Global Warming's Short-People Virtuous Cycle


Ron Bailey reports below on the not-so-novel suggestion of New York University and Oxford University researchers to give people the option of stunting themselves to cure climate change. But another paper in the journal Science suggests why there might be no need for this. Global warming will produce short people. The study found that during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, a period when temperatures on the planet rose by around 10 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit, small horses shrunk even smaller in size.

Reports The State Column:

The team of scientists say the resulting shrinkage was the result of natural selection. The team of scientists noted that the small horses likely evolved to be smaller during warming because smaller animals did better in that environment, perhaps because the smaller more easily shed excess heat.

The researchers, led by Ross Secord of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Jonathan Bloch of the Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida, studied the geochemical composition of the horse's teeth to document the decrease of the horses body size through the geologic timeframe of the PETM.

"Horses started out small, about the size of a small dog like a miniature schnauzer," said author Jonathan Bloch from the Florida Museum of Natural History. "What's surprising is that after they first appeared, they then became even smaller and then dramatically increased in size, and that exactly corresponds to the global warming event, followed by cooling."

One was the fossils themselves, recovered from the Cabin Fork area of the southern Bighorn Basin near Worland, Wyoming, Stephen Chester, an undergraduate student at Florida at the time, had the task of measuring the horses' teeth. What he found when he plotted them through time caught Bloch and Secord by surprise.

"He pointed out that the first horses in the section were much larger than those later on," Mr. Bloch recalled. "I thought something had to be wrong, but he was right — and the pattern became more robust as we collected more fossils."

A postdoctoral researcher in Bloch's lab for the first year of the project, Secord performed the geochemical analysis of the oxygen isotopes in the teeth. The results caught scientists by surprise.

"It was absolutely startling when Ross pulled up the first oxygen isotope data," Bloch said. "We looked at the curve and we realized that it was exactly the same pattern that we were seeing with the horse body size.

"For the first time, going back into deep time — going back 10s of millions of years — we were able to show that indeed temperature was causing essentially a one-to-one shift in body size within this lineage of horse. Because it's over a long enough time, you can argue very strongly that what you're looking at is natural selection and evolution — that it's actually corresponding to the shift in temperature and driving the evolution of these horses."

The study is the first to suggest that mammals may become smaller as global temperatures rise. In response to the increase in greenhouse gas, one-third of mammal species decreased in size, the study found. The findings raise questions as to how plants and animals respond to changes in the climate, including the changes in today's climate. A number of scientists, including researchers at NASA, predict that the Earth's temperature could rise upwards of 7 degrees Fahrenheit over the next couple of centuries, due to a 40 percent increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

In other words, we don't have to stunt ourselves. Global warming will stunt us. We don't have to put ourselves on an energy diet. Global warming will mean we will automatically consume less energy. In contrast to capitalism that Karl Marx said carried the seeds of its own destruction, global warming is carrying within it the seeds of its own cure. This is what is called a virtuous cycle. Can we now call a détente in the fight against global warming, please?

NEXT: Tate Watkins on Port-au-Prince's Aid Economy

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. "Horses started out small, about the size of a small dog like a miniature schnauzer,"

    I'm not sure how...but I'll just bet that the [AGRICULTURAL]+[CITY STATE] is behind this somehow!

    1. If you can appreciate the beauty in both men and women and find yourself attracted to the person regardless of their gender, then Datebi*cO'M is the site for you. Here you can find hundreds of thousands of open-minded singles & couples looking to explore their bisexuality.

      1. If you can appreciate the beauty in both men and women...

        and HOW!

  2. Fuck. I went from being an overlord in the last thread, to just another victim in this one.

  3. Heat loss in mammals follows a volume:surface area ratio. Thats why polar bears, penguins, walruses, seals and other cold-dwelling animals tend to be shaped like kegs. It might kill them to be in a temperate climate, though. They'll cook themselves. I'm not sure humans are subject to those same limitations due to things like climate control. We don't tend to see a large-small split in current human populations based on temperature, while you can see it in white-tailed deer in 2-3 generations.

    1. There is a principle in anthropology that says that people in cold climates have shorter limbs and thicker bodies. I forget the name.

