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Thursday, July 09 2020 @ 05:31 MDT

Why what we do to the environment matters not to nature.

Science!With the climate change debate raging on, despite what the science is actually saying, there is a need to look at the long view. Now I don't mean a short long term of a couple of hundred or even thousand years. I mean an actual long view in the millions of years. So what will climate change mean in the long term? Well not much. One has to realize that no matter what we do to the climate and environment that the Earth has a self correction mechanism. That is what we do today likely won't make a whit of difference to the planet millions of years from now. The reason why is simple. If we cause the climate to change drastically enough to cause massive crop failures, then most of humanity will die off due to starvation. It is debatable that what humans are left will be sufficient to repopulate the planet, but at the point where it's too hot for crops, it's just as likely that the human species is on the way out. Odds are we'll take most major species with us as well, but the Earth has suffered climatic catastrophes in the past and life has recovered. It just takes time and the dominant life changes once all the dust is settled.

It will work like this. As we continue to pump carbon dioxide into the atmosphere faster than it can be removed the Earth will warm quickly enough that we won't be able to engineer crops to survive the climate change. This will mean starvation for millions if not billions as crops fail and there isn't enough food to go around. Once these people have died off there will be less demand for everything, including fossil fuels. Less carbon dioxide will be pumped into the atmosphere though with less plants the concentration of carbon dioxide will remain reasonably constant for a while. This will continue to put downward pressure on the remaining human population. With food in scarce supply, wars will become more common, further reducing the human population. It would only be a matter of time until one nation unleashed nuclear weapons on its neighbours in a fit of desperation, basically annihilating the human species.

So basically through either an environmental catastrophe of our own making or nuclear war (or both) we will, as a species, do ourselves in. Once we succeed at this then the Earth will begin to heal. It will do this because no matter how hard we try, we won't succeed in wiping out all life everywhere on the planet. Whatever plant life is left behind will begin to remove the excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, slowly replacing it with oxygen, just like the original plants of the primordial Earth did. Any radiation from any nuclear exchange will also, over time, half-life away. Erosion and plate tectonics will churn up the ground and remove toxins from the soil. Over a few million years there will be little left on the surface of the Earth to mark our passage and new life will evolve to replace us. Future palaeontologists will dig up our fossilized remains and speculate on how we, like the dinosaurs, were wiped out and why so suddenly.

So with the long view, our climate problems are self correcting. The climate will fix itself by getting rid of us. Now in terms of geologic time this will happen quite quickly, but in terms of a human lifetime it probably won't happen for a few generations.

So why have I bothered to write this missive, especially since, in the long run it doesn't matter to nature or the Earth what happens? Well, it should matter to us what happens to us as a species. The path we are taking will result in the eventual extinction of humanity and in fairly short order. The only question at this point really is how much short term profit are we willing to take at the expense of our species' future?
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