Falling Down the Energy Ladder

By Viv Forbes with help from volunteer reviewers, and Steve Hunter, Cartoonist.

When man first appeared on Earth he had no implements, no clothes, no farms, no mineral fuels, no machines and no electricity – his only tools were his brains, hands and muscles.


Everything that enables humans to live comfortably in a world where nature is indifferent to our survival has been discovered, invented, mined or manufactured over thousands of years by our inquisitive and innovative ancestors.

The history of civilisation is essentially the story of man’s progressive access to more efficient, more abundant and more reliable energy sources – from ancestral human muscles to modern nuclear power. It is also the story of how to store that energy and deliver it with minimal losses to where it is most needed.

There are seven big steps on the human energy ladder –

  1. Stone age energy – human energy, fire, stone tools and geothermal energy
  2. Energy from farmed animals and plants
  3. Solar Power – wind and water
  4. Gunpowder and explosives
  5. Coal, steel, the steam engine and electricity
  6. Oil/gas and the internal combustion engine
  7. Nuclear power

Stone Age Energy

Every person on Earth today is descended from a survivor of the recurring Pleistocene Ice Ages. They survived only because they were able to extract energy from a cold, dry, barren environment.

Man’s first and greatest energy step was discovering how to harness fire for warmth, cooking, hunting, metal working and warfare. This ability to use fire is the one thing that clearly separates humans from every other species.


For centuries the main fire-energy fuels were organic natural resources such as wood, charcoal, peat, grass, animal dung and fats/oils extracted from animals and plants. As human population increased, these energy sources became scarce as the land and seas around towns and villages were stripped of their natural carbon fuels.

When the great ice sheets covered much of the northern hemisphere, firewood was scarce and solar energy was at a low point – keeping warm was difficult. But as the ice started to retreat, there was more volcanic activity and some lucky cave men discovered geothermal energy – they could bathe and cook in volcanic springs and hot mud, getting pleasure from the warmth and health benefits from the trace elements present. Geothermal energy also allowed Stone Age people to harvest evaporites containing essential minerals like sulphur and salts of sodium, calcium, magnesium, copper and boron.

Early humans also discovered that stone-age sticks and stones could help them apply their muscle energy more effectively – with more force or at a greater distance. They used sticks for waddies, digging tools, spears, boomerangs, clubs and later bows and arrows; and stones for clubs, grinders, axes, knives and spear and arrow points. These tools increased their hunting ability, providing food, furs and feathers to generate and conserve body energy.


The Development of Farming

The second step on the energy ladder was built when some smart hunter/gatherers discovered how to access more reliable energy by domesticating animals and plants. This lead to more permanent settlements where sheep, cattle, goats and pigs provided a steady supply of carbon-based food energy, and dogs, horses, donkeys and camels multiplied human energy for transport, hunting and warfare. Farmers also nurtured fruiting trees and grasses such as einkorn, wheat, rice, barley, oats, corn and sugar cane. These provided more dependable and abundant food energy for humans and their animals.

Farmers were soon producing surpluses, which lead to the development of farmers’ markets, which are energy conservation mechanisms. Initially farmers bartered with tool-makers and hunters, but the difficulty of matching the needs of buyers and sellers and the wish to store values from good seasons for use in bad seasons, led to the development of special stores of value that came to be called money – shells, gems and eventually precious metals such as gold and silver were found to supply good money.

Solar Power

About this time humans ascended the third step on their energy ladder – the ability to harness wind/hydro/solar power for sailing ships, windmills, water-wheels, grain mills and drying food. The low energy density and unpredictability of these weather-dependent energy sources was obvious, even to our ancestors, who thus became keen weather-watchers. They read the signals of winds and clouds, and recorded the cycles of the weather and the solar system. Some who follow their methods produce better forecasts than today’s computer models


Gunpowder and Explosive Energy

The fourth big step was the invention of gunpowder by the Chinese, which gave humans the first glimpse of the enormous power of concentrated chemical energy. This led to the widespread use of explosives for hunting, armaments, civil engineering and entertainment. Modern mining and quarrying is totally dependent on the use of explosive energy.

Coal, Steel, Steam Engines and Electricity

The fifth energy step was gigantic, with three elements – coal, the steam engine and electricity.

Coal has been used for centuries for cooking, home heating and black-smithing (when Captain Cook sailed up the Australian coast in 1770, he had a supply of coal on board “The Endeavour”).

The real energy revolution was born in the 1760’s when James Watt developed a more efficient coal-powered steam engine. Then in 1829, Robert Stephenson developed a practical steam-powered rail locomotive. Suddenly coal-powered steam engines were moving trains and ships, pumping water and powering factories, traction engines and road vehicles. Early steam engines were driven by coal, but other hydro-carbons, wood, concentrated solar energy or nuclear power can be used.

Some coals convert to coke when heated in the absence of air. This was used as a cleaner fuel in homes as well as becoming an essential raw material to produce the iron and steel that built our modern world.

Electricity generated by steam engines powered by coal was the magic tool for making clean energy available cheaply to city dwellers. Coal also provided the raw material for coal gas, which could be stored and supplied easily by pipe for heating and lighting.

