Over the past year or so I’ve been taking a deep interest in ice ages. After all, it’s only been about 12,000 years since the last one ended, and the warm interglacial periods in between ice ages only seem to last about 12,000 years. So the historical record suggests we’re overdue for the return of snow and ice.
But it seems that the current view in the climate science community is that recent anthropogenic global warming has effectively forestalled any renewed glaciation. I’ve read suggestions that we may well have another 30,000 years of interglacial warmth ahead of us.
But as far as I can see, this optimism rests upon the belief in the climate science community that the last ice age ended as a result of an increase in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. For many climate scientists seem to see carbon dioxide as the principal regulator of planetary climate. Too little of it, and you get ice ages. Too much of it, and the ice all melts.
The fixation with carbon dioxide seems to date from the 1960s, and the work of Carl Sagan in showing that the high temperature of the planet Venus is the result of its atmosphere consisting nearly entirely of carbon dioxide. It’s also the case that the atmosphere of Mars is nearly all carbon dioxide as well, although somehow or other it doesn’t have the same sort of high temperature as Venus. Scientists have been wondering why the Earth hasn’t succumbed to the same fate as Venus and Mars. Hence the worry about rising carbon dioxide concentrations in the Earth’s atmosphere, and Carl Sagan himself was instrumental in the rise of global warming alarmism in the 1970s and 1980s, and full-blown global warming hysteria in the 21st century.
I’ve been thinking recently that our current global warming hysteria is probably far more benign than any global cooling hysteria is likely to be. After all, the worst predictions about global warming are of a gradual warming of the Earth’s atmosphere over the next century or so by a few degrees. It’s really nothing to worry about. And so most people don’t.
But global cooling alarmism may be quite different. For the fear will likely be that a new ice age might begin very suddenly, and not gradually like global warming. Instead of slowly getting cooler, the Earth may flip from a warm state to a cold state over a period of only a decade or two. Canada, Scandinavia, and Siberia would become buried in snow that never melts. There’d be an exodus of peoples from these countries. The USA wouldn’t have a problem with its southern border, but with its northern one. Instead of refugees and migrants coming from the south, there’d be refugees and migrants from the north. Fear of anthropogenic global warming would be replaced by fear of snow and ice that was extending further and further south into the US northern states, Britain, France, Germany and Russia. There’d be a global state of emergency. The most pressing question would be: how might the advance of the snow and ice be first stopped, and then reversed? Everyone would be talking about it.
It would be a time in which government policy (and private morality) would be turned upside down. Instead of Emmanuel Macron trying to reduce France’s carbon dioxide emissions to zero, he’d be calling for them to be vastly increased. People would be encouraged to burn as much coal and wood and oil as they possibly could. Our current “smoke-free” world would suddenly become very smoky again, in the hope that as much soot and dust as possible could be deposited on the expanding ice sheets to reduce their albedo and melt them.
I’m hoping that the climate scientists are right, and that the next ice age has indeed been deferred for a few thousand more years, because by then we may be already busy “terra-forming” both Mars and Venus into benign Earth-like colonies. I’m hoping so because our current mild global warming hysteria is far preferable to the sheer terror that will accompany the start of a new ice age. For in that time, it will seem to have been almost a luxury to have been worried about trivia like carbon dioxide and tobacco smoke.
And I’m hoping that at least some of the vast amounts of money that are currently being spent studying and fighting AGW are going into research into ice ages, and that we won’t be completely taken by surprise if a new ice age starts.
For now, be glad of global warming. For the alternative is likely to be much, much worse.