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Nick Pyenson is a research geologist and curator of fossil marine mammals at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC, USA. He is the author of Spying on Whales (2018).
As a palaeontologist who works with fossils of large, extinct ocean predators, I tend to think that the story of our future has already been written in the geological past. The same rocks that preserve the remains of ancient whales tell us about dramatic sea-level rises that might be matched in our future, if global warming continues. As we begin to encounter geological-scale global changes in our own lifetimes, the past of this planet is a guide to what might happen. It’s hard for me to accept that scientists can explain how whale bones end up on mountain tops but we can’t find leadership to forestall glacial melting.