Extinctions over the past however long you think the earth has existed have happened cyclically. That is, in cycles. It wouldn't matter, therefore, whether humans where here or not.
This kinda touches the heart of the global warming issue. Almost everyone will agree that global warming exists, caused by humans or not. I don't. I totally, vehemently disagree. (Yes, you're reading right.) I'm being completely serious.
First off, the only thing I am certain of is that we can never be certain of anything.
Take for example an excerpt from a speech, given by best-selling novelist Michael Crichton:
Imagine that there is a new scientific theory that warns of an impending crisis, and points to a way out. This theory quickly draws support from leading scientists, politicians and celebrities around the world. Research is funded by distinguished philanthropies, and carried out at prestigious universities. The crisis is reported frequently in the media. The science is taught in college and high school classrooms. I don't mean global warming.
I'm talking about another theory, which rose to prominence a century ago. Its supporters included Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Winston Churchill. It was approved by Supreme Court justices Oliver Wendell Holmes and Louis Brandeis, who ruled in its favor. The famous names who supported it included Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone; activist Margaret Sanger; botanist Luther Burbank; Leland Stanford, founder of Stanford University; the novelist H. G. Wells; the playwright George Bernard Shaw; and hundreds of others.
Nobel Prize winners gave support. Research was backed by the Carnegie and Rockefeller Foundations. The Cold Springs Harbor Institute was built to carry out this research, but important work was also done at Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford and Johns Hopkins. Legislation to address the crisis was passed in states from New York to California. These efforts had the support of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Medical Association, and the National Research Council. It was said that if Jesus were alive, he would have supported this effort.
All in all, the research, legislation and molding of public opinion surrounding the theory went on for almost half a century. Those who opposed the theory were shouted down and called reactionary, blind to reality, or just plain ignorant.
But in hindsight, what is surprising is that so few people objected. Today, we know that this famous theory that gained so much support was actually pseudoscience. The crisis it claimed was nonexistent. And the actions taken in the name of theory were morally and criminally wrong. Ultimately, they led to the deaths of millions of people.
The theory was eugenics, and its history is so dreadful --- and, to those who were caught up in it, so embarrassing --- that it is now rarely discussed. But it is a story that should be well know to every citizen, so that its horrors are not repeated. The theory of eugenics postulated a crisis of the gene pool leading to the deterioration of the human race. The best human beings were not breeding as rapidly as the inferior ones --- the foreigners, immigrants, Jews, degenerates, the unfit, and the "feeble minded."
Francis Galton, a respected British scientist, first speculated about this area, but his ideas were taken far beyond anything he intended. They were adopted by science-minded Americans, as well as those who had no interest in science but who were worried about the immigration of inferior races early in the twentieth century --- "dangerous human pests" who represented "the rising tide of imbeciles" and who were polluting the best of the human race. The eugenicists and the immigrationists joined forces to put a stop to this. The plan was to identify individuals who were feeble-minded --- Jews were agreed to be largely feeble-minded, but so were many foreigners, as well as blacks --- and stop them from breeding by isolation in institutions or by sterilization.
As Margaret Sanger said, "Fostering the good-for-nothing at the expense of the good is an extreme cruelty … there is not greater curse to posterity than that of bequeathing them an increasing population of imbeciles." She spoke of the burden of caring for 'this dead weight of human waste.'
Such views were widely shared. H.G. Wells spoke against 'ill-trained swarms of inferior citizens.' Theodore Roosevelt said that "Society has no business to permit degenerates to reproduce their kind.' Luther Burbank 'Stop permitting criminals and weaklings to reproduce.' George Bernard Shaw said that 'only eugenics could save mankind.'"
This example alone should be warning enough to stop jumping mindlessly on the next scientific bandwagon that presents itself. We are at least partially responsible for the death of the Jews in the holocaust, because our endorsement of eugenics lent some moral credence to the idea. The Germans followed our lead.
