Most of us learned about climate change when we were little kids. They didn’t call it that, back when they first told me about it; but you can’t have an ice age unless the climate changes. In fact, you can’t have a planet without climate changes. An atmosphere is built over time, and there was a time when the Earth was nothing more than a rock floating in space with no air to breathe at all. Between that time and this one, the climate has changed so many times that it almost seems silly to even call it climate change. From the long view, the Earth’s climate is in constant flux; the only thing that doesn’t change about our atmosphere is that it is always changing. We should all be grateful for climate change: without it, we couldn’t live on this lovely planet.
All of this is according to science, of course. They’ve been wrong about a lot of things, and they’ve even lied about some stuff when the money was right; but good luck finding a legit scientist that thinks the Earth has always had the exact atmosphere and temperatures that it has now. If there’s anything pretty much everyone in any field of science will agree on, it’s that Earth started out with no atmosphere at all. The climate then was the cold and airless vacuum of space. Unless we forego scientific inquiry altogether, we can all pretty easily agree that climate change is real. In fact, it’s a necessity of life.
What folks can’t seem to agree on is whether or not we are affecting the current trend in climate change.
This is one of those arguments that can go on forever, with no clear winner. At the risk of leaning too heavily on the practices and discoveries made by those scientists I keep mentioning, I’d like to cut through both sides of the argument here to show how neither side can ever be declared a clear winner.
We only really have one way to figure this out, and that’s with a very carefully controlled experiment. The scientific method demands that we have two planets that are exactly the same for this experiment to work, and that we watch them both for millions of years at least. Rather than talk about how impossible either of those things are, let’s look at why we would need both to get a clear answer on this issue.
Humans live on Earth. As far as I know, it’s the only planet we have ever lived on. There is no separating us from our planet, or its history; subsequently, there is no separating us from the climate or its changes. We would need another planet exactly like this one, on which humans never set foot, to see if the climates on both planets remained the same. This planet would have to be exactly the same size and age, it would need to have the exact same sun and moon, and it would need to be in the exact same solar system. Beyond that, this planet would need to have the same number and size of meteor impacts. Every aspect of every thing would have to be exactly the same.
Except people, of course.
We are, after all, the proposed problem.
The only way to do this is to find an alternate Earth. This may be possible, since science is now saying what many great thinkers have intuited or postulated for some time now: reality is multi-dimensional, and those dimensions are infinite. In the realm of infinite possibilities, we can vaguely consider the possibility that we may someday find an Earth in one of these alternate dimensions that is exactly the same as ours, only without people. But even if that weren’t a clearly impossible or at least highly improbable event, we would still have the time issue to deal with.
All we can do from when we are right now is theorize about the past. Unless we were there, recording every aspect of it, we really have no way of knowing how things actually went down back then. Even the years we have spent writing things down are super sketchy, since we all know that history has been erased. Humans are horrible memory machines, and digital recording devices haven’t been around long enough to tell us the history of all that is in the only way we could witness it accurately.
So we suppose, since that’s all we can do. One supposition creates a foundation for the next, and so on. The accuracy of our knowledge depends on all these supposings being precisely correct, while also depending on humans being objective about recording and analyzing the data that leads to that knowledge. We get to the point at some point where we realize the only way to get a definitive answer from all this is to start over at the beginning. We create two planets that are identical to Earth and each other, put them in separate but identical dimensions, and recreate the entire history of the Earth on both of them. One has people on it, the other doesn’t.
In a few million years, we could test the temperatures and atmospheres of both planets and see if they were different. It’s hard to imagine the atmosphere being exactly the same, which also makes it hard to imagine the temperatures being the same. They might be similar, but it’s pretty safe to suppose that humans have had some impact on the environment with all the time we have spent in it. However, it’s not safe to suppose that we know what that difference would be.
Unless you are a creator of worlds, and able to travel through time and dimensions as easily as I walk from one room to the next, you have no idea how much humans have affected the planet. You can suppose all you want; but without a scientific background of some significance, even your suppositions are bound to be based more on emotion than logic. You would have to spend a lifetime studying this single aspect of the environment, and at the end of it all you would have to admit that you have no way to create a controlled experiment that proves out your theory.
Just to take this a little further, let’s say you are a creator of worlds and a master of inter-dimensional travel with a few million years of conscious memory behind and before you. The moment you step foot on the Earth that has never had people on it, you will invariably begin to impact the environment. All your test equipment has to run off some sort of energy, expelling some kind of exhaust while using that energy; and the whole time, there you are breathing in and breathing out. Whatever vehicle you used to enter the atmosphere affected that atmosphere, and you can’t run your first test without getting there somehow. Even if you can survive entering a planet’s atmosphere without technological assistance, you’re still affecting it by becoming part of it.
You may be an immortal master of time and space, in which case you may know what impact humans have had on Earth. Otherwise, you’re in the same boat as the rest of us. We don’t know whether or not humans have changed our environment enough to shift the climate. Although it’s likely that we have, there is no way to even begin to say how much. It’s entirely possible that our excessive exhaust has forestalled the next ice age, in which case we should all be grateful for the result. It’s also possible that we don’t really have much of an impact at all, and that this is just another example of humans not being able to collectively get over ourselves.
I honestly don’t know; and unless you’re that immortal master of time and space I keep mentioning, neither do you. The only thing we could ever agree on is that climate change is real, and we don’t know how much people have or haven’t affected it. Otherwise, we’re just going to keep going round and round about something neither of us can actually prove.
Last week, in We’re running out of places to live, I put forth a rather generous and pretty outlandish conspiracy theory. Maybe the reason so many nuclear bombs have been detonated on the planet was because the world’s governments saw the next ice age coming and realized they could turn the trend around with a whole bunch of really big booms and accelerated industrial advancement. That would mean we are forever indebted to our world leaders, since we aren’t all surrounded by snow and ice.
But that’s a pretty unlikely theory. There’s one that is more likely, and which those scientists I like to talk about would pretty much all agree on. Although it can be hard to figure out just where mutations come from, and whether or not we are mutating even more due to all the stuff we have dumped into the air and the oceans, anyone that believes in evolution knows that the process depends on mutation to move along as much as Professor X depends on it to fill his strange school.
Which brings us to the topic we’ll be hurting to think about next week. Unless you’re a single celled organism, science says you are the product of a countless string of mutations. In fact, it might be accurate to say…
‘We’re all mutants!’
Won’t you come back next week, for a post by that very name?
Have a great week!
Thanks for reading!
All the best,