At the end of the nineteenth century, the notion of the earth as a finite system of relationships between its resident flora and fauna was in its infancy among a tiny minority of European and European-American thinkers. While ecological perspectives are much more widespread a century and more later, they are hardly universal. Today, a number of scientific and popular skeptics scoff at the predictions of global warming shared by a majority of the world’s scientists. These critics tend to distrust climate models, and in so doing deny the evidence portending rapid warming during the twenty-first century and beyond.
The anthropomorphic bias of the skeptics is reflected in the ways some of them propose to manipulate nature to adapt to global warming generated by humankind’s use of fossil fuels. Proposals have been floated to inject sulfur into the atmosphere, so that its cooling effects can counteract those of greenhouse gases. The skeptics leave unsaid the fact that atmospheric sulfur is a primary ingredient of acid rain. Bombing the stratosphere with sulfur dioxide also could turn the sky an opaque, dirty white and accelerate ozone depletion. Other proposals rely on humankind’s biochemical innovations to breed food plants which will survive a warmer, more humid world. One can almost hear the skeptics enthusiastically describing to one another the size of the corn that they imagine will grow around Hudson’s Bay.
When they point out that the earth has survived carbon dioxide levels six to eight times those of the present, very few of the greenhouse skeptics mention that the weather during such times was rather miserable for warm-blooded animals, as warm as 20 degrees F. higher than today. Such temperatures may have been a balm for the dinosaurs, but tacking that much heat onto the daily summer averages where most people live would make much of humanity’s present range nearly uninhabitable for several months a year. Omaha’s average summer high, for example, could approach 110 degrees F., or roughly today’s averages in the Central Sahara. The climate conservatives also do not dwell much on the fact