Suddenly these two clean silent fuels, coal gas and electricity, made redundant all the whale oil lamps, candles, kerosene lanterns, wood burning stoves and coal burning boilers and open fires that were truly polluting the air in homes and cities with smoke, ash, dust, sulphur, soot and at times, the deadly carbon monoxide. All of these real pollutants are removed in modern coal-fired power stations whose clean controlled emissions are mainly nitrogen, water vapour and carbon dioxide, all non-visible, non-toxic, plant-friendly natural gases of life.

Oil and the Internal Combustion Engine

The sixth step on the energy ladder also transformed our world – the discovery of oil and gas and the invention of the internal combustion engine. The mighty coal-fired steam engine still dominates electricity generation, but the compact and powerful internal combustion engine won the battle to power mobile machines. Suddenly cities that were choking with horse manure found relief in petrol-driven cars, buses and trucks. Being easier to store and transport, oil also replaced coal in ships and was soon powering the mighty British navy, and later still, powered civil and military air fleets.

Steam cars and electric cars got a good work-out over 100 years ago, but neither could compete with the oil-powered internal combustion engine.


These two engines, the coal-powered steam engine and the oil/gas-powered internal combustion engine created the modern world and still provide most of our warmth, light, food, water, mobility and industrial power.

The energy density and abundance of these two hydro-carbon fuels gave an enormous boost to human access to energy, and massively relieved the pressure on natural “green” fuels from forests, whales, bees and animal fats.

The transformation of transport was remarkable. Just 3-4 generations ago, a team of up to twenty bullocks took days or weeks to haul a wagon-load of wool bales, forest logs or bagged wheat to markets, and the bullocks needed fresh supplies of feed and water every night.

In 1896, Henry Lawson described it well in two stanzas from his great Australian poem “The Teams”:


The Teams

(this photo is held by Viv Forbes (whose father started his working life as a bullock driver hauling logs from Mount Lindsay in Northern NSW). This photo was taken by a pioneer clergy-man in the Boonah area)

A cloud of dust on the long white road,

And the teams go creeping on

Inch by inch with the weary load;

And by the power of the green-hide goad

The distant goal is won.

But the rains are heavy on roads like these;

And, fronting his lonely home,

For weeks together the settler sees

The teams bogged down to the axle-trees,

Or ploughing the sodden loam

Cattle and sheep to feed the cities were moved by drovers who spent weeks or even months on the road. Today one diesel-powered road train or semi-trailer can carry its own fuel and water plus a load of livestock to the distant cities in a day or so. Refrigerated trucks do even better – swiftly carrying dressed sides of meat from the abattoir direct to butcher shops.

Nuclear Power

Earth runs on nuclear power, from the sun and from geothermal heat. The seventh step in the human quest for additional energy was discovering how to harness atomic energy for generating electricity, fuelling naval vessels, in medical procedures and creating even more powerful explosive devices.

If the “zero emissions” evangelists were fair dinkum, they would support emissions-free nuclear power, but it seems that they oppose every energy option that is feasible.

Government and Energy

As mankind was ascending the seven steps of the energy ladder from the stone-age to the nuclear age, governments were also expanding their scope, power and cost.

Most tribes had tribal leaders and warriors who defended small hunting territories and enforced local tribal customs and laws. However, when farming developed, leaders or powerful land-owners discovered that other farmers and their fixed assets could easily be taxed to pay for their own “protection”. This encouraged the development of central governments with their officials, tax collectors, police and soldiers. To defend their generally increasing appetite for tax revenue, governments needed a continual supply of real or imagined dangers to justify their taxes. And they learnt how to clip and debase the currency diverting value secretly to their own ends. From this point on, government power has increased with each real or invented community crisis – from village control, to district, state, federal and continental governments. The latest such “crisis” concerns “global warming” or “the climate crisis”, which is being milked endlessly to promote global carbon taxes and global government.

Nothing stands still on planet Earth. Since the dawn of time, Earth has seen continual geological and climatic change – shifting continents, rising and falling sea levels, volcanos and tsunamis, droughts and floods, migrations and extinctions, hurricanes and heat waves, ice ages and warm eras.

Humans flourished in the warm eras and suffered in the cold dry eras. Climate will continue changing, but one thing is certain – access to abundant, reliable energy is the key to surviving future climate challenges.

Today’s massive global human population owes its existence, prosperity and comfort to our economical and reliable energy supplies, particularly the hydrocarbon fuels – oil, coal, and gas. The world supports more people than ever before, with fewer famines; but those with access to abundant reliable energy supplies have stabilised their populations and contribute most to caring for nature, culture and the poor. The carbon dioxide recycled by the usage of hydrocarbon fuels is greening the world and adding to food supplies as native and farmed plants flourish in the warm, moist, carbon-rich atmosphere.

Back Down the Energy Ladder?

This long history of energy progress is now under threat from strong forces using any environmental alarm to deny human access to efficient energy. Using every sensational scare that can be whipped up, they tax, oppose, hamper or restrict farming, forestry, fishing, grazing, irrigation, mining, exploration, hydro-carbon fuels, steam engines, combustion engines and nuclear power. The “zero-emissions” zealots want to force us backwards down the energy ladder to the days of human, animal and solar power. They oppose the main thing that sets us apart from all other species – the use of fire from explosives, coal, oil, gas or nuclear power.

