[Note: in Australian English, barracking means to shout support for]
Everyone wants the underdog to win. At least I do but I think I take this further by also favouring the weak, helpless and those that cannot fight for themselves especially animals and children. They are at our mercy. We are the bullies.
Climate change will be tough for humans, particularly for those living in the hotter, poorer regions of the planet but it will be fatal for many species of animals. I have these thoughts on my mind when I read recently about the plight of Australian animals this summer. The Queensland heatwave last week killed 100,000 bats. This morning, I see that flying foxes are struggling ahead of a Victorian heatwave.
A common response from people when the topic of climate change is raised is that the climate has changed substantially in the past, which is true, but the implication is that because it has changed in the past, we needn’t worry about it now. Earth has swung from snowball Earth, with ice from pole to pole, to an ice-free hothouse Earth. But can we take comfort from this history? I don’t think so. Firstly, they were accompanied by mass extinctions of the plants and animals living at the time. The largest of these extinctions was the Permian mass extinction of 252 million years ago which wiped out about 93-97% of all species. If species are to be given a chance at surviving the changing climate, they must adapt. But adaptation requires time and we are changing the climate at a rate unprecedented in at least the last 11,300 years. Another extinction event, the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), saw a rise in global temperatures of more than 5°C over a period of a few thousand years. In stark contrast, our present haemorrage of CO2 could result in a 4°C rise since preindustrial times by 2100. It is also worth noting that humans did not exist during these times of past climatic change.
One other thing that I think is relevant here is that some folks argue that the temperature change will be small and so we needn’t worry. But this is inconsistent with what we know of past climates. The climate has changed dramatically with large swings in temperature. It is therefore not consistent to argue on the one hand that the climate has changed dramatically in the past and then on the other to say that it will not change very much at all in the present time.
With the heatwave set to continue in the Southern States of Australia this week perhaps we can spare a thought for the animals and consider that this is just the beginning.