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Ethiopia Fossil Find Could Shed Light on Climate Change


Fossils can provide mankind with a unique key to an uncharted past (file photo)

Fossils can provide mankind with a unique key to an uncharted past (file photo)

Scientists in Ethiopia have unearthed 22-million-year-old fossils, fauna and flora, completing a chain of data that could shed light on the phenomenon of climate change.

The latest discovery was made in an ancient lake bed 150 kilometers northeast of the Ethiopian capital. It is not the oldest find of amphibian, mammal and fish fossils in Africa. But principal investigator Mulugeta Feseha, a geologist at Addis Ababa University, says it completes a picture of climatic conditions over a 30-million-year period.

"This is a unique aspect of Ethiopian geology that can contribute towards modeling of ancient climate or environmental reconstruction. When we think of developing a model we have to find sites that are 28 million, 25 million, 20, 10 up to zero. That is how you develop a model. So this 22-million-year-old fossil site fills a gap that has never been identified in all parts of Africa.”

Mulugeta says since there were no humans on earth 20- to 30-million years ago, comparing carbon-dioxide levels between then and now will help in understanding to what extent human activity affects climate change.

"Knowing the carbon-dioxide concentration of that time and knowing carbon-dioxide concentration of this time, which we know, can give us an idea if we are in a global warming event," says Mulugeta.

Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi is in the forefront of global climate negotiations aimed at persuading the United States and other developed countries to pay for damage done by human-induced climate change. He will lead a delegation of 10 African heads of state at the Cancun climate summit in December.

But Mr. Zenawi told a meeting in Addis Ababa this month he expects the Cancun summit to be “a flop.” He accused developed countries of not taking seriously the search for a global climate-change deal.

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