They have yet to explain how our massive fleet of planes, trains, tractors, harvesters, trucks, road trains, container-ships and submarines will be powered and lubricated by windmills, treadmills, windlasses, solar energy, distilled whiskey and water wheels.


Western nations, driven by a global agenda of climate alarmism, are destroying their profitable industries with carbon taxes; and their promotion of expensive, intermittent green energy is pushing us back down the energy ladder; and our competitors in Asia are climbing the energy ladder as quickly as they can. At the same time, the enormous waste of public money on government promotion of the climate industry has created a global fiscal mess.

Unless reversed, this wasteful de-energising policy will drive much of the world’s population back to the poverty and famines which often prevailed in the past. Some see the inevitable de-population this would cause as a desirable goal.


Green energy zealots want to push everyone off the energy ladder which has given us the modern world.

All cartoons were created by Steve Hunter. They may be reproduced providing the artist and the Carbon Sense Coalition are acknowledged.

Disclosure: Viv Forbes is a science graduate, geologist, mineral economist, farmer and Chairman of the Carbon Sense Coalition. He has spent a lifetime in formal and informal study of climate, weather and the science and economics of carbon. He has a vested interest in getting cheap and reliable electricity for farmers, industries and consumers, and in protecting natural grasslands and their soils and grazing animals. He also owns shares in a small Australian company which exports coal to steel mills and power stations in Asia; that market will grow if we destroy our industries in Australia with silly energy policies.

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June 2, 2016 5:18 pm

Excellent article BUT, the author fails to recognize the true intent of the left…Less Humans on planet Earth ! …..Of course, they won’t “volunteer” to be the first of those “Less Humans” !

george e. smith
Reply to  Marcus
June 2, 2016 6:06 pm

Well we can be pretty certain that it was not humans (homo sapiens sapiens) that discovered fire, and stored chemical energy. Our pre human tree dwelling ancestors who lived on free clean green renewable non fossil energy in the form of figs, up in those fig trees, watched natural lightning strike grass fires cook some meat for them (which they found tasted better than figs).
But I agree with Viv, we did not get here by green energy; it long ago proved inadequate to sustain us, and it won’t sustain us now.

Reply to  george e. smith
June 2, 2016 8:16 pm

Discovering fire and discovering how to use fire are two entirely different things. Apes and other animals have witnessed natural lightning strikes start fires since before man came on the scene. And they always run away from it, not toward it. So, what evidence is there that they or “our pre human tree dwelling ancestors” ever harnessed fire for their own use?

John Harmsworth
Reply to  george e. smith
June 2, 2016 8:40 pm

There is evidence of controlled fire from 800,000 years ago by homo erectus. Not proof but I made a model!

Reply to  george e. smith
June 2, 2016 9:17 pm

Neanderthals used fire way back in time. Fireplaces found with bones and dated.

Reply to  george e. smith
June 2, 2016 9:53 pm

John Harmsworth June 2, 2016 at 8:40 pm
There is evidence of controlled fire from 800,000 years ago by homo erectus.
Not proof but I made a model!

Well now, that’s the same thing isn’t it?

Brian H
Reply to  Marcus
June 2, 2016 9:53 pm

Read much?
“Unless reversed, this wasteful de-energising policy will drive much of the world’s population back to the poverty and famines which often prevailed in the past. Some see the inevitable de-population this would cause as a desirable goal.”

Reply to  Marcus
June 3, 2016 5:40 am

“Fewer” humans not “less.” Use fewer when referring to discrete units and less when referring to things not quantified in discrete units (ie, “There are fewer ducks on the lake today.” “There is less water in the lake this year.”). Yes, it’s a small pedantic point, but somebody has to stick up for our abused grammar.

Donna K. Becker
Reply to  Gary
June 3, 2016 9:51 am

I couldn’t agree more. However, isn’t it politically incorrect to correct grammar, spelling, or punctuation? Not to mention challenging anyone’s assumptions about anything?

Reply to  Gary
June 4, 2016 7:41 pm

Gary – it should be e.g., not i.e. 😉

June 2, 2016 5:19 pm

My favorite cartoon on the subject: link

Two cavemen talking: “Something’s just not right – our air is clean, our water is pure, we all get plenty of exercise, everything we eat is organic and free-range, and yet nobody lives past thirty.”

Reply to  commieBob
June 2, 2016 5:22 pm

..That is the world the Greens want us to live in !

June 2, 2016 5:27 pm

Yes, yes, and yes. And to the naysayers who say life wasn’t really so bad, read a history of human infanticide. In old and not so old cultures, infants were often suffocated at birth due to the scarcity of food and resources. Almost exclusively girls. This was true particularly for humans who lived (and died) on the northern ice slopes of Greenland, Canada, and Alaska (e.g., Inuit). Don’t take my word for it. Show some curiosity and read the science.
Consider that sad part of human history on the women’s rights front when you march lock-step with the Greens in favor of making energy resources scarce and expensive (read ‘100% renewable’).
I’m in favor of girls …. and boys … and mothers and fathers …. and humans. Let’s let everyone of the 7.3 B (growing upward and topping out at 11 B, see Hans Rosling) humans on this planet live and strive for a fully human existence.

george e. smith
Reply to  Robert
June 2, 2016 6:12 pm

Well we can probably thank ” The Girls ” for discovering the secret of modern optics.
While grinding up grass seeds to make flour, they found out that if you rub two rocks together, for long enough, both of them eventually take on the shape of a sphere, and with the proper sort of rocks, and some even harder grits than grass seeds between them, you can get those surfaces spherical and smooth to an amazingly close fit. Without that cave Girl discovered technology, the optical industry would not exist.

