3,2,1, Panic: Climate change could make humans shrink

Great Headlines in Science: 

“Climate crisis could make humans shrink in size, says fossil expert”

The Incredible Shrinking Man

Where science is just like a movie set

It’s another great moment in science leaving beleaguered teenagers wondering if their kids will be shorter than them. Perhaps if  they can buy an EV, they wonder, Johnny will be as tall as his dad?

Or maybe the journalist could have said “in five million years” because that’s the kind of time-frame this scientist is talking in:

Nicola Davis, The Guardian

The climate crisis may lead the human race to shrink in size, as mammals with smaller frames appear better able to deal with rising global temperatures, a leading fossil expert has said.

Let’s make that “in five million years without air-conditioning”. Because the whole story applies to humans living au naturel, like Eocene Horsies did.

Prof Steve Brusatte, a palaeontologist at the University of Edinburgh, suggested that the way in which other mammals have previously responded to periods of climate change could offer an insight into humans’ future.

He likened the potential plight of people as similar to that of early horses, which became smaller in body size as temperatures rose around 55m years ago, a period called the Paleocene Eocene Thermal Maximum.

If only solar panels had been around to save Eohippus from shrinking eh?

But it takes about three minutes research to find out the tallest humans don’t live in Iceland, but in Rwanda, Sudan, North America, or  Bosnia, or probably wherever the best damn steaks are the easiest to catch. Apart from genes, Human height is largely due to protein intake, so if everyone goes vegan, “to save the planet” climate change will definitely make humans shrink.

Brusatte’s reasoning is essentially to ignore that air-conditioning neutralizes natural-selection-by-temperature, talk about 50 million year old horses, and quote a Nature paper on environmental variables that predict human body size in the last million years. But the Nature paper doesn’t measure or even mention dietary protein. It’s another rabbit hole to nowhere by academic specialists who didn’t pick up the phone find someone who knew as much as a well-read blogger.

Every time we spent tax dollars to find a crisis, instead of finding the truth, we ruin science a little bit more.

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June 7, 2022 at 12:49PM

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