Friday, October 2nd, 2009
Even as Nature featured the problem of "planetary boundaries" (WN 25 Sep 09), a special issue of New Scientist asked, why isn't population control a key
priority. Paul and Anne Ehrlich, clearly thought it should be. They note, as Malthus did 200 years earlier, that we have a choice between a falling
birth rate and a rising death rate. Jesse Ausubel, however, argued that technology will save us. Where has he been? We already have the technology to
save us; the pill has no side effects, is 100% effective, and is cheap as aspirin. Reiner Klingholz worried that problems in Europe will grow as the
European population shrinks. It's been shrinking for years, and the last time I checked Europe was doing great. Fred Pearce blamed overconsumption. The
poor half of the world's population, he says, is responsible for just 7% of the world's emissions. Perhaps he's suggesting that we should make sure
they remain poor lest they exacerbate warming.
My e-mail is stuffed with blogs and articles from libertarian magazines saying the climate isn't warming, it's cooling. And it's been doing it for
almost 10 years. But how unusual is that? Not very. But, as today's Science put it, "climate researchers are responding in their preferred venue, the
peer-reviewed literature." Which leads me right into my almost- weekly rant: where were these people when the Bush administration canceled the DSCOVR
project? By now we would know whether the warming is anthropogenic.
Yet another hominid find in Africa, Ardipithecus ramidus, appears to resolve many uncertainties about the initial stage of evolutionary adaptation after
the hominid lineage split from that of the chimpanzees.
The fossil skeleton has been dated at 4.4 million years and was much more primitive than the famous 3.2 million-year-old Lucy of the species
Australopithecus afarensis. The team that found Ardi was led by Tim
White, UC California paleontologist, who in 2003 found the oldest fossil of Homo sapiens, a mere 160,000 years.
The Environmental Protection Agency recently ruled that CO2 should be classified as a pollutant because rising levels "endanger public health or
welfare." The counterattack came from oil and coal producers with an ad declaring that CO2 results in a greener Earth. We are reminded that a decade
ago scientists received petition cards from the late physicist Fred Seitz urging the US government to reject the Kyoto global-warming accord.
The mailing included a 6 Dec 97 op-ed from the Wall Street Journal explaining how we can all make this a better world: burn more hydrocarbons. It
described increased levels of CO2 in the atmosphere as "a wonderful and unexpected gift of the Industrial Revolution."