Lindzen's Thermostat Theory Swallowed by Giant Snake

Read time: 3 mins

A favorite theory of prominent “skeptic” Dr. Richard Lindzen just had a fatal encounter with a 60 million old snake.

Researchers from the University of Toronto discovered the bones of this massive bus-sized reptile in a coal mine in Columbia and published their findings in the prestigious journal Nature. How big was this monster? About 42 feet long, it weighed as much a small car. It would have had trouble slithering through a standard doorway. Its girth would come up to your belly button. 

The size of this massive snake also shows the tropics were much warmer than previously believed. Snake size depends on temperature - the hotter the bigger. For this beast that snacked on crocodiles to thrive, temperatures in the tropics must have averaged 30 to 34 degrees Celsius – three to four degrees hotter than the present. That throws cold water on the “thermostat” theory championed by Lindzen that in a warming world, the poles will warm much more than the equator, sparing the tropics from the worst of climate change.

This finding “refutes the idea of the thermostat”, says lead researcher Jason Head at the University of Toronto, and tells us “what equatorial temperatures will be as we continue to warm the planet: very hot.”

Climate scientist Matthew Huber of Purdue University agrees. He says that if Head is right about this massive serpents' toasty climate, “that's…bad news for us for the future. It says there's no magical thermostat that keeps the tropics at a reasonable temperature, that they will warm, too, in a global warming world”

While nature lovers can take comfort in the knowledge that snakes and rainforests can apparently survive much hotter conditions than previously believed, these findings are not good news for humans.

Researchers at the University of Washington published a paper in the prestigious journal Science just last month showing that half the world’s population could face food shortages by the end of century due to tropical warming.

“The stress on global food production from temperatures alone is going to be huge, and that doesn't take into account water supplies stressed by the higher temperatures,” said David Battisti, at the University of Washington, who led the study.

The researchers combined direct observations with data from 23 global climate models and determined there is greater than a 90 percent probability that by 2100 the lowest growing-season temperatures in the tropics and subtropics will be higher than any temperatures recorded there to date.

Currently 3 billion people live in the tropics and subtropics, and their number is expected to nearly double by the end of the century. The scientists said that many who now live in these areas subsist on less than $2 a day and depend largely on agriculture for their livelihoods.

“When all the signs point in the same direction, and in this case it's a bad direction, you pretty much know what's going to happen,” said Battisti. “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.”

That finding is perhaps made worse by the fact the researchers at the University of Washington did not have the benefit of knowing about our massive reptilian friend.

The bottom line is this: whatever wishful thinking existed that the tropics will somehow be able to “blow off steam” in a warming world just got swallowed by a giant snake.

For another take, check out Andrew Revkin at the NY Times DotEarth blog:  Snake Hints at Tropical Resilience to Warming.

This month we're giving away FREE copies Nobel Laureate Dr. Andrew Weaver's new book Keeping Our Cool: Canada in a Warming World.

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So how long do we have to wait for the next global warming disaster movie… the climate warms up and suddenly giant snakes appear everywhere; they try to eat every human except that they are too big to get through doors - picture a giant cat-and-mouse cartoon chase.

i wonder what the SUV of choice was back then? i wonder how the polar bears made it to today with such high temps back then? i wonder how the rain forests developed back then?  wait.wait. i know ….the heat increased CO2 which was released from the oceans. the co2 in turn feed the trees…a funny way this “pollutant” works..btw, refer to your journals like we refer to Prince ie…formerly known as….they used to publish peer reviewed articles.

mascereye’s comment is so full of stupid. It’s not worth teasing apart to rebut each piece of idiocy.

Aren’t you supposed to show supporting scientific references for such claims?

Trolling -  Intentionally making antagonistic arguments to derail the discussion.

Response to mascereye:

There are plenty of problems with your argument. First of all, the snake fossil is 60 million years old. This is long before polar bears or any other species of bear existed.

There was natural global warming before humans were around, and no climate scientist would dispute that. That does nothing to invalidate the fact that human generated greenhouse gasses will cause man-made global warming. Increased levels of greenhouse gasses will result in global warming whether the increase is due  to natural causes(such as volcanic eruptions) or man-made from burning fossil fuels.

Climate scientists do not deny that natural climate change continues to this day. You seem to be saying natural climate change proves that humans can’t be altering the Earth’s climate. That is nonsense. Natural and human caused climate change happens simultaneously, though humans are causing changes to occur much faster than they would on their own.

I’m not sure what you are getting at by saying “The heat increased CO2 which was released from the oceans”. I assume you are suggesting it was the warming that caused CO2 levels to rise, and not the other way around. Rising temperatures will decrease the ocean’s ability to store CO2, which will cause even higher levels of CO2. The science of how greenhouse gasses work is settled. Increasing CO2 levels will cause higher temperatures.

The higher temperatures and CO2 levels 60 mya were not necessary for the rainforest to develop. The rainforest in Columbia is doing just fine with current CO2 levels, at least where they are not being cut down. CO2 may be necessary for the survival of plants, but that does not mean that increasing the level of CO2 is a good thing for humans or life on Earth in general.

C02 levels have increased from about 315ppm in 1960 to 385ppm today, a more than 20% increase largely due to combustion of fossil fuels. CO2 levels are increasing at an accelerating rate.

Judging from some of your other posts, it is probably pointless to discuss this with you. For whatever reason, you do not accept the science behind global warming. I don’t really understand people who are so unwilling to entertain the possibility that the vast majority of climate scientists who believe in AGW might be right. If you have some evidence to discredit the existence of AGW, I’d love to see it.

I fully expect to see global temperatures approach or exceed the all time record high during the next El-Nino event. Increased levels of CO2 will also increase the level of acidity in the ocean, which could severely damage ocean ecosystems. Warming is not the only potential serious impact.