Earth warming up to shed the human virus

HOW far it will go, and how dire the consequences will be, is still open to conjecture and debate. But there can no longer be any doubt that the world is warming up.

Aidan Semmens

HOW far it will go, and how dire the consequences will be, is still open to conjecture and debate.

But there can no longer be any doubt that the world is warming up.

The orthodox view is that the main reason for this is an increase of so-called greeenhouse gases - principally carbon dioxide - in the atmosphere. But I have just come across a dissenting view.

According to this version, global warming is simply the continuing thaw after the last ice age. Yes, atmospheric carbon dioxide is increasing - but that's a result of the warming, not its cause.

I'm not qualified to judge the scientific validity of that claim.

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It does sound, though, like a suspiciously handy get-out clause for the polluters and rapers of the planet - the large-scale burners of oil and coal, the destroyers of rainforest, the despoilers of the oceans.

But even if it's true, it's unlikely to be the whole truth. Mankind is not so easily absolved of responsibility.

I also read the other day, in a respected scientific journal, the idea that civilisation - any civilisation, not just ours - carries within it the inevitable seeds of its own destruction.

Consider for a moment the extraordinary number and complexity of things now available that even a few years ago were out of our dreams:

Mobile phones that take

pictures, play music and access the internet


Fridges big enough to hold a modest party.

DVD players and writers.

Internet access good enough and fast enough to download whole films and TV programmes to your home computer

That's just a snapshot of the electrical goods department.

Every time I go shopping I'm struck not just by the existence of all this gadgetry, but by its affordability. I have this nagging feeling that such an explosion of consumerism cannot be viable.

Capitalism and democracy may have seemed like humanity's least-worst options. But they are not inevitable or forever.

If, as the philosopher Francis Fukuyama memorably put it, they are “the end of history”, that can only be because history is rapidly approaching a sticky end.

Will global warming be the force that brings it to a horrid halt?

Or will mankind learn, just in the nick of time, to stop its rape and pillage of the planet?

According to some of the experts it's already too late. Whether by natural causes or our actions, they say, the

tipping-point is past.

It's too late to stop the increase in world temperature. Too late to prevent the rise in sea levels that will flood many of the world's major cities and some whole countries.

Instead of looking at ways to head off what is already inevitable, we should be considering how to cope when it happens.

This may be logical, but I can see a flaw.

Two of the most obvious results of the predicted catastrophe are economic collapse and war.

The trouble with preparing for either of those eventualities is that preparing for them is the surest way of making them happen.

If we're in a car hurtling towards a cliff-edge, it makes better sense to keep trying to apply the brakes than looking for the first-aid kit.

The adage about living each day as if it's your last has always struck me as very bad advice. Better, surely, to engage with life as if it's going on, even if it turns out otherwise.

Looked at as a whole entity, the Earth is sick and getting worse fast. Its immune system appears to be gearing up to shake off a very nasty virus that is running rampant.

I'd be rooting for it to succeed quickly and thoroughly, but for one inconvenient fact.

You and I, our loved ones and our possible descendants are all part of the virus.