    2. The whole topic is pretty ridiculous. Comparing something that happened over thousands or millions of years to something that MIGHT happen over a few hundred years is a stretch.

      Humans also can shed clothing and use fans and air conditioners and build shade, etc. so we are less likely to evolve over 2-3 generations than deer.

      If high temperatures always cause smaller animals, what explains the huge size of dinosaurs. It is all mildly interesting but its being used as yet another stupid scare stories and I'm sick of them.

  4. Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum

    Two very serious questions: 1. What caused stuff like this in the past? 2. Are those same factors around today?

    1. 1. What caused stuff like this in the past?

      SUVs, of course. And they had to be HUUUGE to haul those mega-fauna around.

      1. Seriously, though, nobody cares what caused climate variations before about 1880. It couldn't have been something that the Total State could regulate, so who cares?

        1. Socialism is the cause of climate change?

          1. No, but socialism is the cause of Climate Change or maybe Climate Change is the cause of socialists.

      2. That's what I was getting at. I'll agree the earth is warming, but geologically speaking, it does that all the time on its own.

  5. Negative Feedback ftw.

  6. Yeah, I thought the cold climate = big animal, hot climate = small animal deal was a long-observed truism.

    1. Yes, just as you see door mice in Norway while in tropical africa and india you see elephants. And hippos. And Rhinos.

      Those fucking idiots calling themselves scientists are not taking alot of stuff into account, or at least not reporting on it. Leg length, foot design,tooth design, bone thickness etc. . All of it most likely points towards forestation rather than to temperature change.
      Once again they are trying to make the facts fit their narrative.

      1. Those fucking idiots calling themselves scientists are not taking alot of stuff into account

        Told ya.

  7. Global warming will stunt us

    No it won't. We don't tend to respond much to environmental factors any more because of the level to which we control our environment. If it gets warmer, we will install more air conditioning and other cooling mechanisms.

    This entire discussion is retarded beyond belief. I assume this was touched on earlier in the day, but no males will voluntarily stunt themselves, because chicks don't like short guys (sorry, Napoleons out there). In general, we prefer to be taller; it helps in many sports, chicks like it, full nutrition causes us to grow to our full potential, and so on.

    This has to be the dumbest "scientific" research in quite some time.

    1. In the land of the stunted man I am truly a KING!!!!

      1. I have no penis.

        1. Hi Rectal.

    2. This. Humans are effectively outside of evolution as we adapt the environment to us not the other way around. And in the future we will be probably be able to selective change not only the environment but ourselves as well.

      1. Yeah, our modifying ourselves will be a factor as well, but a little fucking warming won't even need that; we'll just turn the AC up a little to compensate.

      2. To be outside of evolution we would have to be immortal until we reproduce. We still face selective pressures. People still die before they are able to produce offspring.

        Our intelligence has made us very robust creatures. Something like this climate change won't change those of us in the developed world at all. But we are not "outside of evolution" by any stretch.

        We are still evolving. We will continue to do so right up to the day when we completely control our DNA or move onto some other static system.

      3. Ask the Professor Brothers about the future:

    3. This has to be the dumbest "scientific" research in quite some time.

      It's not dumb because ... grants.

  8. It shrinks?


  9. That only assumes humans will willingly subject themselves to the forces of natural selection, i.e., let the large people die from heat stroke.

    1. We "let people die" of starvation and disease all the time.

      1. 3rd World|3.12.12 @ 7:43PM|#
        "We "let people die" of starvation and disease all the time."

        Slight correction: Most times the 3rd-world government policies *cause* people to die of those things.

  10. What you talkin 'bout Global Warming!

  11. Wasn't this Dr. Totenkopf's evil plan in "Sky Captain"? All we need is a computer edited compilation video of Sir Lawrence Olivier and a lot of green screens...

  12. The team of scientists say the resulting shrinkage ...

    I found it har..... difficult to proceed past this sentence.

    True stupidity can never be fully achieved without a team of scientists.

