural disasters. Ice, not global warming, is the big killer and this recurring calamity often strikes quickly. Thousands of mammoths and other animals were killed by ice storms and their snap-frozen bodies are still entombed in ice around the Arctic. Just 15,000 years ago great ice sheets smothered the northern hemisphere as far south as Chicago, Moscow and London and all life had migrated towards the equator. This deadly ice had gripped Earth for about 50,000 years.

     Ice ages are also times of dry winds and drought as cold oceans and cold dry atmospheres produce little evaporation or precipitation. Great deserts like the Sahara and the Gobi expand, and wind-blown dust fills the skies and rivers. Adding to Ice Age woes, cold oceans suck the gas of life (carbon dioxide) out of the atmosphere, thus making surviving plants less able to cope with cold and drought. One of the great serendipities of modern life is that man’s use of carbon-rich fuels like oil and coal not only provides energy but also adds carbon dioxide plant food to the severely depleted carbon stocks of the atmosphere. Satellites have detected the resultant greening of the Earth.

     Earth also suffers cycles of volcanism where much life is extinguished by ash, lava, earthquakes and tsunamis, usually followed by more cold and starvation as dust blocks sunlight. Just one era of volcanism covered the Deccan in India with many lava flows in places more than 2 km thick and spewed hot lava into the oceans along the mid-ocean trenches. Earthquakes and resulting tsunamis swept all life from large areas of land and dumped and buried their fragmented remains in heaps of mud. We also have evidence of massive destruction on Earth from collisions and near misses by comets and other bodies in the solar system.

     Humans are not immune to the threat of extinction, but it will not come from today’s warm, moist, atmosphere or from the gas of life, carbon dioxide. It will probably come from the next glacial cycle in the Pleistocene Ice age, where long bitter glacial eras are separated by short warm periods such as the Holocene warm era in which we live. In every short warm era like today’s Holocene, the warming oceans expel enough carbon dioxide into the atmosphere to terrify today’s global warming alarmists. And these times have always supported abundant plant and animal life. But never has “global warming” from this “greenhouse gas” prevented the cyclic return of the ice.

     When blizzards blow and glaciers grow, the great ice sheets will spread again and mankind will be decimated by cold, drought, crop failures and starvation. A lucky few living in equatorial regions or clustered in shelters and hot houses around nuclear power stations will survive. Those still able to extract coal, oil or gas may manage to generate enough warmth and carbon dioxide plant food to offset the cold sun, the perma-frost and the barren atmosphere. And a few with appropriate skills and tools may become hunters and gatherers again (but the Neanderthals did not make it last time).

We should celebrate, not fear, the Modern Warm Era and give thanks for the many benefits gained from recycling those marvellous batteries of stored and buried carbon resources to our still-hungry biosphere. When the ice returns, derelict and snow-bound wind turbines and solar panels will remain as stark evidence of the failed Green religion of yet another endangered species.

Viv Forbes, Washpool, Qld

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