[LINK] The End Is Nigh [Was: On the Day that you were born (UN

Frank O'Connor francisoconnor3 at bigpond.com
Sat Nov 12 18:30:51 AEDT 2011

Mmmm ... With the environment and disaster generally we tend to anthropomorphism big time, and in the final analysis our species has only been around (in any real sense) for the last 50,000 years ... which is nothing.

We live in one of the most meteorologically benign eras of the last 100 million years (from our perspective), an inter Ice Age era during which we have adapted to become the most dominant life form on the planet. Indeed the Ice Ages themselves created the great plains, stripped back the huge forests, and had a lot to do with providing the ecology which provided for our plains dwelling ancestors in the ensuing temperate eras.

Change the conditions, and evolution will probably ensure that some other life forms, or groups of life forms, see their days in the sun.

Areas exist on this planet which should defy the existence of life .. The great arctic, pools of boiling hot sulphurous mud, methane and volcanic blows 30,000 feet or more below the sea ... Yet life teems in these supposedly hostile places.

3.5 billion years ago, all life on this planet was anaerobic. Oxygen was poisonous to it. Simply by indulging in the polluting habit of respiration these single celled life forms effectively poisoned themselves out of existence ... because they exhaled oxygen. Those who survived ( the ones we call plants nowadays) were mutant forms that learned to process carbon dioxide using chlorophyll, as an alternative to breathing methane and other complex carbon based molecules. Some of the anaerobic puppies survived (to cause infections, or live in our guts, or live in inaccessible places where methane and sulphates are abundant) however 99.99999 percent died out. But life survived.

Life wasn't wiped out in any previous disaster or meteorological change ... and there have been some really drastic ones ... the Cretaceous event that wiped out the dinosaurs was only a minor one. The Earth has been completely covered in ice ... every last square millimeter. Life survived. The Earth has been hit by hundreds of deep space monsters, releasing tera-tons of energy. Life survived. 280 million years ago the Greatest Extinction Event ever wiped out 95 percent of species, and 80 percent of the phyla (there are only 30 left after that event) that ever existed. But life survived.

So, to say that we are likely to cause the extinction of life on this planet borders on arrogance and hubris. More likely in a worst case scenario we would simply leave a relatively small trace in the fossil record of our passing (as I said 50000 years is nothing ... in geological timescales), wipe out a few hundred thousand species of the millions that currently exist, and leave a fresh slate for evolution to work on.

In terms of the environmental debate, an increase of 5 to 10 degrees in the mean temperature of Earth would probably be good for life. More heat means more oceanic evaporation. Hot humid environments abound with life, (think the average swamp or the proverbial 'primordial slime'), the added energy and moisture in the air would foster an explosion of plant and animal growth. Life likes warm moist conditions. Storms and hurricanes would spread it all around the planet. Huge vistas of land would be denuded of little numbers like ice ... And life could again bloom in previously Arctic environments.

The problem is that such an environment would not be good for us. Aside from rising sea levels and the fact that 85 percent of our species lives close to the sea, the new status quo would mean that most of our carefully bred crop types would not survive, that the added energy in the equation would breed storms, winds, weather extremes and the like that we simply could not cope with, that the transition period between climate zones would cause disasters we couldn't cope with (think the permanent frost melting in record time, the land based ice caps raising the sea levels by 20 to 30 meters in 10 years, chaotic weather events that could be expected to prevail during the transition). I mean if this whole climate change debate has proved anything ... we're simply not an adaptable (or, it may be argued, intelligent) species.

In the worst case scenario we probably wouldn't survive, but life would have no trouble doing so.

Just my 2 cents worth ...

Sent from my iPad

On 11/11/2011, at 9:13 AM, stephen at melbpc.org.au wrote:

>>> David wrote:
>>>>> Humanity will be no great loss to the universe. The pity is that we
>>>>> look like taking the rest of life on Earth with us.
>>>> (Rick) It would dreadfully difficult to wipe out all microbiotic life.
>> Yes, well. If we can avoid messing up too badly, maybe.
>> If you look back to the originating message, there's reason for doubt. 
>> After the planet's human population reached a billion, it doubled in a 
>> little more than a century. It then tripled in quite a lot less than a 
>> century. As the Yanks say; "Do the math".
> Yes, one certainly takes your point, David. And, the ALL-life-doom-sayer
> science might indeed be right no question. However here on this beach of
> this tropical island where i live, life is very VERY robust indeed. Much
> jungle, less than 100 metres away, is impossible to see into more than a
> metre or two, the crystal-clear sea has even more life and the mangroves
> in the next cove are kilometres thick, and, contain even more life. With
> such bursting biology, such vibrant life, it's hard to predict zero life.
> Also these areas are tightly protected, as are many such in this country
> of 7,100+ tropical islands, many un-inhabited. These jungles & mangroves
> are not going anywhere, and, will be sequestering presumably permanently,
> even as they adjust to rising sea-levels. Life here is safe and thriving.
> So sure, the maths mightn't look good, but this part of earth seems fine.
> Cheers,
> Stephen
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