Rise of the Hobbits

Life as a hobbit isn't all that bad: You get to live in New Zealand, eat sweet snacks with wizards, and defeat fire-breathing dragons. Image: New Line Productions

This just in: According to the Christian Science Monitor, global warming could turn us all into hobbits:

It’s been long known that the Earth’s rising surface temperatures portend mass extinction, prolonged droughts, extreme weather, and rising seas. Now we can add a new worry: Humanity could be transformed into a race of hobbits.

Oh, that I were making this up. What hope that would give me for the fate of my nation, and for one of its most hallowed institutions of journalism. Alas, I am not. The CSM story is based on a peer-reviewed article in Science, which determined that because a single species of horse shrank when temperatures warmed suddenly 55 million years ago the same thing could happen to homo sapiens any time.

Now, let’s talk about the logic here. One species of horse (a miniature one, at that), living without a single scientist around to examine its habitat, shrinking during a time of warming temperatures tens of millions of years in the past, is proof that you should pay $8 a gallon for gasoline. Pretty straightforward, wouldn’t you say? Actually, not.

Did the scientists determine that predators of the horses remained stable in terms of their size and population? No, they did not. Did they determine that the food sources for the horses remained stable. No, they did not. Did they determine that precipitation and sources of water remained stable for the horses? No, they did not. Did they determine that salt and other minerals remained stable for the horses during this timespan? No, they did not.

This is science? No, it is not. Once again, Earth has cooled for the last 6,000 years. What now is tundra ringing the Arctic Ocean was forest during the Holocene Climactic Optimum. We were warmer during the Eemian and the interglacial before that. But, no matter, the three-quarter-of-a-degree-Celsius warming of the last century means that all Hell is about to break loose.

I’d write a lot longer piece here, but my hobbit fingers are struggling to reach all the keys!

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About Harold Ambler

I am a lifelong environmentalist. I started my journalism career at The New Yorker, where I worked as a copy editor. Since then, my own work has appeared in The New York Daily News, The National Review Online, The Atlantic Wire, The Huffington Post, The Berkeley Daily Planet, The Providence Journal, Brown Alumni Monthly, The Narragansett Times, Rhode Island Monthly, and Providence Business News.
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3 Responses to Rise of the Hobbits

  1. Kevin says:

    I’m not sure that global warming has made me any shorter, but it does seem to be making me fatter. Also, it’s giving me gray hairs!

  2. Harold,

    I wanted to express how humorous, factual and downright accurate I found your blog post: “Rise of the Hobbits” to have been.

    You drew closely on the scientific biases relating the Sifrhippus or the “shrinking horse” that suddenly lost its stature 55 million years ago. You nailed it when you note that not a single scientist was around to record any sort of confounding variables such as predators, availability of food sources, precipitation patterns, availability of water sources or the availability of salt or other minerals, that could have possibly contributed to the decrease in size.

    The shrinking of a prehistoric animal from thousands of years ago does not correlate to paying higher gas prices at the pump and I find hilarity (and I sense you do too) in the loose correlation of the two. These are two variables than cannot be deemed as causality.

    What is even more astounding is how people can correlate this downsized horse to a possible decrease in the height of humans today. Studies have shown that children today are much taller and heavier than those of the past, even a midst the changing climate.

    I thought you might find the following video clip about Sifrhippus, the “shrinking horse”, interesting. I hope you will embed it into your blog and maybe in the future, we could swap blog roll links and widgets.

    “Scientists Liken Shrinking Horse with Climate Change”

    http://www.newsy.com/videos/scientists-liken-shrinking-horse-with-climate-change

    The clip does a great job of concisely sourcing and compiling news reports to emphasize the scope and context the content is being reported on. Newsy synthesizes and analyzes news into neutral comprehensive video clips showing a variety of opinions on the same topic.

    I really appreciate your time, consideration and commentary! Thank you!

    Lyndsey Garza
    Community for Newsy
    Twitter: @newsyvideos
    http://www.facebook.com/newsyvideos

  3. “I’d write a lot longer piece here, but my hobbit fingers are struggling to reach all the keys!”

    You don’t need to reach all the keys, just the ones that spell “climate sensitivity”.

    From a fellow Hobbit, now a little horse from laughing too long and too loud.

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