Climate science so simple even a caveman could do it.
It is the late Pleistocene, some 10 -12,000 years ago, the end of the last ice age. Neanderthal man is just beginning to notice that the climate is getting warmer. At that time, the ocean shoreline on the North American west coast is about 10-25 miles farther out than now. The east coast is even broader, generally from 30 to 100 miles farther out. Imagine now the fear that struck the hearts of the Neanderthal people as they watched the shoreline inch forward year after year as the land they knew and loved was inexorably claimed by an unmerciful ocean.
The Neanderthal shamans and tribal chieftains proclaimed to the Neanderthal people that it was the deadly emissions of CO2 from their campfires that were causing this disaster. On his tablet, Neanderthaldom in the Balance, the Profit Goregon lamented that the discovery of fire was the worst thing that ever happened to the planet. Profit Goregon warned that the Neanderthals had only ten winters to act.
Upon learning this, the Neanderthals wailed and wept and threw snow on their heads and tore their hides. They promised to do whatever the shamans and chieftains told them to do if it would stave off this impending doom.
After much deliberation and consultation, the shamans and chieftains proclaimed that the only solution was that the Neanderthal people must bring increased tithes of all their beads, berries and fish to them. This would enable the shamans and chieftains to devote themselves fully to determining how to solve the devastating problem of campfire emissions.
With their newfound freedom from having to provide for themselves, the shamans and chieftains were able to devise a cap-and-tithe program. Anyone lighting a campfire would be required to bring still more of their beads, berries and fish to the shamans and chieftains. This would have two wonderful and delightful consequences: It would cause the Neanderthal people to cut back on their use of fire, which is unnecessary in the first place and hurtful to the planet in the second, and it would generate still more revenue for the deserving shamans and chieftains and allow them to spend even more time in contemplative thought pondering on what things should be done for the good of the Neanderthal people. In their leisure, the shamans and chieftains developed a new solar technology to replace fire. It was discovered that certain clear quartz rocks could be used to focus the rays of the sun to a small point where much heat would be generated. This clean and renewable energy technology would replace the antiquated and planet destroying fire. Certainly, it would take slightly longer to cook food with a quartz rock and the quartz rocks cost ten times more beads, berries and fish than firewood, but the benefits to the planet would be more than worth it. And the clear quartz rocks could also be used to heat other rocks that could be put in the cave to keep everyone warm during the cold nights.
As always, there were some extremists among the Neanderthals who, with no basis other than their dislike and envy of the shamans and chieftains, argued that fire was good and brought innumerable benefits to the Neanderthals. But good Neanderthal subjects did not listen to them and called them Australopithecines because of their backwardness and their desire only to build a bridge to the past.
As we sadly now know, the words of Profit Goregon rang all too true. The Neanderthal people did not heed his warnings early enough and were too slow in switching from campfires to quartz rocks. The ten winters came and went and the familiar ice sheets melted and withdrew and the seas transgressed dozens of miles to where they are today. And what of Neanderthal man? Alas, Neanderthal man is no more. They paid the price of being too slow to heed the warnings of Profit Goregon and the shamans and chieftains who were much, much smarter than they.
So, what can we learn from their frightful example? We see that even the CO2 from Neanderthalian campfires was enough to end the ice age, melt the ice sheets, and raise the sea level, and that this had nothing whatsoever to do with any natural processes. And we see where even the slightest selfish hesitancy to do what is right for the planet can lead.
by Bob Baird, PhD, PG