Do we really only respond to immediate threats?
I recently attended a talk by Dr. Michael Mann, a leading climate scientist who also has drawn more than his share of biased criticism and even very harsh personal attacks for his work.
His recent book, The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars, relates his work on reconstructing the climate back thousands of years, but as the title insinuates, how his findings have lead to political, philosophical and personal attack. Climate is always changing as shown in this reconstruction back millions of years.
But the key question remains: "Is human activity now a principal driver of some recent rapid changes in climate?"
Mann and almost 100 percent of 1000s of climate scientists believe the answer is yes, we are changing the earth's climate, as a recent survey of scientists shows.
So what does this have to do with the cave bear?
Archeologists (not meteorologists) have found some evidence that early humans and cave bears probably had contact.
Original art by Zdnek Burian
Imagine your family struggling to survive in the shelter of a cave and this monster shows up at the door or opening of the cave. You fight the cave bear to defend your family or clan.
The cave bear was a short-term threat. Humans are very good at responding to short-term threats. It's the way we have survived and are "wired" to respond to short term rather than long-term threats. The long-term change rise in global temperature during the last 100+ years is obvious.
The projections of most simulations of global temperatures 50-100+ years from now are pretty consistent and not really different than Michael Mann's "hockey stick". Latest here and below
IPCC WG1 2007
But for so many of us trying to balance this week's budget, or with no good planning for retirement 10-30 years from now (the Cave Bear is far away), how can we think about or make decisions about what might be major changes to the world and our country's climate 100 years from now?
Especially if some short term climate projections are for relatively steady temperatures over the next decade?
It's the question I asked Michael Mann. The climate Cave Bear is not here yet but he's coming. Once it's obvious it's here, our short term instinctive wiring won't help us easily change the climate any more than it helps us change the tide.
Long term decisions, meanwhile are very difficult to make and sure even more difficult to get consensus about from now, about 7 Billion of us on our changing earth.