According to the clerics of the Green Cult, once we blow up our last coal mine, send all diesel engines to the wreckers, stop using concrete, reinvent sailing clippers, cover the grasslands with solar clutter and the hills with wind machines and then slaughter all of our cattle. . . global climate will become serene - not too warm, not too cold. Wild weather will cease, and there will be no more droughts, floods, cyclones or snow storms and no more plant and animal extinctions.
But the records written in the rocks tell a far different story about climate changes. Even when nature was in full control, it was not a serene place.
Long before the first steam engine puffed along the first railway, earth was periodically battered by natural disasters – earthquakes, tidal waves, pole shifts, magnetic reversals, volcanic eruptions, wild weather and droughts. Huge areas were covered by suffocating continents of ice, desert sands, massive flows of mud and lava, beds of salt and thick coal seams. Thousands of species disappeared including dinosaurs, mammoths and Australia's megafauna.
Modern 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 climate cycle of this era, where long bitter glacial eras are separated by short warm periods. These global weather cycles are triggered by changing orbits in the solar system.
In every short warm era like today's Holocene, the warming oceans expel enough carbon dioxide into the atmosphere to support the abundant plant and animal life that currently surrounds us. But never has this "global warming" prevented the cyclic return of the ice. The Holocene warm era in which we live has already passed its peak and long before we reach Net Zero Emissions, the cold will return.
When blizzards blow and glaciers grow, the great ice sheets will spread again. Carbon dioxide will be removed from the atmosphere into the cooling oceans and most of mankind will be threatened by frosts, droughts, crop failures and starvation. A lucky few living in equatorial regions or clustered in shelters and hot houses around coal or nuclear power stations may survive.
Those still able to extract uranium, coal, oil or gas may manage to generate enough warmth and carbon dioxide plant food to partly offset the cold sun, the permafrost and the dry, barren atmosphere. And a few with appropriate skills and tools may become hunters and gatherers again (but most Neanderthals did not survive the last glacial cycle).
We should celebrate, not fear, the Modern Warm Era and give thanks for the many benefits gained from using those marvellous natural stores of hydro-carbon and nuclear energy to warm our homes, pump water, recharge batteries and feed our animals and plants.
These good times will not last forever.
When the ice returns, derelict wind turbines and snow-bound solar panels will remain as stark tomb-stones in the graveyard of the failed Green religion.
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