January 24, 2005


Humans 'may have saved world from ice age': HUMANS may have unwittingly saved themselves from a looming ice age by interfering with the Earth's climate, according to a new study. (John von Radowitz, Irish Examiner, 1/24/05)

The findings from a team of American climate experts suggest that were it not for greenhouse gases produced by humans, the world would be well on the way to a frozen Armageddon. . . .

The research showed that without the human contribution to global warming, Baffin Island would today be in a condition of "incipient glaciation".

"Portions of Labrador and Hudson Bay would also have moved very close to such a state had greenhouse gas concentrations followed natural trends," said the scientists.

The experiment had probably underestimated the amount of ice that would exist today in north-east Canada without human interference, they said.

This has been obvious for a while to those paying attention (basically, just Harry and me).

MORE (From the Corner): Countdown to global catastrophe: Climate change: report warns point of no return may be reached in 10 years, leading to droughts, agricultural failure and water shortages (Michael McCarthy, Independent.co.uk, 1/24/05)

The global warming danger threshold for the world is clearly marked for the first time in an international report to be published tomorrow - and the bad news is, the world has nearly reached it already.

The countdown to climate-change catastrophe is spelt out by a task force of senior politicians, business leaders and academics from around the world - and it is remarkably brief. In as little as 10 years, or even less, their report indicates, the point of no return with global warming may have been reached. . . .

The report urges all the G8 countries to agree to generate a quarter of their electricity from renewable sources by 2025, and to double their research spending on low-carbon energy technologies by 2010. It also calls on the G8 to form a climate group with leading developing nations such as India and China, which have big and growing CO2 emissions.

Just so I can make sure I understand this: Within the next ten year, we will have passed the "point of no return" for "global catastrophe." The proposed solution is to, within 20 years, increase the proportion of energy generated from renewable resources, which does not require that we decrease our use of carbon fuels; increase research funding; and form a "group." Somehow, I suspect that I have different definitions of "point of no return" and "catastrophe" than these people.

If catastrophe is inevitable, though, we might as well take off our catalytic converters and enjoy it. There is still the off-chance that we'd be saving Canada from raging glaciers, though we'd get no thanks for our services.

Posted by David Cohen at January 24, 2005 10:05 AM

Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle's Fallen Angels is a Science Fiction novel (from 2002, I think?) set in a near-future ice age brought on by deindustrialization, where the Earth First Police nonetheless continue to hunt down users of inappropriate technology (eg, coal).

Posted by: Mike Earl at January 24, 2005 10:21 AM

It's called the "White Earth Hypothesis" and certain climactic models sometimes "crash" and turn the Earth into a permanent orb of snow and ice. Some guy has even wrote a tongue-in-cheek "Carbonist Manifesto" about it online.

Posted by: Chris Durnell at January 24, 2005 10:31 AM

I'd thank you, especially after last week.

Posted by: Peter B at January 24, 2005 10:45 AM

Common sense tells us that all of these predicitions and counter predictions are little more than fundraising exercises for various climate scientists.

When I was a kid, the worry was global cooling and nuclear winter, today its global warming, tomorrow it will be global cooling again.

Posted by: AML at January 24, 2005 11:20 AM

Peter: If you represented the mainstream of Canadian opinion, it would be a different world.

AML: A few weeks ago, I heard someone arguing, in all seriousness, that cold weather didn't disprove global warming because global warming would cause colder weather.

Posted by: David Cohen at January 24, 2005 11:43 AM

Being from Minnesota, my response to the supposed threat of global warming is "bring it on!"

Posted by: Ted Welter at January 24, 2005 11:46 AM

As someone from Wisconsin, let me second Ted Welter's motion.

Posted by: AllenS at January 24, 2005 12:55 PM

I suspect Putin shared your thinking wrt Russia as he prepared to ditch Kyoto. It took massive bribes in the form of carbon credits from the EU to change his mind.