Reply to  george e. smith
June 4, 2016 3:27 pm

They wouldn’t grind up much seed with 2 spheres. You need a relatively flat stone (which with use becomes somewhat concave) and a smooth slightly flattish stone that can be found in creeks, rivers, ocean shoreline.

Crispin in Waterloo
Reply to  Robert
June 2, 2016 8:20 pm

It was also common in some cultures to kill the second of twins as it was thought the second one was evil. In other cultures there were killed because of food, or getting to live long enough to be able to eat food.
Re the maximum population (peak people) it used to be 9 bn in 2050 with a drop after that. Have more alarming numbers been hatched lately? I recall the UN projected population to by 1/2 to 1 billion less in 2100 than now.

Brian H
Reply to  Crispin in Waterloo
June 2, 2016 9:59 pm

The UN Population Survey has 3 bands: high, medium, low. Only the low is ever close. It says 8.0 by 2045, declining thereafter.

Reply to  Crispin in Waterloo
June 3, 2016 4:18 am

Is that because the second one always had a goatee?

June 2, 2016 5:45 pm

Yeah I’m on team Human…The Club of Rome declared war on us what? fifty years ago?

Reply to  fossilsage
June 2, 2016 7:41 pm

Try 93. The rest as they say is history. With a dash of back yard provincialism that spreads far and wide given time.

Gary Hladik
Reply to  fossilsage
June 2, 2016 11:03 pm

The Club of Rome, founded in 1968, published The Limits to Growth in 1972.

Reply to  Gary Hladik
June 5, 2016 10:08 am

A Roman is just another Roman ,no matter how you view it and no matter what angle!

Tom Halla
June 2, 2016 5:47 pm

I’ve been aware of just how nihilistic some of the greens are for nearly forty years. The “simple life in accord with nature” really means most people die, and the survivors are poor.

Reply to  Tom Halla
June 2, 2016 7:48 pm

“… most people die, and the survivors are poor.”
Not any hyper-wealthy “survivors”, who prepared for decades, Tom.

John Harmsworth
Reply to  JohnKnight
June 2, 2016 8:45 pm

Where you gonna hide all that money from the eco-looney Socialist hordes?

Reply to  JohnKnight
June 2, 2016 9:30 pm

Underground, John.

Reply to  JohnKnight
June 3, 2016 10:28 am

The currency in such a world would most likely be cartridges.
With enough of those you can defend what you have, and/or take what someone else has.

June 2, 2016 5:50 pm

Well done except that it would have sufficed to say that “the steam engine appeared in history …..” James Watt did not invent it. His invention was an improvement to the Thomas Newcomen’s design which was an engine powered by vacuum made by steam, not by pressure of steam.
The switch from vacuum to pressure was done by many inventors but Watt was not among them.

george e. smith
Reply to  jake
June 2, 2016 6:14 pm

A whole lot further back than 50 years.

george e. smith
Reply to  jake
June 2, 2016 6:24 pm

Well this technological world is paved with “inventions” discovered by people who weren’t able to turn them into workable systems.
That’s why the patent system requires the “inventor” to publicly disclose his(er) “invention” and teach others how to implement it. That gives the inventor exclusive right to it for a limited time, and gives others the opportunity to improve it.
Obviously a vacuum powered system, has a fundamental problem in that you can’t go below zero pressure; so that’s a Rube Goldberg notion at best.

Reply to  george e. smith
June 2, 2016 7:03 pm

That Rube Goldberg notion worked well enough to pump water out of the mines where men were ripping solid solar energy out of the ground.

John Harmsworth
Reply to  george e. smith
June 2, 2016 8:51 pm

Maybe the eco-loonies will choose to live in a perfect, green, egalitarian but virtual world. They already think that work and industry are unnecessary evils. We should make that easy for them

Reply to  george e. smith
June 3, 2016 11:02 am

Fundamental problem or not, it was Newcomen’s invention that caused the jump in the otherwise for millenia stagnant standard of living; it has been climbing ever since. Thomas Newcomen was the most important inventor in history for making everybody wealthy, who also produced engines that run for centuries, a few still in 1900s. As to steam engines today, almost all electricity is produced by them, albeit of the turbines type.

Crispin in Waterloo
Reply to  jake
June 2, 2016 9:34 pm

The power of steam was discovered by Aristotle. Credit where it is due….Aeolipile it may not have been, but just possible it was.
Aristotle was, BTW, the first real scientist.

