Climate Change Killed Dinosaurs, Are Humans Next?

Climate Change Killed Dinosaurs, Are Humans Next?
Dead dinosaur Joseph Novak / Flickr CC BY 2.0

As children, we’ve been taught that the massive asteroid that hit the Earth some 66 million years ago wiped out all dinosaurs in the face of the planet.


But a team of researchers from the University of Reading claim that 50 million years before the 10 km-wide asteroid hit the Earth, climate change took a toll on the population of dinosaurs across the world.

Although the asteroid was to blame for completely obliterating the dinosaur population when it hit the Earth 66 million years ago, researchers have confirmed based on paleontological data that climate change, particularly the cooling of global temperature on Earth, played a vital role in decreasing their population.

The question as to what exactly causes the extinction of dinosaurs remains a subject of heated debate, according to the research abstract published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS).

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To understand the other factors that contributed to the decline or extinction of dinosaurs, the research team, headed by University of Reading Paleontologist Dr. Manabu Sakamoto, used statistical analysis of the unearthed data.

“We find overwhelming support for a long-term decline across all dinosaurs and within all three major dinosaur groups. Our results highlight that dinosaurs showed a marked reduction in their ability to replace extinct species with new ones, making them vulnerable to extinction and unable to respond quickly to and recover from the final catastrophic event 66 million years ago,” the research abstract reads.

In a report from the BBC, study co-author Mike Benton of Bristol University told BBC News that during the 50 million population decline among dinosaurs, the weather was rapidly changing, and global temperature was starting to get colder.

“World climates were getting cooler all the time. Dinosaurs rely on quite warm climates and mammals are better adapted to the cold. So there might have been a switch over in any case without the asteroid impact,” Benton was quoted as saying by BBC News.

Also read: Global Warming Needs Your Attention! February Smashes Global Temperature Record

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  • Silent Majority

    A modern 6 ft. human has a brain with approximately 35 times the volume of a 50 ft. dinosaur. Therein lies at least one major distinction which must be drawn when examining the adaptability between humans and dinosaurs.

    Human inhabit climate zones from the far, cold arctic to the equatorial jungles of Africa and South America. Humans have lived through ice ages and periods warmer than the present. Now, if you are positing that humans, similar to dinosaurs, would be adversely affected by climate getting colder, you are correct. Growing seasons around the world were far shorter during the Pleistocene Epoch when glaciers were a dominant feature of the earth and during which humans evolved and spread. But it wasn’t until the retreat of the glaciers that humans thrived.

    We are naturally hot weather creatures who have used our various technologies to adapt. As such, we will not be threatened by a few degrees of warming or a few meters of sea water along the coasts. And given the massive land areas in the northern hemisphere that will experience longer growing seasons, there is vast opportunity for human population expansion in those areas.

    Not recognizing the advantages and opportunities of a warming climate will only lead to bad policies and wasted resources attempting to “stop climate change.”