Beginning in 1989 scientists have been drilling into the Greenland ice shield. It took a while but eventually they drilled an amazing two miles down collecting ice samples that are over 110,000 years old. Astonishing data is being gleaned from careful analysis of this ice about the history of the earth’s climate.
We know that the earth has experienced a number of major ice advances and retreats in the past million years, cooling and warming, getting wetter then drier. It has always been the scientific dogma that climate change is something that happened slowly over hundreds or even thousands of years. Well apparently that model is way wrong. We now believe that the earth’s temperature can warm up by several degrees in a matter of decades. This may not seem like much but it is. A matter of a few degrees increase could mean rapidly rising sea level and since more than 90% of human inhabitants live at sea level they would be driven from their homes. Crops would fail, livestock and wild animals would perish. This is not science fiction; this has happened and could happen again.
Humans were able to evolve civilizations because we developed agricultural. Why did this happen more or less simultaneously at several diverse locations at about the same time, 8000 yrs ago? Why not earlier? We have been essentially the same beings with the same intellectual capacity for at least 100,000 yrs. What kept us in check with a limited population and no airplanes or computers? In a nutshell, it appears to be bad weather!
Yep we are apparently in the middle of the longest period of climatic stability in the last million years. So we have simply had time to develop our culture without an environmental catastrophe to throw us back to the starting line.
How long will it last? Who knows? Will human created global warming stave off the next ice age or will it accelerate it? We simply don’ t know but what seems probable is that our grand technological culture may have been a brief success in the longest period of interglacial nice weather in the history of the Earth. This is Michael Ellis with a Perspective.