AUSTIN, Texas -- Let's all take a long step back and then look at this again: Is the human race just another species in the long history of Earth that's too dumb to adapt and survive?

We clever upright primates have so far outstripped everyone save the cockroaches, but we seem to be forgetting what knocked off so many of the other major species: climate change. And if we're not smart enough to learn from that, it's our turn to go extinct.

Nothing like a couple of days of 110-degree heat to remind us that global warming has nothing to do with the end of the Cold War. According to the fossilologists, the Big Ones, like the Ice Age, may have had a proximate cause -- meteor hit, giant volcano eruption blotted out sun ... something happened. But in your relatively short tens of thousands of years, all you get is a more or less cyclical back-and-forth. Now coral reefs in the Pacific that are a thousand years old are dying. This is not cyclical.

But aren't there some scientists who deny that any of this is happening, or at least that it means global warming is taking place? Yes, about seven of them, and in a remarkable act of journalistic irresponsibility, it took the media years to report that most of them are directly or indirectly in the pay of the oil companies. You can put the combined weight of climatologists around the globe against that.

But don't some scientists say this will be a good thing? That Minnesota will grow palm trees, Canada will become tropical, and they won't have to eat oatmeal up there anymore?

A certain amount of don't-worry-be-happy is advisable in life, but we are in such full-throttle denial about global warming that you can barely get anyone to pay attention. It's all very well to swan through life on the cheerful assumption that it's all part of God's Plan, but God gave us brains so we could use them. And global warming is not God's Deal -- it is mankind's.

We are the berserk beavers of the world, changing our own environment, often for the worse even for us. Eventually everyone who listens finally gets it, and the next reaction is often a whiny, "Well, what do you expect me to do about it?"

The First Rule of Holes is: When you are in one, stop digging.

The still-unratified Kyoto treaty would require the United States to cut its greenhouse gas emissions, primarily carbon dioxide and methane, to 7 percent below 1990 levels. That is not a solution, but it is a step.

Speaking of small steps, the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission -- a pathetic thing, but the only EPA we've got here -- has just opened its marble heart and agreed to study the situation. This is another happy side effect of having Gov. George W. Bush run for president -- it would look so dumb if his three environmental commissioners were still denying the existence of global warming.

Since Texas emits more greenhouse gases than any other state, doing something about it here would be a real contribution. Not that the TNRCC is actually doing anything, but it has ordered up a big study, for which we are all devoutly grateful.

One always appreciates those editorial voices of sweet reason saying, "Now, let's not get hysterical here -- we're not doomed." No, we're not. This is very likely fixable. The only reason to panic is the projection studies on what will happen if we do nothing or let this get worse.

Major climate shifts can come quickly, within a few decades. The effects of global warming are becoming so apparent that one can foresee the congressional hearing in a few years -- like the Firestone tire comedy last week -- with elected officials indignantly demanding: "Who knew about this? Why didn't they tell us? Off with their heads!"

There may actually be more good news than bad news on global warming lately, despite the ominous stats. James Hansen, the NASA climatologist who has been helpful on global warming before, has a new study suggesting a cheaper way out. Rather than concentrating on carbon dioxide, which comes from burning fossil fuels, if we concentrate on getting rid of the five other greenhouse gases (especially methane) it could do as much good overall as cutting carbon dioxide from fossil fuels.

Molly Ivins is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. To find out more about Molly Ivins and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at COPYRIGHT 2000 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.