Planet Earth is facing two global catastrophes. One of them, global warming, is happening before our eyes. The other, global winter caused by impact with a big rock falling from the sky, doesn’t get much attention – yet – but is nonetheless a statistical certainty if only because there are countless objects floating around our solar neighborhood. One of these days one of them is going to hit with the force of mega-multiple nuclear bombs.One Man’s Opinion
It has happened before; one of them the size of two or three football fields struck Earth sixty-five million years ago. The global winter caused by the ash and debris thrown into the atmosphere and cutting off sunlight exterminated all but the most primitive life forms. Relatively smaller impacts have “only” wiped out tens of thousands, or perhaps millions, of acres of the planet’s surface. We’ve already spotted a good number measuring hundreds of miles in diameter. If we know one of those things is headed our way the only ones to benefit – briefly – will be enterprising sorts selling clean BVDs
Global Warming is an issue of debate only because human memory is short. Global Warming isn’t news and the hot air combat between those who think we can stop or change it and those who think it isn’t real is irrelevant: Those who place the blame exclusively on man-made greenhouse gasses are wrong. Those who claim it isn’t real are simply gaseous.
There have been at least five major ice ages in the Earth’s past. The last one, called the Wisconsin glaciation, began about 70,000 years ago, and ended 10,000 years ago, give or take a millennium. The first modern humans, the Cro-Magnons, lived and shivered through the latter part of it as well as through several lesser glaciations interspersed by periods of warming that followed the Wisconsin. The archeological record suggests that the Cro-Magnon’s dimwitted neighbors, the Neranderpauls, survived for 100,000 years prior to the Cro-Magnons before going extinct and survived the earlier major glaciation cycles of warming and cooling.
Excepting flat-earth types and those who think space travel is really filmed in a studio, a glance at satellite photos of the Arctic ice cap as it is today and as it was two decades ago are irrefutable proof that something is happening to make the ice cap dwindle by more than a third in a fraction of a modern lifespan. Baby-boomer memories of childhood and meteorological records both confirm that for whatever the reason, the winters we remember of snow a foot or two deep on the ground for weeks on end, and sometimes months, have been replaced by an occasional snowfall of an inch or two that is gone in a few days.
Seen from another perspective, even if industrialized humanity is a major cause of global warming, history shows no record of rapid and successful modifications of society or lifestyles even when the causes are urgent and the solutions are at hand. War gradually ceased to be viewed as a natural state of mankind two or three centuries ago but remains with us despite obvious solutions. Diseases with known causes and proven solutions continue to ravage the planet..
But shouldn’t we also be directing equal, or perhaps greater, efforts and resources to deflecting incoming meteors and rogue asteroids?. They, too, are a certainty but we have a much longer lead time and we already have much – though certainly not all – of the necessary technology at hand, if only in rudimentary form, to knock them into a different orbit.
Identifying the cause of these situations should be secondary to deciding how best to cope with the inevitable. Periods of global warming and cooling are a fact of life on a fragile planet and the degree to which gasses created by industrial nations contribute to the situation is probably one of the smaller factors in the overall predicament in which we find ourselves. Should we do what we can to lessen the impact of either? Yes. Will our best possible efforts solve either problem? Maybe, but it won’t hurt provided we don’t dawdle.
There’s also a trade-off of sorts between adjusting to global warming and preparing for incoming cosmic Bad Stuff. The waters are rising rapidly in global terms, but not so rapidly that we can’t make plans if our pitiable remedies don’t pan out. At the very least, we already know the contours of the new coastlines and there are only a handful of oceans and ice caps to watch.
Incoming cosmic Bad Stuff is a different matter entirely. If we spot such a behemoth – and there’s always a chance we won’t simply because there are an infinite number of things wandering around in space – we’ll have to respond quickly, hit it hard enough to move it, and if we miss the results will be massive, immediate, random, and incalculable. Global Winter, anyone? Or should that be global warming?.