June 2, 2016 5:50 pm

When the great ice sheets covered much of the northern hemisphere, firewood was scarce and solar energy was at a low point – keeping warm was difficult. But as the ice started to retreat, there was more volcanic activity and some lucky cave men discovered geothermal energy

Gosh what a low level. Most of humanity, including probably almost all our ancestors, lived in tropical or subtropical areas during most of the past glaciation where temperatures were not that different. You must be talking about our 2% Neanderthal ancestry.
Solar energy was about the same during the Last Glacial Maximum as during the Holocene Climatic Optimum, as now. It gets differently distributed between the seasons with some change in high latitudes, due to obliquity, were nobody lived.
This is childish. It should have been corrected by someone with some knowledge of these issues. Is WUWT now for kids?

Reply to  Javier
June 2, 2016 6:03 pm

…Wow, that was infantile ! Maybe you should study “Cause and affect”…They migrated SOUTH because it was COLD in the NORTH ! D’oh ….

Reply to  Javier
June 2, 2016 6:08 pm

No, it is an attempt to educate those teaching the kids.

June 2, 2016 5:55 pm

Another really good piece. Thanks, Viv.

June 2, 2016 5:55 pm

Robert, infanticide is still widely practiced, it’s just that it’s done while the baby is still a couple of centimeters north of a cervix. And girls are STILL killed in higher numbers than boys. The justification is still often “lack of resources” but it’s usually not a lack of resources, but a lack of willingness to spend them. Our ancestors made do with a fraction of what we have now, as the article explained so eloquently.

June 2, 2016 6:06 pm

So if we do away with all fossil fuel use there will never be another corral reef bleach, no more hurricanes ,the sea will stop rising, the catastrophic warming will stop , the climate will always be good , the ice will return to the poles and we will suffer no more floods ever !
What more evidence do you people need really ?

June 2, 2016 6:22 pm

Thanks for the informative review of history.
An important part of how we got where we are today is in “The Men Who Built America” which should be taught in every History class. I have watched this series on the History channel and it credits five men for the significant advancement of man over 50 years.
John D. Rockefeller, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford and J.P. Morgan rose from obscurity and in the process built modern America. Their names hang on street signs, are etched into buildings and are a part of the fabric of history. These men created the American Dream and were the engine of capitalism as they transformed everything they touched in building the oil, rail, steel, shipping, automobile and finance industries. Their paths crossed repeatedly as they elected presidents, set economic policies and influenced major events of the 50 most formative years this country has ever known. From the Civil War to the Great Depression and World War I, they led the way.
Using state of the art computer generated imagery that incorporates 12 million historical negatives, many made available for the first time by the Library of Congress, this series will bring back to life the world they knew and the one they created. The event series will show how these men took a failed experiment in democracy and created the greatest…

Reply to  Catcracking
June 2, 2016 7:38 pm

And the descendants of those builders want to erase the success by socially engineering the masses for a world of impoverishment and totalitarian rule. What a shame!

Reply to  imoira
June 3, 2016 4:03 am

I guess we should call “them” the destroyers of civilization.

Reply to  Catcracking
June 3, 2016 5:13 am

My family had Pittsburgh steel mills back in 1876…and then the market crashed. My ancestor committed suicide. All the family wealth was confiscated, my ancestress was a child who was allowed one dress only and she cried when they tried to take away her dolly, so she was allowed to keep it.
She went on in life later to be one of the first women to attend a men’s university in 1894.

Reply to  Catcracking
June 3, 2016 5:47 am

John D. Rockefeller
ironic that they are funding the RICO conspiracy. Standard Oil has a troubling history.

Reply to  ferdberple
June 3, 2016 10:31 am

Not really, it’s more that the victors re-wrote the history books to justify their actions.

Bill Illis
June 2, 2016 7:02 pm

Just wanted to reinforce one important point which seems to be little understood by almost all people.
During the ice ages (or more accurately, during the coldest parts of them), there was very little C3 vegetation like trees and bushes. CO2 was very low and rainfall was very low so that there was just no real trees or bushes anywhere except maybe right next to a river or in the vastly smaller rainforests at the equator. Everywhere else was grassland and tundra and ice.
That means we (homo sapiens, archaic home sapiens, neanderthals, and home erectus) survived on meat exclusively and some other way to generate fire like animal dung or even animal bones because there was no wood. There was no point doing the gathering part of the “hunter and gatherer” lifestyle because there was just nothing out there to gather at all. No firewood, no fruits, no nuts, no berries and no vegetables. There was just large and small animals to hunt. Animals which ate grass.
In reality, that makes about 70% of the last 2.0 million years when we lived like this. Hunting in the middle of the day. Fire and BBQ and songs and stories and sex at night. On the grasslands. That is who we really are. We even lost our body hair so that we could hunt better in the middle of the day.
The came the last interglacial and agriculture and everything changed. Then came olive oil and then whale oil and then fossil fuels and everything changed again. For $1, you can move you and your car 10 kms down the road. For 1$, you can move a whole truckload of food down the road 5 kms. There is nothing like that in terms of efficiency in the whole human journey.
This part of the story just seems to not be understood.

