Dennis Cassinelli: Educating politicians about climate change

Dennis Cassinelli between Lovelock and the Black Rock Desert.

Dennis Cassinelli between Lovelock and the Black Rock Desert.

Since climate change seems to be a hot topic among politicians running for office today, I want to discuss global warming and climate change in general, in a way that you might have never seen or heard about before. It seems that this topic is a priority in the world of politicians and the news media, who seem to be obsessed about what might happen to us if the climate continues to change in a way that adversely affects our lifestyle.

Not everyone believes in the theory of climate change or global warming being caused by the activities of mankind. The non-believers reason that climate change is a natural phenomenon and people have no control over weather or the climate. Believers in global warming think pollution from sport utility vehicles, industrial activity, automobile emissions and cow farts have put so much pollution into the atmosphere that a greenhouse effect is occurring, causing adverse climate changes. The term “global warming” has, in more recent times, evolved to be called simply “climate change.”

During the late Pleistocene Era, glaciers from the last ice age receded. The Great Basin then entered the antithermal era when the weather became cool and moist. There were abundant lakes and marshes where hunting was done with crescents and other weapons. Ancient Lake Lahontan rose to record levels. Large mammals such as bison, horses and mammoth might have been hunted.

Archaeologists and anthropologists generally agree that at one time there was a significant extended period of hot, dry weather that lasted more than 2,000 years in the Great Basin of Nevada. This was known as the altithermal stage, which lasted from approximately 7,000 to about 5,000 years ago. Once the hot, dry altithermal stage set in, drastic changes occurred that significantly altered the lifestyle of the scattered bands of human inhabitants. Because human beings at that time depended on water and the wildlife associated with marshes, lakes and rivers, there was a natural migration away from the region when the hot, dry weather began to shrink those wetland resources. It was during the altithermal stage that all the lakes and marshes that composed ancient Lake Lahontan completely dried up, with the exception of a small portion of Pyramid Lake. An incredibly harsh desert environment emerged where game was scarce or nonexistent and where vegetation struggled to survive.

During that time, there was no Walker Lake, Washoe Lake, Great Salt Lake or any of the traditional rivers that had fed those bodies of water. Lake Tahoe did not completely dry up, but the level of Tahoe and Fallen Leaf Lake did drop several hundred feet. Proof of this can still be seen today in photos taken by divers on the bottom in parts of the lakes where massive tree trunks are still preserved. These trees grew and thrived when the water dropped to that low level for a period of several hundred years. Because the lake level was far below the natural outlet during this length of time, there certainly was no water flowing into the Truckee or Walker rivers. This was global warming on a scale we cannot even imagine today. All the above is factual information that can be confirmed through studies done by the Desert Research Institute where I once worked as a University of Nevada engineering student. Archaeologists and anthropologists have written extensively about how this extended drought affected the people living here during that hot dry cycle.

Finally, about 4,500 years ago, the medithermal climate cycle started where climate conditions were similar to what we now have today. Certainly, based upon the ancient history of the earth, climate change will continue to occur, whether or not people are involved.

For those of you who still believe that such things as sport utility vehicles might have caused global warming, you might be right after all. This is a photo of a prehistoric sport utility vehicle with me at the wheel. I found this vehicle between Lovelock and the Black Rock Desert several years ago.

This article is by Dayton author and historian Dennis Cassinelli, who can be contacted on his blog at All Cassinelli’s books sold through this publication will be at a discount plus $3 for each shipment for postage and packaging.


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