After more than 20 years as a professional paleontologist, I know how lucky I am to spend my days studying dinosaurs. In times when so many people can barely afford the basic necessities, how can I possibly justify using taxpayers' money to study animals that vanished millions of years ago? What can they teach us about today's world? Aren't they irrelevant to modern-day problems?
The truth is, paleontology is anything but irrelevant. The fossil record tells us that climate change is the planet's “normal” state. Does that mean the change we're seeing now is normal, or is the climate behaving in new ways because of human influence? How do we offset the damage we may have caused?