  13. United States Virgin Islands Republican caucuses, 2012
    Candidate Votes Percentage Unbound Delegates Delegates
    Ron Paul 112[3] 29.2% 1 1
    Mitt Romney 101 26.3% 6 7
    Rick Santorum 23 6.0% 0 0
    Newt Gingrich 18 4.7% 0 0
    Uncommitted 130 33.9% 2 1
    Unprojected delegates:[4] 0 0
    Total: 384 100% 9 9

    1. Young virgins for Paul!

      1. Now that is a campaign sign I would be proud to put in my front yard!

    2. That's a pretty weird system they have down there, where the caucusers also directly vote for the delegates in addition to their non-binding vote for the candidate.

      So basically, their vote for the actual candidate is completely meaningless. So bizarre.

      Also, you've got to like how "Uncommitted" beat out all the candidates.

  14. Sounds like the subject of that one Dead Kennedys song on the Bedtime For Democracy album. If I remember right the song is actually called 'Shrink'.

  15. OT

    Hee-hee. Stupid bird-hating occupiers.

  16. Yeah, but we can counter the shrinkage by following the Paleo-Diet and lifestyle!: don't eat any grains; eat only raw meat( meat that you've just been running after to kill with your bow and arrow or bare hands), wild vegetables, and berries. Growl while you eat, being prepared to fight off neighbors who might take your food with sharpened stones. Constantly be on the move throughout the day, varying bursts of speed with slower movements. Only wear enough clothing to cover your genitals. Don't use any modern plumbing, shitting under a bush or in the trees. Sleep outside. Murder someone at least once a week - great way to blow off excess anger and stress.
    Studies show, our ancestors, who lived before the agricultural age, not only didn't have modern diseases like cancer and diabetes, were much TALLER. Some as tall as giraffes.

  17. cold = bigger critters and hot = smaller critters?

    Explain: Dinosaurs (big reptiles), Elephants, Rhinos, Hippos, Crocs, Lions, Tigers, Anacondas, the Arctic fox, the Arctic hare, and the Arctic tern.

    1. Dinosaurs (big reptiles)

      Didn't you see Jurassic Park?

  18. I thought that the theory was relevant only for animals of the same species.

    1. Chimpanzees are much bigger in Norway than in the Congo.

  19. " we were able to show that indeed temperature was causing essentially a one-to-one shift in body size within this lineage of horse"

    Stupid scientists and their stupid logical fallacies? Have they never heard of "post hoc ergo propter hoc"? It's obvious that a shift in horse body size caused a one-to-one shift in global temperatures. Duh.

  20. This news has made a certain surly midget from Lowell very happy.

  21. The best phenotype for beating the heat is people who reflect more sunlight than they exhale CO2.

    Greens should lobby Vanity Fair to put bald albinos with rapidly growing heads on the cover ASAP.

    1. I can't help you with all of that!

  22. Global warming won't stunt our growth, but maybe the greens will think of some bio-engineering...

    "... to adopt something like China's one child policy. There was a group of doctors in Britain who recently advocated a two-child maximum. But at the end of the day those are crude prescriptions---what we really care about is some kind of fixed allocation of greenhouse gas emissions per family. If that's the case, given certain fixed allocations of greenhouse gas emissions, human engineering could give families the choice between two medium sized children, or three small sized children. From our perspective that would be more liberty enhancing than a policy that says "you can only have one or two children." A family might want a really good basketball player, and so they could use human engineering to have one really large child. "

  23. From a vile article in the Atlantic today with a modern day eugenicist.

  24. Somebody should tellVanity Fair bald albino dwarfs with flat heads are the new black.

    Since sixteen square meters of sunlight reflecting white equals taking a ton of CO2 out of the air , VF's new Green issue should discuss scalp stretching as the next big thing in cosmetic surgery.

  25. You left this off:

    Another indirect means of mitigating climate change is to enhance and improve our moral decisions by making us more altruistic and empathetic.

    There is evidence that higher empathy levels correlate with stronger environmental behaviors and attitudes (Berenguer 2007). ...Indeed, test subjects given the prosocial hormone oxytocin were more willing to share money with strangers (Paul J. Zak et al. 2007) and to behave in a more trustworthy way (P. J. Zak et al. 2005). Also, a noradrenaline reuptake inhibitor increased social engagement and cooperation with a reduction in self-focus during a mixed motive game (Tse and Bond 2002). ...

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.