mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
Settled Science: Climate Change Acquitted in Early Extinctions?

The image of the peaceful native Americans living harmoniously with nature has had a hold on the western imagination for hundreds of years.  The trouble is, it’s wrong.

New analysis of a 13,000 year old mastodon bone and the arrowhead stuck in it appears to prove that the first human inhabitants of North America were not only here much earlier than the old scientific consensus held; it implicates these early arrivals in the mysterious mass extinctions of Pleistocene mammals that had previously been largely blamed on climate change.  From the BBC:

Not just mastodons, but woolly mammoths, sabre-toothed cats, giant sloths, camels, and teratorns (predatory birds with a nearly four-metre wingspan) – all disappeared in short order a little over 12,700 years ago.

A rapidly changing climate in North America is assumed to have played a key role – as is the sophisticated stone-tool weaponry used by the Clovis hunters. But the fact that there are also humans with effective bone and antler killing technologies present in North America deeper in time suggests the hunting pressure on these animals may have been even greater than previously thought.

I am on balance glad that there are no predatory birds with twelve foot wingspans circling the playgrounds of North America today and my interest is piqued by reports of rapid climate change severe enough to be credibly implicated in mass extinctions.  Unless the campfires and barbecue pits of the late Stone Age generated a great deal more carbon that I would have thought possible, this seems to show that earth’s ‘modern’ climate is pretty unstable — even in the absence of human activity.

And if early humans rather than climate change were largely responsible for the ecological devastation, that suggests that nature can adapt to rapid climate change much better than many greens seem to believe.  Less extreme measures to deal with greenhouse gasses plus working with nature to reduce the costs could look a little more workable thanks to this fresh analysis of an ancient bone tool.

Features Icon
show comments
  • Jeremy, Alabama

    I thought Jared Diamond cleared this all up in Guns, Germs and Steel. When humans arrived in N America, they were fully developed, deadly efficient hunters. This is in contrast with Africa, where humans evolved and learned their trade, and African fauna learned to be afraid in enough time to avoid extermination.

    I think Diamond is a committed warmist, so it would be interesting to see if he has retracted his theory.

  • seanmom

    Anyone doubt this will be buried by the mainstream media?

    And, this just caught my eye:

    “I am on balance glad that there are no predatory birds with twelve foot wingspans circling the playgrounds of North America today….”

    Dr. Who fan, by chance?

  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    Global warming is [bunk].
    The Humano-centric ecology is Mother Nature’s finest creation. And any species which finds is way into the symbiotic Humano-centric ecology is guaranteed protection from extinction. The Humano-centric ecology now contains thousands of species, everything from apples to oranges, dogs to cats, birds to bees, bacteria to yeast, fish to fowl, fruits to vegetables, and the list is constantly growing. But if you listen to the Enviro Misanthropes, mankind is a cancer befouling mother earth, nothing is further from the truth.

  • David

    It is important to note that the extinction of North American megafauna is probably due to a combination of climate change combined with a new human presence. The end of the last Ice Age led to a significant change in rainfall and surface water, driving mammals to an ever shrinking number of watering holes, where they became easy pickings for human hunters. At the same time, the late paleontologist Paul Martin had suggested that human arrival in Pacific islands was also accompanied by localized extinction events, but this was centuries after the end of the ice age, so we can pin this one on man.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service