John Harmsworth
Reply to  Bill Illis
June 2, 2016 9:05 pm

We don’t know that these things are facts. Humans are scroungers and opportunists. I say they tried to live in every habitat they walked into to. Then we found a tiny bit of evidence in a few places. Most of the human story isn’t known. The hubris of anthropology is barely exceeded by that of climatology

Reply to  Bill Illis
June 2, 2016 10:02 pm

This is not climatology. It is the physiological response of plants to CO2 levels and the geologic evidence and the fossil record and other evidence. Climate science basically says nothing about this. It is the real physical anthropologists who put this story together. ( even the geneticists studying the history of our partner parasites).
Let’s say you live in an area where rainfall is 10 inches per year and CO2 is 185 ppm as in 95% of the planet which was not glacier 22,000 years ago What is the vegetation and animals like?
Well, you live in an arid desert/grassland that has giant mammoth and buffalo and Auroch (the wild ancestors of our cattle which were twice as big) and that is all there is. There is not a tree in sight and you live with 40 other people on a rock out-cropping (one of 20 you move to throughout the year.)
You burn mammoth bones for firewood ( surprisingly great fire source qand the sole source of fire for any northern human when the ice ages were on) and you run down buffalo and Auroch in the middle of the day. Why? Because your two legged running and your sweating to cool off (as in all the other animals pant to cool off and they rapidly suffer heat exhaustion in the middle of th e day). But, you the sweaty efficient runner without hair to make that sweating the most efficient cooling off mechanism amongst all the animals) and which now has wooden spears and stone hand axes and three other buddies with you. Well, you can persistence hunt an Auroch for 2 kms before it suffers from heat exhaustion and becomes an easy kill while at the same time you and your buddies can fight off a lion. In two hours, you are back at home base with an amazing prime rib and tenderloin big enough to feed the whole tribe for two days. Bring back two hind quarters and its enough for seven days. Maybe some of it gets dried to provide food in the long winter to come.
That is what ALL of the physical evidence says your day was like 22,000 years ago. Nice BBQ on the mammoth bone fire. And yes, your two young children went to bed full and your wife and her sister made sure you were rewarded at some point that evening. That is who you are. You did not eat any asparagus in this explanation.

Reply to  Bill Illis
June 2, 2016 10:17 pm

“even lost body hair so we could hunt in the middle of the day” Which would make us the only mammal ever to shed body hair without some close relationship to water, No other predator ever evolutionarily lost hair to facilitate day or nighttime hunting and running. Makes one think that maybe that the “standard model” of human evolution may have literally “missed the boat”

Reply to  fossilsage
June 2, 2016 11:06 pm

Humans sweat to cool off far more than any other animal. It is orders of magnitude higher than every other other living thing. The horse is closest to us in this ability and none of the other primates even compare.
We lost our body hair so that this cooling off mechanism became even more efficient. In fact, it started with homo erectus about 1.8 million years ago.
My dog pants for 30 minutes after a short run so that he cools off to normal. He is panting like crazy for 30 minutes afterward on the floor. During this short-run, he is already panting after 100 metres and is much less efficient at using oxygen than me. I will sweat and be fine for well 42 kms, partly because the two legged running does not use as much energy, partly because i sweat to cool off my body as it is heating up during the exercise and partly because i can breathe in oxygen more efficiently because I am not panting.I even have to wear clothes so that I am not cold even when it is 30C.
We evolved to be the king of the day-time savanna in Africa when it was 32C. Persistence hunting, smart, weapon-carrying, water-carrying hunters.
Two legs means two hands and two arms. Two arms and two hands means that I can make and carry and throw weapons. Two legs is more efficient running using less energy although slower, Sweating is more efficient as well. Sweating means no heat exhaustion. Sweating means better oxygen usage. No hair makes sweating even more efficient. No hair means I need clothes except in the middle of the day on the savanna in Africa. This survival mechanism means that we are the MOST heat adapted species that there is. This survival mechanism works so much better that we spread to the whole world. It is so good that along with our smarts, there are now more than 7 billion of us. It’s not water. It is the savanna. The heat of the day-time savanna and a sweaty hairless two legged runner with two weapon carrying arms.

Reply to  Bill Illis
June 4, 2016 3:53 pm

you have stated the case for the “standard model” eloquently and clearly. It remains that Hippos, Elephants, and the families of sea going mammals are the only other mammalians to shed thick body hair. All of whom prefer or require daily water immersion. Convergent evolution doesn’t usually arise from different causes it usually comes about as a consequence of exploiting a similar niche. I’m not suggesting that we need to wear tin foil and rail against the notion of evolution just keeping an open mind since great coastal plains, and deltas (most of which would be submerged and unavailable to modern investigation of the relevant time frames) would be obvious places for early branches of the family to exploit and apply all those same “savanna taming” qualities you identify.

Reply to  fossilsage
June 4, 2016 2:46 pm

The naked mole-rat ?

Reply to  Bill Illis
June 3, 2016 5:14 am

Ever visit the Petrified Forest in Arizona? We had lovely greenery back then.

Reply to  emsnews
June 3, 2016 10:34 am

The Petrified Forest in Arizona is from 10’s if not 100’s of millions of years ago.

Dr. Strangelove
June 2, 2016 8:01 pm

“When man first appeared on Earth he had no implements, no clothes, no farms, no mineral fuels, no machines and no electricity – his only tools were his brains, hands and muscles.”
Stone tools are older than man (homo sapiens). This technology was invented by homo habilis over 2 million years ago. The hand axe is a wedge, one of the six simple machines.

