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Tasha Kheiriddin: Humans changed climate… 15,000 years ago

Canada
The National Post
24/08/2010

I’ve got to say, the globe sure has felt warm this summer, at least in the farthest corners of Toronto exurbia.  Which isn’t a bad thing, as it has put on hold my purchase of a swimming pool heater, an expense I had tried to rationalize based on the fact that tropical vacations and children don’t mix, at least until they are in grade school.

So when a scan of this morning’s National Post revealed a delightful debate on climate change between two of my editorial board colleagues, Jon Kay and Lorne Gunter, I had to smile.  Then I cracked open the Toronto Star (yes I read both) and saw a Reuters story on page A22, which made me actually laugh out loud.  Apparently, humans have been changing the climate for eons.   Literally.

Ancient hunters who stalked the world’s last woolly mammoths likely helped warm the Earth’s far northern latitudes thousands of years before humans began burning fossil fuels, according to a study of prehistoric climate change.

The demise of the leaf-chomping woolly mammoths contributed to a proliferation of dwarf birch trees in and around the Arctic, darkening a largely barren, reflective landscape and accelerating a rise in temperatures across the polar north, researchers at the Carnegie Institution for Science concluded.

The research attributes about a fourth of the Arctic’s vegetation-driven warming to the decline of the woolly mammoth. If human hunters helped kill off the large mammals, they bear some responsibility for warming the climate, the scientists concluded.

“We’re not saying this was a big effect,” Field said. “The point of the paper isn’t that this is a big effect. But it’s a human effect.”

So everyone’s a loser now: the climate change deniers, the climate change crazies, and the woolly mammoths.  The deniers, for saying humans don’t impact climate change (answer: yes, we always have), the crazies, for saying this impact must be stopped (unless you want to stop civilization, good luck with that), and the mammoths, for being in the wrong place at the right time.

The real issue is not “are we changing the climate?”, but how do we adapt to the effects of change and/or mitigate them, without jeopardizing the standard of living we have managed to achieve?  

Between the socialists who would have us cap every oil well and eat twigs for breakfast, and the conservatives who refuse to see any correlation between human activity and climate change, lies a middle ground: those who accept a measure of change as the price of progress, and search for ways to cope with that change through technological advancement, not luddite retreat.

Human activity is not, and will never be, neutral.   Indeed, if we wanted to stop impacting the climate, humanity would have to stop existing, or return to a pre-prehistoric  lifestyle, when we didn’t even have the technology to clobber a sufficient number of mammoths.

Sorry, but I don’t want to turn back the clock. I like my fossil-fuel-heated house, my air conditioned car, and my morning coffee, which probably logged more air miles in a day than I have in a year.  But ok, I can live without the pool heater.

El contenido de las noticias que se presentan en esta sección es responsabilidad directa de las agencias emisoras de noticias y no necesariamente reflejan la posición del Gobierno de México en este u otros temas relacionados.

    

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