Hey, it’s going to be 100° tomorrow . . . and tomorrow night . . . and the day after . . . and . . .

Eocene scene – sorry, no photographs available. Illustration courtesy Smithsonian Institution

Here’s a quote from the October 2011 edition of National Geographic: “In much of China, India, southern Europe and the United States, summer temperatures would average well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, day after day, year after year.”
The operative word here, of course, is “would.” That implies there’s an “if” involved, and there is. In an article entitled “World Without Ice,” writer Robert Kunzig points out that 56 million years ago (we remember it like it was the day before yesterday – mainly because we have trouble remembering the day before yesterday) an unexplained surge of carbon into the Earth’s atmosphere sent global temperatures soaring. That surge caused a dramatic shift of life forms on the planet. And it’s the model for what could happen again if Homo sapiens doesn’t start thinking really hard about a repetition of pre-historic history (assuming there is such a designation).
As a result of massive amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere a greenhouse effect episode occurred. The ice caps melted. The seas rose. And the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum – or PETM – began. It took approximately 150,000 years for the earth to reabsorb the CO2.  In the meantime, as the planet transitioned from the Paleocene to the Eocene epoch, the seas rose 220 feet. There were no swamps in what we now call Florida because there was no Florida; at least not above water.
Sea life changed because as the oceans absorbed CO2 the water acidified. The atmosphere became warm, as in hot. So let’s revisit our opening paragraph.. Have you ever been to Phoenix, Houston or Palm Springs in the summer?
When the PETM began, the world was warm. Then the temps rose an average of nine degrees. In the National Geographic article, Yale University geochemist Mark Pagani says there is no doubt that carbon dioxide is driving climate.
Here’s the impact: if scientific projections are correct and the amount of coal, oil, and natural gas deposits in the earth were to enter the atmosphere as humans burn fossil fuels over a short period (as in centuries) until they run out, the jolt to the planet would likely be equivalent to what happened 56 million years ago.
While many nations are trying, however feebly, to make our consumption more efficient, we are simultaneously increasing our numbers. So unless energy efficiency greatly outstrips population growth, our use of fossil fuels will not decrease. We’ll burn up our non-renewable fuels. And with that we’ll destroy species, deepen our oceans, flood coastal areas all over the planet and destroy tourism to tropical regions, because most us will be living in the tropics.
Our book, Enough of Us, will be available as an e-book within the coming few weeks. It is our aim to get Americans to think twice before making more humans. If this happens, we believe our government will take note. And when the United States can stand up as an example of how to do things right, we can lead the world in opening its eyes and closing its desire for more and evermore reproducing ourselves. At seven billion, there are certainly enough of us.

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