So the Copenhagen summit has come and gone, “and we have not brought salvation to the earth” (Is 26:18).
Doubtless, the global warming saga will run for some time, as will the question about the extent to which mankind is responsible for causing it and capable of curing it.
As I looked at the televised pictures of delegates to the summit, however, I found myself wondering, “Does it really matter?” Or rather, “What reason, given the presuppositions held by most of these delegates, would they or anyone else with the same viewpoint give for arguing that it mattered?”
Let us take the ‘worst case but one’ scenario. (The worst-case scenario is, I would argue, runaway and irreversible global warming leading the planet to hot up like Venus and become utterly uninhabitable. I’m not sure if this is possible, but I just thought I’d touch base with that one.)
The second-worst case, I guess, is something like this: the planet warms up by several degrees celsius. The seas rise by a number of metres, inundating much of the existing land. There is a major refugee crisis, and at the same time a catastrophic decline in our ability to produced food. Wars, riots and starvation become rampant. Billions die. At the same time, tens of thousands of species of plant and animal become extinct. The global ecosystem wobbles on the point of collapse. More and more life forms are threatened with extinction including, possibly, the entire human race.
My question to the Copenhagen delegates is, “So what?”
As far as I am aware, our planet has suffered several what are called ‘extinction events’ —including the Cretaceous–Tertiary, the Triassic–Jurassic, the Permian–Triassic, the Late Devonian and the Ordovician–Silurian. And that’s just the big ones. Apparently there are a number of other, lesser, extinction events which can be added to the mix.
According to Wikipedia (and why should I doubt it?), 97% of all species that have ever existed are extinct. Yet, every time, the ecosystem got over it. From a purely evolutionary perspective —and I am sure that is the perspective not only of most Copenhagen delegates but of their scientific advisers —an extinction event is a mere ‘blip’. Indeed, it is arguably an opportunity rather than a catastrophe. After all, the death of the dinosaurs led to the rise of the mammals, including ourselves. Who knows to what the AGW extinction event, should it happen, might give rise?
Of course, one of the worries is that a lot of people will die. But whilst accepting this with equanimity is not a vote-winner, it is surely an acceptable attitude in the biological long-term. Let us not forget, everyone alive now will probably be dead in a hundred and fifty years. What does it matter if some of them die sooner, rather than later?
Some might appeal to the suffering that global warming would cause as a reason for concern. But the more people global warming kills, the less actual human suffering there will be in the long-term. For it is not just that existing people will die, and therefore not suffer any longer, there will be fewer people born to suffer in future, because there will be a smaller human population.
Moreover, if the people who blame global warming on human influence are right, the fewer people there are, the more rapidly the problem of global warming will be corrected. Some years ago, when I was more interested such things, I had a book called The Optimum Population for Britain, which reckoned the figure was 35 million. Given that we are currently at 70 million and rising, a population collapse would be beneficial, and especially so if there is widespread loss of low-lying land to the rising sea.
Certainly the human race cannot go on increasing at its present prodigious rate. The effects of global warming on the human population are thus, from a planetary point of view, likely to be nothing but beneficial, especially if, as some are arguing, we are the chief cause of the phenomenon in the first place.
Others will point to the loss of bio-diversity, but as already been observed, we know that this is not a real problem following previous extinctions. Bio-diversity is not a constant, but goes in cycles. Nor is a dramatic loss of such diversity a problem. It seems likely that at least some extinction events occurred virtually overnight in terms of planetary history. Yet the ecosystem recovered every time.
Equally, the time taken for such a recovery is not an issue. No-one is actually waiting for this recovery! No one is inconvenienced if it should take a few million extra years. All we need to know is that, willy-nilly, it does seem to occur.
So yes, global warming is a threat to our survival. But then we are a threat to the survival of other species, from the late Dodo to the soon-to-be late polio virus. It is only a form of speciesism which laments the demise of the former over the latter, or ourselves over either or both.
Would Darwin, or should Darwinists (which is most of our political and scientific establishment), give a monkey’s* about global warming? If they are right, then at worst, it would reset the evolutionary clock. But we have every reason to believe the planet would recover. And it might even get rid of the chief planetary trouble makers, namely ourselves.
And if that should happen, would anyone care?
Revd John Richardson
21 December 2009
21 December 2009
* To give a monkey’s is an English phrase meaning ‘to care’.Anonymous users wishing to paste in the comments box need first to select 'preview', then close the preview box. When posting your comments please give a full name and location. Comments without this information may be deleted.