And that's not all. We're almost totally responsible for the deaths of millions in Africa and other undeveloped regions of the world. Why? Because we refuse to sell anyone DDT. Now, I know all the horror stories about this chemical, how it almost killed off the entire Bald Eagle population of the world singlehandedly. But, those stories are simply not true. DDT only makes the eggshells of birds thin if ingested. That is a fairly minor side effect of a very effective pesticide. The problem with DDT was in its carelessly zealous over-application by farmers. If used sparingly, a tiny application of DDT (less than a cup, I believe) to a single thatched roof can repel and kill mosquitoes for an entire year. Yet, we refuse to sell this chemical (which would save countless lives, more than Bono's "War on Malaria," which involves giving corrupt African governments money) to anyone, because of little else than national pride. Malaria deaths would be literally a thing of the past...yet we do nothing but throw money at the problem. Maybe DDT is less than desirable, but it is not as undesirable or repulsive as millions of people dying each year from a disease we could stop. Oh, and DDT is completely harmless to humans.
Second, the warming that we are now experiencing is not global in nature. In fact, the phenomena is only happening in places that have rapidly expanded over the past 50-100 years. The structures within a city keep heat in. Many of the weather stations that were built 150 years ago in the country or the suburbs to monitor the temperature now find themselves in a veritable jungle of concrete. Thus, they measure higher temperatures.
For example: Punta Arenas, Argentina (the closest city to Antarctica in the world)- down .75 Celsius in the past 120 years.
Pasadena, CA- up 3.5 degrees in the past 75 years (urbanization?)
Berkley, CA- up .75 degrees in the past 75 years (globally speaking, this is fairly close to Pasadena, but with vastly different results)
Death Valley, CA- up .10 degrees in the past 75 years (this is one of the hottest, driest places on earth)
Truman, MO- down 2.5 degrees in the past 75 years
New York, NY- up 5 degrees in the past 178 years
Albany, NY- down one degree in the past 180 years (Why? If it is "global" warming, why when Albany is so close to New York, is it getting colder?)
Alice Springs, Australia- no change in 120 years
Clyde, Northwest Territories, Canada- down 1 Celsius in 64 years
Christchurch, New Zealand- no change in 140 years
Kamenskoe, Siberia, Russia- up .10 Celsius in 58 years
Rome, Italy- up .10 Celsius in 190 years
Paris, France- down .20 degrees in 240 years (this goes back to before the Industrial Revolution, which is supposedly where we all went wrong)
Milan, Italy- no change in 240 years
Tokyo, Japan- up 4 Celsius in 125 years (Tokyo population in 1920: 4.5 million. Tokyo population in 2007: 12.75 million. Urbanization, anyone?)
To sum up, all these figures show only small warming on a local scale. Towns that are within 200 miles of one another have vastly different trends.
Global Warming advocates point to carbon dioxide as the evil gas that causes all this warming. Yet, while carbon dioxide went up uniformly over the past 50 years (here, here), the temperatures from these cities all did wildly different things. It must not be only carbon dioxide then. Sorry to those of you who have bought carbon offsets.
Another of those things pointed to is the vast increase in hurricanes over the past two decades. Every year, the meteorologists predict record numbers of hurricanes. Regardless of whether they turn out to be right or wrong, they do manage to get everyone whipped up into a frenzy.
As this graph shows the decade with the most hurricanes was 57 years ago (and no, 2005 did not have more hurricanes than every other year put together). They predicted an awful season in 2006. Didn't happen. They predicted an awful season in 2007. Didn't happen. Haste to rush to judgments, and you oft fall flat on your face.
To sum up: rushing to a decision is dangerous. It can lead to everything that you didn't want to happen happening. The science behind Global Warming is at best shaky.
1. Atmospheric carbon dioxide is increasing, probably due to human activity. Yet the earth's temperature is neither increasing uniformly nor at the same rate.
2. Nobody knows how much of the current trend is man-made.
3. No one knows how much is natural.
4. Some areas in the world are in the midst of a slight warming trend that started in 1850, after a 400 year period known as the Little Ice Age. Look it up. It was very cold. What is happening now could be called bounceback from the temperature over this period.
4. Everyone has an agenda. Except me.
[Edit] Temperature data can be found at NASA's website. I might scan some charts and put them up, as NASA's charts only go back around 50 years, to give heightened appearance of warming, when our records go back much longer than that.
[Edit] I highly recommend reading this speech, also given by Michael Crichton.