Global Warming Holding Off The Next Ice Age?
Are carbon emissions saving us all from a cold, cold fate?
The BBC is reporting that a group of scientists is theorizing that the increased carbon emissions responsible at least in some part for the rise in global temperatures may be delaying the onset of the next Ice Age:
The last Ice Age ended about 11,500 years ago, and when the next one should begin has not been entirely clear.
Researchers used data on the Earth’s orbit and other things to find the historical warm interglacial period that looks most like the current one.
In the journal Nature Geoscience, they write that the next Ice Age would begin within 1,500 years – but emissions have been so high that it will not
“At current levels of CO2, even if emissions stopped now we’d probably have a long interglacial duration determined by whatever long-term processes could kick in and bring [atmospheric] CO2 down,” said Luke Skinner from Cambridge University.
Dr Skinner’s group – which also included scientists from University College London, the University of Florida and Norway’s Bergen University – calculates that the atmospheric concentration of CO2 would have to fall below about 240 parts per million (ppm) before the glaciation could begin.
The current level is around 390ppm.
Other research groups have shown that even if emissions were shut off instantly, concentrations would remain elevated for at least 1,000 years, with enough heat stored in the oceans potentially to cause significant melting of polar ice and sea level rise.
Of course, a good part of this is guesswork because the precise conditions that cause the Ice Ages that have waxed and waned over the Earth over billions of years aren’t precisely known. Part of it seems to involve subtle differences in the Earth’s orbit. There have been suggestions recently that there was a relationship between the cycle and the pattern of sunspot activity. And, now, of course, we have the possibility that human activity itself will have an influence on the crisis, perhaps extending an interglacial period that would have ended relatively soon geologically speaking. As I’ve noted before, it isn’t really surprising to learn that human activity has an impact on the climate of the planet
Of course, this study is already being cited by opponents in the entire “climate change” debate which has become far too political for something that ought to be a matter of science:
Groups opposed to limiting greenhouse gas emissions are already citing the study as a reason for embracing humankind’s CO2 emissions.
The UK lobby group the Global Warming Policy Foundation, for example, has flagged up a 1999 essay by astronomers Sir Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe, who argued that: “The renewal of ice-age conditions would render a large fraction of the world’s major food-growing areas inoperable, and so would inevitably lead to the extinction of most of the present human population.
“We must look to a sustained greenhouse effect to maintain the present advantageous world climate. This implies the ability to inject effective greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, the opposite of what environmentalists are erroneously advocating.”
Luke Skinner said his group had anticipated this kind of reception.
“It’s an interesting philosophical discussion – ‘would we better off in a warm [interglacial-type] world rather than a glaciation?’ and probably we would,” he said.
“But it’s missing the point, because where we’re going is not maintaining our currently warm climate but heating it much further, and adding CO2 to a warm climate is very different from adding it to a cold climate.
Indeed. In fact if we were living in a world where the evidence indicated that a severe Ice Age was imminent, it might arguably be a good idea to increase carbon emissions, or in some other way create conditions that would lead to a Greenhouse Effect in the atmosphere. That’s not really where we are right now, though, and it’s worth noting that we don’t really know how accurate these conclusions are.
I’m sure the Rush Limbaugh’s of the world will point news like this as proof that global warming is a good thing now, which will be a diversion from their typical line that there is no such thing as climate change to which human activity contributes. It’s a simplistic argument, but it’s one that sells easily to the masses. Such, I suppose, is the price of living in a country where scientific literacy is so appallingly ignored.
H/T: Jazz Shaw