Posted by: Gideon at January 24, 2005 1:03 PM

It was 11 Degrees F (minus 12 in metric) when I woke up this morning here in the banana belt of central Ohio. I want Global Warming and I want it now!

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at January 24, 2005 1:57 PM

O degrees when I woke up this morning in western Mass., but we only got about 7" inches of snow, so we're not complaining.

Posted by: David Cohen at January 24, 2005 2:08 PM

"AML: A few weeks ago, I heard someone arguing, in all seriousness, that cold weather didn't disprove global warming because global warming would cause colder weather."

That's no joke. Saying that cold weather disproves global warming is like saying the existence of midgets proves that we aren't, on average, substantially taller than our ancestors were only a century or two ago.

No model of global warming, or of global climate change of any sort, predicts that every place on Earth becomes universally warmer, all the time. It's the average that becomes warmer. Moreover, in some places, the extremes at either end of the temperature spectrum become wider. Ergo, global warming can lead to drastically colder weather in specific locales.

Posted by: M. Bulger at January 24, 2005 3:48 PM


You give us the weather and we'll create a global warming model for it. That's not actually science, is it?

Posted by: oj at January 24, 2005 4:11 PM

I'm still waiting for an explanation of human interaction with the Little Ice Age, and the midieval warming period that proceded it and allowed the colonization of Greenland. Most of the reports on the dangers of global warming seems oblivious to the fact there were any climate changes before 1920 or so.

Posted by: John at January 24, 2005 4:12 PM

"You give us the weather and we'll create a global warming model for it. That's not actually science, is it?"

You give a scientist a series of observations, and yes, he or she will create a model for it. That model might be wrong, and the more self-aware scientists realize that it is inevitably wrong in at least some respect, but that model might also be useful. In the case of weather extremes, they were predicted long before the current run of record highs and lows started hitting us.

For global warming, scientists have over a century of good measurements for a large part of the globe. Earlier than this, they have ice cores, records of vegetation and tree growth and whatnot to indicate roughly what the temperature was for several millennia. The data indicate variation, but the current upswing in temperatures is precipitous. There is nothing like it in the record, until now. In looking for an explanation, human activity - and particularly the burning of fossil fuels in large amounts - is at least something to be considered.


One explanation of the Little Ice Age I've read that I found particularly interesting is that a small comet struck the Earth right about that time, kicking up enough dust to cool the Earth for a few decades. It seems a lot of cities in Asia Minor burned to the ground right about that time...

Posted by: M. Bulger at January 24, 2005 4:28 PM

Then again, check out http://dml.cmnh.org/2004Feb/msg00158.html and the two subsequent posts for another model for the Little Ice Age (as well as other warming and cooling events).

Posted by: M. Bulger at January 24, 2005 4:51 PM

The cold weather linkage to global warming exposes global warming for the pseduo-religious nature of the theory.

Posted by: AML at January 24, 2005 5:32 PM

I have a tradition of celebrating Earth Day by burning a pile of old tires, but I had no idea I was doing something that was more than symbolic.

Posted by: carter at January 24, 2005 7:06 PM

M. Bulger: Are another one of Whitey's brothers?

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at January 24, 2005 7:22 PM

John, the lead author of this report has an explanation of the Little Ice Age -- that the Black Death reduced agriculture in Eurasia so much that forests replaced warming fields, and, presto!, a blip down in the human-caused warming.

Although his general argument parallels my historical one, I think he marches a bit too much with 7-league boots on this one.

Interesting domicile of the study's three authors:

Lede author from the hotbed (so to speak) of climatic conservatism, Madison (really), and the other authors from UVA, home of Pat Michaels the arch warming skeptic.

At first I postulated that Ruddiman was a dissertation student of Michaels's, but he's too old.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at January 25, 2005 1:34 AM


I have no brothers. And I have no idea what relationship, if any, I have to Whitey. Or Marc, for that matter. Or to the proprietor of Bulger Safe and Lock in Seattle, WA.

Posted by: M. Bulger at January 25, 2005 10:22 AM