June 2, 2016 9:07 pm

Science and technology have been invaluable to our survival to date.
Sometimes cultural practises have been selected for and against by selecting for and against the entire culture. When Rome fell, many of the citizens suffered the neurological symptoms of lead poisoning because of the technology they used to seal the aqueducts. And that may well have contributed to the fall.
These days we have a more formal science, where the mechanism of lead poisoning itself is understood, and regulation keeps high levels of lead out of our drinking water.
The desire to break from science, even to the extent of claiming that scientists are lying, in order to ignore that lead, or any other chemical, damages net productivity or biodiversity, takes us back to the pre-scientific era.
Armed with science and with reason, the best way forward can be determined. If your argument involves attacking science, it’s unlikely to be the best way forward.

Brian H
Reply to  Seth
June 2, 2016 10:06 pm

Science is being defended, not attacked, by those who denigrate “Climatism”.

Bruce Cobb
Reply to  Seth
June 3, 2016 4:17 am

So Seth, you equate lead and other actual pollutants, which can actually damage our health with life-giving CO2? Interesting. Hardly “science” though.

Bob of Brisbane
June 2, 2016 9:33 pm

I’m surprised that there is little recognition of the forces behind the Climate Change movement. It’s all leading to the ultimate goal of the UN’s One World Government.
The Climate Change movement is not based on logic. It’s based on a very deliberate hoax. At the 1992 Earth Summit we were told what Agenda 21 was designed to do. In an official statement by the then Chairman of the Earth Summit, Maurice Strong, he said: “Isn’t the only hope for the planet that the industrialized nations collapse? Isn’t it our responsibility to bring that about?” Maurice Strong was instigator of UN Agenda 21 and fabricator of the UN’s fraudulent climate claims.
Ottman Edenhofer, Co-chair of the IPCC’s Working Group III, and a lead author of the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report released in 2007, said in 2010, “But one must say clearly that we redistribute de facto the world’s wealth by climate policy. Obviously, the owners of coal and oil will not be enthusiastic about this. One has to free oneself from the illusion that international climate policy is environmental policy. This has almost nothing to do with environmental policy anymore, with problems such as deforestation or the ozone hole.”

David A
June 2, 2016 9:50 pm

Seth, science is a process, “Scientists” are human, and subject to all the limitations of ALL humans. Thus when humans exhibit “Nobel cause corruption” or succumb to peer pressure, or political pressure, or monetary reward or necessity, then they betray “science” Your equating the two is illogical.

June 3, 2016 2:41 am

According to genetic studies, the current global human population is a result of a major human exodus from Africa some 20.000 years ago.
We all or almost all originate from Africa, and if that true then the claim that the adaptation or the ability to adapt to the environment and climate as per means of survival and evolution has to be considered more carefully as it could lead to wrong conclusions.
For example if the present is mainly a result of such a human exodus, if the current civilization and its creation is basically a result of that exodus then another element should be considered when the intellectual human evolution and progress considered……the population numbers, the “critical” necessary number reached for the next stage of progress in the ladder of evolution, technological or otherwise.
What difference could that make in the conclusions reached?
For once it will show to a degree that the most significant human movement towards the next most important stage, civility and civilization while may be considered up to a point as forced by environmental changes and especially climate change, still it could specifically show how and why, in a different way than one considered.
At some point it disagrees and it contradicts some of the points and conclusions of the article above.
If the human exodus from Africa is true as considered and the main and the most significant route through the ladder of progress to the civilization itself, then definitely that has not much do do with the actual temp change or the cold, not directly at least.
Humans did not exod out of Africa up north because Africa was “too cold” or colder than “preferred “….. and up north somehow was warmer.
Most probably it did happen because the humans then were following the prosperity and the “richness” of the land and of life, the green pastures and the wild game, aka the humidity.

June 3, 2016 3:53 am

I have a rebuttal, tho it is a rather lame one.
It is the ability to develop tools by study and intent that makes us modern humans, thus humans always had tools.

Bruce Cobb
June 3, 2016 4:31 am

The supreme irony, and hypocrisy of the Greenies’ attack on our modern and efficient forms of energy is that they do so while enjoying the benefits of same, while denying those benefits to others who most desperately need them. That is because at heart, they truly are haters of humanity.

June 3, 2016 8:33 am

Excellent. For a slightly more technical and less humourous take on this matter, please visit: https://insuspectterrane.com/2015/03/18/concentrate-please/

Reply to  Tom G(ologist)
June 3, 2016 6:17 pm

Thanks Tom, great article

Mickey Reno
June 3, 2016 8:38 am

I love the photo of the oxen team pulling the wagon load of logs. Here’s a favorite photo of mine from the digital collection at Colorado State University, showing horse (or mule) drawn wagon loads of sugar beets at the rail head of the Great Western Sugar Co. line, in Fort Collins, Colorado.comment image;jsessionid=fl4avogb4m3z5pz62ws5ea1?sequence=1

Reply to  Mickey Reno
June 3, 2016 6:16 pm

Great picture thanks Mickey

June 3, 2016 1:05 pm

in the History of Life on Earth, no species has proven itself as adaptable and as adept at modifying its surroundings to it’s own advantage as Homo sapiens. The Law of Natural Selection will need to be rewritten to accommodate this ability to ‘evolve’ within a fraction of a lifetime.
We will survive, despite the best efforts of the arrogant egotists who believe they know what is best for everyone else, for humans also have the unique ability to exterminate their rivals and others whom they decide are a threat to their lives, their families, and their way of life.

