It is easy to be right when anything is possible. Dr. Peter D. Ward can definitely take credit for explaining the causes and effects of global warming in his new book: Under a Green Sky, Global Warming, the Mass Extinctions of the Past and What They Can Tell Us About Our Future. There are so many factors that play into the changing climate of our planet. Ward leaves no explanation unaccounted for, and offers solutions for a better future.
Throughout the book, Ward discusses his various travels which have helped him develop research proving the existence of global warming. He has discredited several of his peers in a plethora of who’s who, explaining his perspective as to why their research is no longer valid. He has promoted others, whose work supports his own hypothesis. All of this is done, while explaining that government grants are being doled out to anyone supporting research exposing the dangers of global warming and the future extinction of man.
It seems our planet has a life cycle. The earth cools and heats during the course of its regeneration, leaving a time of death (extinction) in between the stages of growth. Ward illustrates this fact with graphs strategically plotted in several chapters. According to the graph in chapter six, earth is entering the early stages of its tenth extinction over the course of millions of years. The graph in chapter seven clearly shows that temperatures have been rising and falling for hundreds of thousands of years. It indicates that earth’s current temperatures are rising, which precedes their fall. Climatic changes cause life to adapt and evolve out of necessity. Adaptation can sometimes lead to extinction of all sorts of species that are unable to progress with the times.
Ward keeps all things relative when he states, “…there is another school of thought suggesting that the rapid global warming that is now underway may actually trigger the next glacial advance…the advent of global warming now could kick us back into the time of ice.” Ward had already given a detailed account of the earth’s life cycle which indicates that it warms and cools, throughout millions of years, causing global warming and ice ages in its wake.
Carbon dioxide is definitely a contributing factor of global warming, and it is fair to suggest that people should take responsibility for the environment. Ward explains that carbon dioxide, as well as other gases, are distributed into the atmosphere from many sources. Volcanoes emit gases, as do oceans when their currents change through temperature fluctuation. Ward discusses the effects of people using drugs in warmer climates. “Because human life is so miserable in humid, unrelenting equatorial heat, everyone uses drugs, drugs to help escape the heat, the misery, to make time go by.” In a previous chapter, Ward prepares us for this revelation by stating, “Carbon dioxide is carbon dioxide, whether it comes from a smoking volcano or a smoking car.”
While the thought of global warming being caused by carbon dioxide surfaces throughout Ward’s book, it is merely an explanation for the cause of our current planetary condition. A much more subtle, underlying theme emerges when Ward discusses the political arena and its impact on solving the possible threat of extinction due to global warming. “Few, except those who for political or economic reasons (such as representatives of the big oil companies and the politicians that they have bought off), dispute that humanity is rapidly changing the composition of the atmosphere (although there is still great debate about whether those changes are causing a rise in mean global temperature, also known as global warming). The carbon dioxide is largely coming from automobiles and human industry.” Ward’s discussion continues as it predicts future decades being impacted by excessive gases being emitted into our ozone layer.
Without warning, Ward then decides to take a pot shot at one particular author opposed to the hypothesis of global warming stating, “A 2004 novel written by the inimitable (and curiously science-hating) mega-author Michael Crichton, State of Fear, uses each of the points above to argue against any sort of human-caused global warming.” He draws his discussion back to science with a question that immediately follows the attack, “But what do the climate scientists, not the authors and politicians, say?”
Scientists have concluded that 160,000 people die on an annual basis because of direct and indirect factors relating to global warming. We die from disease and malnutrition. These correspond to the evidence of a warmer earth because insects and bacteria thrive in warmer conditions, while food crops are harder to grow. We die from massive storms, due to the increase in the number of hurricanes occurring caused by warmer oceans, which are directly related to an increase in the earth’s temperature. We die from heat waves during the summer.
Ward does not give credit to the thousands of scientists who have worked tirelessly finding cures for many of the diseases people face. Nor does he recognize the impact of millions of people and their governments working endlessly to limit hunger, especially in third world countries. Ward does not recognize or give credit to the intelligence of ordinary citizens who have disaster plans in place, should they be faced with the need for a mass exodus of their cities in the face of catastrophic weather. Nor does he credit the average citizen with being smart enough to stay cool when it is hot.
While each of these dangers need to concern us, they do not begin to address two much more lethal dangers that will promote the extinction of mankind. “The greatest threats posed by global warming are surely famine and war, two Horsemen of the Apocalypse going hand in hand.” Ward adamantly warns us of our precarious situation. “Our world sits on a knife edge of global starvation already.” He goes on to explain that agriculture will change out of necessity. There are some crops that simply will not grow in warmer climates. This being true, people will not eat what is available, missing what they are used to, and starve to death. War will be the result as nations protect their meager food supplies. “Nations are unlikely to sit around and watch their populations starve or their national treasuries deplete in order to buy enough food. It will become more and more tempting to simply take or blackmail other countries with nuclear weapons.”
In perspective, all of this will occur over the next few centuries, providing things remain status quo. Ward does not anticipate that people will advance, or life will change as we know it. Clearly, he has been too busy studying ocean currents, earth layers, and atmospheric gases, to recognize the technological age of the twentieth century. Certainly he has not experienced the over stimulus associated with deciding where to eat in a large metropolitan city that has restaurants on every corner.
In a last ditch effort to help people understand the inevitable plight of carbon dioxide emissions creating a future extinction, Ward describes three possible scenarios that will result from human ignorance. Our very existence has caused irreversible global warming, and our response to science has made it impossible to rectify. Therefore, Ward decides to explain what the future may look like over the next several hundred years.
In the first fictional possibility, people will reduce carbon dioxide emissions adequately. We will not become extinct, because we will respond effectively to scientific warnings which promoted changing our ways, especially when it comes to driving. In the second fictional possibility, global temperatures will rise, Greenland will melt, and oceans will increase their mass, wiping out coastlands throughout the world. This will result in the displacement of millions of people who live in coastal regions. The third scenario is far bleaker, as it reveals an ice free world, where the world population crowds inland areas in an effort to avoid drowning. “There is no central government in the United States in anything but name. The states have reverted to tiny nation-states, hoarding and grappling with the immigrants streaming in form other states, especially in the Midwest, where food can still be grown and fresh water is still available.”
Ward poses many questions throughout his book, and offers more than a few possible answers. The only thing he has made clear though, is that global warming exist, and one of its causes is carbon dioxide emissions. While he has indicated man’s role in the cause of global warming, due to industry and driving, he has also explained that the planet has a life cycle, and we are in the middle of it. All things being equal, Ward expresses the need for us to decrease our unnecessary carbon dioxide emissions, while accepting that our lack of knowledge during the twentieth century has caused irreparable damage to the ozone layer. He is certain that we can slow down our inevitable extinction. He makes us painfully aware of the possible ramifications if we don’t. As things are put into perspective, we come to realize that ten extinctions in millions of years is not a reason for panic, but rather an opportunity to take pause, and become aware of our impact on the world.