Extinction is Not in Our Genes, But Misery Might Be

Peter Ward: Not going extinct doesn’t mean you’re not going to be miserable, and by misery I mean, wholesale, enormous human mortality.

I think we’re going to survive.  I don’t think climate change can make us go extinct, unless we produce so much Co2 in the atmosphere that we shut down the conveyor belt currents.  These are the largest scale currents in the ocean.  They are from the surface to the bottom currents, not just sideways currents.  The current conveyor that takes oxygen from the top and takes it to the bottom - if we lose that, then the bottoms of the ocean go anoxic and you start down this road toward what we call a greenhouse extinction, which is the hydrogen sulfide events.  It would take tens of thousands of years to get to that. 


We as a species have only been around for a couple of hundred thousand years. The average mammal lasts 5 million years.  Are we anything less than average?  We should have a few million years left even if we’re average, and we’re not average.  We could be living fossils that last 500 million years.  There’s nothing genetically within us that says we have to go extinct. Unfortunately, I have these genes in me that are going to kill me and everyone else too.  But as a species we don’t have those genes.  Species don’t age out of existence, species are killed off, lose competition, they go extinct because they’re driven to extinction.  It’s not inherent.  It’s not within them.  

So if we keep track of Mother Earth and do some good engineering then we’re not going to go extinct.  But extinction and misery are two different things.  Not going extinct doesn’t mean you’re not going to be miserable, and by misery I mean, wholesale, enormous human mortality.  

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WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 16: CNN chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta (R) returns to the White House with CNN Washington bureau chief Sam Feist after Federal judge Timothy J. Kelly ordered the White House to reinstate his press pass November 16, 2018 in Washington, DC. CNN has filed a lawsuit against the White House after Acosta's press pass was revoked after a dispute involving a news conference last week. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
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