But in a different way this time - Here's another cataclysm that wiped out much of the life on earth in the past: multiple impacts from comets and asteroids sent up dust that blocked out sunlight, causing a major food shortage. Could this happen today? NASA is trying to make sure it doesn't by spotting asteroids BEFORE they strike. But it might not take a space rock to cause famine toda--climate change might do it instead, n HALF of the world, anyway.
Astronomers all over the world now are trying to make sure this never happens again. NASA admits they haven't always done this: in BBC News, Laurence Peter quotes Don Yeomans as saying, "It's getting much more predictable. Before 1998 we hadn't found many and didn't do much follow-up."
We have written records that tell about the famine that began with a "fog of dust" that blocked sunlight for 18 months around 1,500 years ago in March, 536 AD. In New Scientist, Ker Than quotes astronomer Dallas Abbott as saying, "The sun gave no more light than the moon."
This time the problem will be too much sunlight, not too little: the rapidly warming climate is likely to seriously alter crop yields in the tropics and subtropics by the end of this century, which will leave half the world's population facing serious food shortages. The population of this half of the earth, which stretches from about 35 degrees north latitude to 35 degrees south latitude, is already among the poorest and is growing faster than anywhere else. Many who now live in these areas subsist on less than $2 a day and depend largely on agriculture for their livelihoods.
Atmospheric scientist David Battisti says, "The stresses on global food production from temperature alone are going to be huge, and that doesn't take into account water supplies stressed by the higher temperatures--You are talking about hundreds of millions of additional people looking for food because they won't be able to find it where they find it now.
"You can let it happen and painfully adapt, or you can plan for it. You also could mitigate it and not let it happen in the first place, but we're not doing a very good job of that."
Art credit: freeimages.co.uk
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