Year 2, Month 11, Day 21: Listen Up, All You Swine!

The Washington Post reports on yet another study, this one addressing a much earlier climate change event that effectively wiped the Earthly slate pretty clean — about 252 million years ago last Thursday.


WASHINGTON — During the world’s biggest mass extinction, Earth seemed pretty close to a description of hell — fiery, smoky and explosive — created by massive volcanic eruptions, according to research dug up in China.

In geologic terms, it was surprisingly quick, and it may provide a scary lesson about climate change for our future, authors of the new study say. It was the third of five extinctions in world history, occurring even before dinosaurs roamed.

This extinction killed off more than three-quarters of life on the planet in an event scientists have called the Great Dying. The Chinese dig sites provide new dates and details of the event, which occurred at the end of the Permian Era. It happened 252 million years ago and may have lasted less than 100,000 years, far shorter than scientists had thought, according to the study published Thursday in the journal Science.

I managed to create a nice metaphor. Enjoy it while you can. Sent November 17:

One of the arguments most commonly hurled against those of us who are justifiably concerned about life in a post-greenhouse-effect future is that, after all, “Climate change has happened previously in Earth’s history.”

Indeed. But such rapid climatic transformations are traumatic, to put it mildly. Just because climate change has happened before is no reason to welcome it back; last time, it appears to have extinguished the overwhelming majority of life on the planet.

A related argument is that climate change “…happens all the time.” As with many denialist shibboleths, a tiny kernel of logic is thickly coated with misleading rhetorical nacre. By analogy, the fact that death is universal among living things is no justification for genocide.

The scientific evidence is overwhelming: human beings are causing climate change. If our species is to avoid what biologists coyly term an “evolutionary bottleneck,” we need to change our ways without delay.

Warren Senders

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