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Great news: Earth will survive Global Warming (but will life?)

By Don McLean on Tuesday 22 December 2015

US President Barack Obama has hailed the COP21 agreement as “the best chance to save the one planet we have”.

Who am I to contradict the President of the USA, but I am delighted to tell you that you don’t have to worry about the planet – the Earth will survive global warming.

Why do I know this?  Well there is scientific evidence that shows that during the last few hundred million years the Earth has been both much warmer and much colder than it is today.  In both extreme cases Earth has survived.

Consequently, I do not think our 1.5⁰C or above increase in global temperature will damage Earth.

It will be 7.5 billion years before the Earth will be consumed by the sun which will have become a red giant.  This is so far in the future it is not a concern.  So what is the problem?

Loss of Life.

Five major mass extinctions have been identified over the last 500 million years or so.  In the most extreme cases almost 95% of life became extinct.

The most famous mass extinction killed off the dinosaurs.  This was extremely fortunate for humans as it created the opportunity for mammals to occupy the space vacated by the dinosaurs.  This obviously led to us – Homo sapiens – becoming the dominate species.

Homo sapiens have been around for a hundred thousand years.  In that time species such as the mammoth and the sabre-toothed tiger have been lost.  Whether that has been due to humans or not is questionable.  However, the same cannot be said for the Dodo and many recent species that have become extinct.

However, our interaction with the Earth is causing an increasing number of species to disappear.  Scientists believe that we are in the middle of the sixth mass extinction.   Human activity such as burning fossil fuels, deforestation, dams, over fishing, etc. demonstrate that we are the principal cause of this current mass extinction.  Scientists have estimated that by 2100 50% of current species will be extinct.

What about us?

Humans are highly resilient.  What happens to us depends upon what action we take to stop global warming.  We face droughts, floods, lost top soil, food and water shortages, wars over resources and mass migration, etc.  By 2100 will we have smart cities or no cities?  Will we be going forward to a much better global society or devolving back to the ‘Dark Ages’ e.g. post Roman Empire?

It is our choice.

One thing is for sure – The Earth will be OK.

Read more of Don’s views on the outcomes of COP21.


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