Donna K. Becker
Reply to  tadchem
June 4, 2016 5:28 pm

Please. It’s = it is.

Reply to  Donna K. Becker
June 4, 2016 7:00 pm

Sorry Donna – the apostrophe indicates abbreviation or possession.

Reply to  Donna K. Becker
June 4, 2016 7:31 pm

It’s a losing battle, I know, but for the umpteenth time, possessive pronouns do not have apostrophes – ‘his’, ‘her’, ‘our’, ‘their’, ‘your’ – but by extrapolation from nouns, there are many among us who insist on creating an exception rule: the third person possessive pronoun has an apostrophe, but the others don’t. Must drive anyone trying to learn English by exposure bonkers.

Reply to  Donna K. Becker
June 4, 2016 11:55 pm

dalechant June 4, 2016 at 7:31 pm
“the third person possessive pronoun has an apostrophe”
Third person? Like this? Hi’s, thei’r, their’s. There yer go mate.
Your rule. Or maybe you’d like to rephrase your definition.

Reply to  Donna K. Becker
June 5, 2016 3:19 am

Slacko, perhaps you would like to read my comment a bit more carefully.

Reply to  Donna K. Becker
June 5, 2016 8:33 am

I’m with you Dale, maybe I needed a sarc tag. Just goading you to express it in a more succinct fashion, and perhaps include the oft misspelled pronouns (everybodies, somebodies, nobodies, etc.) you know, for the sake of the exposure bonkers, poor little badgers. 🙂

Donna K. Becker
Reply to  Donna K. Becker
June 5, 2016 9:19 am

bjc70, Generally speaking, you are correct. However, Dale makes the point that most people seem to make their own punctuation rules these days. He is correct that possessive pronouns–including “its”– do not have apostrophes. For proof, please consult any website that deals with punctuation. My favorite, because it’s (it is) so sadly funny, is Apostrophe Catastrophes. I suppose I could facetiously equate the misuse of apostrophes to climastrologists’ mistaking CO2 for a toxic gas….

Reply to  Donna K. Becker
June 5, 2016 6:21 pm

Hi Slacko,
Agreed – I should have said “third person neuter singular possessive pronoun”. Since the topic of discussion was it’s vs its, I slipped into taking that for granted. It was “your rule” which provoked the response – sarc aside, I can’t have it in the record that this is my rule – I would die of shame.
And for anyone reading this who might be muttering ‘please spare us the grammar-nazis’, the issue is not the occasional typo, it’s the underlying conceptual rot which apparently renders otherwise intelligent persons incapable of understanding a simple distinction.

June 3, 2016 1:34 pm

One minor quibble to an excellent article – if I may.
When I first sailed Australian waters, some forty years ago, the Admiralty chart we used was ‘Based on the original survey by Lieutenant James Cook.’ – per the origins bit at the bottom.
It gave you some respect – all that with a sailing boat [wind power] and a hand lead – muscle power!
Cook was, in line with my remembrance of – I think – a Ladybird book – promoted to Commander after his first voyage, which he had completed as a Lieutenant.
Grand chap – whatever rank he held . . . .
Auto, possibly showing his age a tad.

Derek McIntosh
June 3, 2016 3:08 pm

I can do not better than heartily endorse that great statement made above:
Brian H
June 2, 2016 at 9:53 pm
Read much?
“Unless reversed, this wasteful de-energising policy will drive much of the world’s population back to the poverty and famines which often prevailed in the past. Some see the inevitable de-population this would cause as a desirable goal.”

June 4, 2016 10:17 pm

If the Greens had their way, we would still be living in the stone age.

June 5, 2016 6:47 pm

Hi Slacko,
Agreed – I should have said “third person neuter singular possessive pronoun”. Since the topic of discussion was it’s vs its, I slipped into taking that for granted. It was “your rule” which provoked the response – sarc aside, I can’t have it in the record that this is my rule – I would die of shame.
And for anyone reading this who might be muttering ‘please spare us the grammar-nazis’, the issue is not the occasional typo, it’s the underlying conceptual rot which renders apparently otherwise intelligent persons incapable of understanding or abiding by a simple distinction.

Donna K. Becker
Reply to  dalechant
June 6, 2016 8:28 am

“[T]he issue is not the occasional typo, it’s the underlying conceptual rot which apparently renders otherwise intelligent persons incapable of understanding a simple distinction.”
That is, indeed, the issue. I’m fairly tolerant of occasional random typos (heavens, I make them, too!), but there are certain systematic errors in grammar, spelling, and punctuation that do equate to “conceptual rot” on a small scale. If the details are incorrect (check your premises), the conclusion also will be.
Another issue is failure to recognize and correct errors. In my experience, those who are offended by being corrected on such matters do not care to do things properly.

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