Growing wine in Greenland

10/12/2007 04:52 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Call it an educated guess, call it a stab in the dark, but I would lay odds on there being a 100% correlation between climate change deniers and intelligent design believers. Came to me most recently in the blathering over the battle between Al Gore and an ignorant judge and an even more ignorant truck driver in England. The truck driver didn't want his children taught that the world was in serious trouble. The judge's decision and the reasons he gave, could have been any troll on Huffington Post at any time in the last couple of years. And of course, since a judge had criticized aspects of the Gore presentation, out came the trolls, frothing at the mouth again. Trotting out all the same old arguments as to why they didn't want to believe the world was in serious trouble.

And this stuff is so familiar, has been asked and answered so many times, that those of us living in the reality based universe are constantly puzzled as to why these people can't actually understand the evidence in front of their eyes as another chunk of ice breaks of Greenland, and Canada sets up a military base to protect the melted north west passage against the marauding Russians and Americans.

It was when I saw yet another string of comments about how climate has changed in the past that I saw the light, saw the sun shining brightly, free of sun spots.

If you believe, truly believe, have faith in, know unmistakably, that the world is only 6000 years old, and that human beings are, therefore, no older, then past and future climatic change has a quite different meaning. If you believe that wine growing in England, and crops in Greenland, and the River Thames freezing over, are all not only true (they aren't of course) but significant climatic events, then you also know that humans lived through those changes.

And carrying the logic even further, if the climate has changed in the past, and the Earth and humans are only 6000 years old, then humans have lived through any and all changes that Mother Nature has thrown at us in the past, and will do so in the future. If dinosaurs and humans coexisted, then whatever happened to get rid of the dinosaurs had no effect on humans.

Those of us desperately riding from Boston to Lexington to try to sound the alarm before it is too late tend to think that while everyone agrees on the facts (the British are indeed crossing the river) of global warming there is honest (mostly) disagreement on the degree of danger and the response needed. But increasingly it seems to me that the words used provide no common frame of reference for the fundamentalist climate change deniers (just as for the fundamentalist evolution deniers).

For the deniers, climate change in the past is a reason not to worry about climate change in the future. For those of us in the real world, climate change in the past is precisely the reason we need to worry. We know that, yes indeedy, the climate of the Earth has often changed before. No argument there. In fact the climate has changed so much that it is frightening to realize how much it CAN change. We are not living in some Garden of Eden, some Camelot, celestial air conditioners keeping everything just so for god's chosen species. We are living in a world that can get very much colder than today, and, more relevant in the circumstances in which we find ourselves in 2007, very much hotter.

Thing is, humans, the species Homo sapiens, wasn't around at all during the earlier really severely hot periods. Even our ape ancestors weren't. And the species that were around were forced into extinction in massive numbers. Humans and other hominid species were around in the last million years or so, during the climate cycles of the Pleistocene. Saw the sea levels rise and fall by a few meters at a time, saw glaciers expand and contract, saw forests bloom and then get replaced by deserts. Not as severe as some earlier changes, but not pleasant.

But during that time humans and their ancestors were hunters and gatherers. In small groups and small total numbers. Able to move with the changes. And with no infrastructure (houses, farms, ports, roads, office buildings) to worry about leaving behind or having destroyed. Even taking all that into account, at least one close human relative, Neanderthal Man, went extinct, and many other more distant cousins didn't make it either. Not until about ten thousand years ago (no Virginia, not 6000), when agriculture was underway, did humans start living in the kind of societies that are more familiar to us now, and for all of that period the climate has been stable. That is, the development of modern civilization, and the increase of population to 6 billion plus, has all happened in favorable climatic conditions.

So yes, the climate has changed in the distant past, and yes, it even changed while humans were evolving (and may well have contributed to that evolutionary process), but no, it hasn't changed in any significant way during the rise of Homo civilizensis. In the next thirty years or so it is going to, rapidly.

So if you were taking comfort from past climatic change, happy that humans had survived, because the bible tells you so ..... don't.

The things that you're liable to read in the bible ... ain't necessarily so. The things that you're liable to read on The Watermelon Blog, on the other hand ....