Planet Earth Weekly

Climate Change and Renewable Energy: Saving Our Planet for Future Generations

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Some species may become extinct

The growing ranges of our food supply will change as the temperatures rise.

“Climate change is the current cause of drought and famine.”

By Dr. John J. Hidore

December 10, 2018—There are many causes of famine, but one of the major ones is drought. Most of the past catastrophic famines have been precipitated by drought resulting from short term shifts in the atmospheric circulation.

Crop Yield and Drought

Drought generally occurs when there is a short-term lack of precipitation lasting more then one growing season. They are the most common in regions which have a pronounced seasonal rainfall regime. Drought affects the quality and quantity of crop yields and the food supply for domestic animals. During severe droughts there may be a great loss of domestic animals. The loss of milk products or meat increases the impact of drought.

Climate Change

Our Food Supply may be Rapidly Reduced with Rises in Temperatures.

Great famines have occurred throughout the Asian continent from the time that agriculture spread over the continent. China, India, Russia, and many middle-east countries have suffered frequently from famine resulting from drought. A famine is described as occurring during the time of Abraham, about 2247 BC. A massive famine occurred in Egypt prior to the exodus of the Israelites.

Drought and famine are endemic in India and China. The oldest record of famine in India goes back at least to 400 B.C. and in China to 108 B.C. From the time of the earliest known famine there have been nearly continuous episodes of drought and famine in some part of the region. Other regions experience droughts as well. It should be mentioned here that what is often referred to as The Great Famine occurred in Europe in the period from 1315-1317.

Working toward 100% renewables

Working Toward Renewable Energy

Eighteenth Century Drought and Famine in India

In the mid-eighteenth century the people of India were largely subsistence farmers. It was primarily crop agriculture based on the whims of the monsoons. The country was under the control of the British East India Company, which kept the farmers on the verge of starvation under the best of conditions. Because of the general poverty of the masses and the marginal nature of the food supply, only a small shortfall in the crops in a given year produced scattered starvation. India is a huge country, and at the time only a ponderous transportation system existed. There was no means of moving large quantities of food, nor of moving large numbers of people to areas where food was available. When drought set in there were few alternatives to starvation available.

Drought and Famine: 1768

In the summer of 1768 there was little rain and crops were poor. The drought continued into 1769. Famine was apparent in the northern parts of Bengal by November 1769. By April 1770 over 30 million people in West Bengal and Bihar were affected. Fatalities were estimated at upwards of 10 million. The deaths were the result of both starvation and disease. Smallpox became epidemic along with the drought. The death toll from this famine is the highest known from any famine up to this time.

Famine has often been a problem in some part of the world since this event. As with this one, short term climate change has been the primary cause.

Drought and Famine



Climate Change and Human Population Growth Precipitated the Pleistocene Mass Extinction

climate change and species extinction

Climate change and extinction of species

“Extinction is the rule. Survival is the exception!”

By John J. Hidore

May 19, 2018—-Changes in climate can and do result in the elimination of species of plants and animals. Evolutionary adaptation and ecological equilibrium may not take place as rapidly as the climate changes. Adaptation by plant and animal species to environmental change may take years, centuries or thousands of years.

Different species respond at different rates and in different forms to climate change. Plants are always producing hybrids and individuals with mutations. In any plant species, there are those individuals better suited to the extremes of the range of the plant. These individuals may thrive under changing conditions while the majority perish. In this manner, the optimum conditions for the species changes to those of the new environment. Animals may also come under more and more stress with changing environmental condition and some species become extinct.

Mass extinction and climate change

Mass extinction throughout time

The Paleozoic/Mesozoic Mass Extinction

At intervals through geologic time, events have taken place that resulted in the demise of many if not most living species. Extreme cases are called extinctions or mass extinctions. A current definition of a mass extinction is a widespread and unusually rapid decrease in the number of species of plants or animals. There have been at least 13 mass extinctions since life became abundant on the planet. As a result of these mass extinctions 99 percent of all species that have existed on the planet no longer exist.

The most extensive mass extinction of all time happened at the boundary between the Paleozoic and Mesozoic Eras. Ninety percent of all living species died out and very drastic changes took place in the fauna of the planet with a major collapse of marine fauna, especially those living in shallow water on the continental shelves.

Among the organisms that perished were the trilobites. Trilobites were one of the dominant organisms of the seas. They survived the previous two extinctions but couldn’t withstand the changes that mark this period in earth’s history. While many land species disappeared, there was no parallel to the mass extinction of marine animals. The changes were so drastic that the life of the following Mesozoic Era was quite different from that of the Paleozoic Era.

climate change and mass extinction

Survival or mass extinction

The Pleistocene Mass Extinction was a Global Event

In the recent history of the earth there have been two periods of accelerated extinction of biota during which the extinction rates were greater than evolutionary causes would predict. These two periods are the end of the Pleistocene Epoch and the modern period.

The Pleistocene extinction, took place over a period of a few thousand years, at the end of the last glacial advance (l8,000 to 8000 BCE). In a relatively short period of time, whether measured in either geologic time, evolutionary time or in terms of human history on earth, a large number of species of mammals and birds disappeared without being replaced. The period of greatest species loss was from 13,000 to 8000 BCE. During this time there was a rapid warming of the planet. Especially impacted species were the larger animals weighing more than 40 kg (88 lbs)The spacing of the extinctions over several thousand years makes it difficult to ascribe to climate events alone. Furthermore, most of the extinct animals were large enough to be conspicuous and edible.

The rate of extinction varied from place to place and through time. The rate of extinction was lowest in Sub-Saharan Africa where modern humans coexisted with the large animals the longest. The rate of extinction increased as distance from the African region increased. The highest rate of extinction occurred in South America.

mass extinction of species

Climate change and mass extinction

To some extent the rate of extinction paralleled the spread of modern humans. It was long believed that large mammals were too powerful for humans to hunt. Perhaps this was true for the individual hunter with spear or bow and arrow, but when hunters went out in groups, it is quite possible they could have been very successful hunters of large animals, even using only simple tools.

In Africa, pygmies hunted elephants with primitive tools. The Plains Indians of North America demonstrated they could successfully hunt large animals with primitive weapons. Herds of animals were driven off cliffs or into water by the use of fire and were either subsequently destroyed in the fall or drowned, or at least made far more vulnerable to attack. Modern humans became more sophisticated hunters as they spread from their place of origin in Africa. Places that were isolated from human migration for a longer period of time, such as some islands, suffered less species loss.

The Mass Extinction in North America

The largest North American mammals were hardest hit. Seventy percent of existing species became extinct. Horses and camels, which had evolved in the New World, became extinct on this continent, as did mammoths and mastodons, which had migrated into the New World over the once dry land of the Bering Strait. The ground sloth, saber toothed tiger, dire wolf, giant buffalo, antelope, and the giant beaver also disappeared, and yet there was no concomitant loss of small mammals, plants or aquatic organisms.

The spread of the human species and the state of the cultural development at the end of the Pleistocene suggests that humans were a major factor in this accelerated extinction. A surprising number of the fossilized bones of extinct animals and birds were discovered associated with charcoal and stone tools, such as arrowheads or spear points. Some of the sharpened tools were still embedded in the bones. Humans appeared in North America rather suddenly from Asia, occupied the continent, and began hunting animals that had never had a chance to adapt to this special type of predator.

The most recent extinction is that taking place today. How severe it will be is yet to be determined.

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Climate change and mass extinction