We are actually living in an ice age…
The climate summit bambizzle in Paris at the close of 2015, the infamous if not notorious James Hansen (former official NASA government global warming alarmist) readily admitted, was “half-assed and half-baked,” a “fake,” and a “fraud.” Mario Loyola [link] observed that we are now in the twilight years of the climate change movement. The realization dawns on us that it’s only we taxpayers who have any skin in the game and we’ve been lied to by our Leftist overlords like commie authoritarians who lecture Chinese peasants on how to live while waiving Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book overhead like a whip.
Meanwhile, despite fears of global warming, “technically,” as Loyola informs us, we humans are living in an ice age (the Pleistocene Ice Age), “which began about 2.6 million years ago.” The climate agreement in Paris is a harbinger of the sorts of political charades we must avoid in the future. “Any attempt to impose command-economy solutions on a global scale will fall far short or outright fail,” observed Loyola. “The right strategy for confronting environmental challenges will have to be based on rational market incentives, rational cost-benefit analysis, and a broad-based consensus about the vital importance of efficient markets. Strategies that distort rational cost-benefit analysis (or the science on which it is based) to suit an anti-market agenda will not work and can only maintain the illusion of legitimacy for so long before they are discredited.”
A geological “ice age” typically lasts millions of years and is characterized by cycles of glaciation, during which glaciers grow and oceans recede, punctuated by warmer interglacial periods, in which glaciers recede and oceans rise—such as the current Holocene interglacial, in which human civilization has flourished.
During glacial periods, the northern hemisphere becomes substantially covered in glaciers, typically several kilometers thick. An abundance of data (from isotopes in ice sheets and the ocean floor, to the fossil record) enables us to reconstruct much of its history. During glaciations, average temperatures typically drop about 20 degrees Celsius below today’s, and sea levels drop about 400 feet below where they are now. During the coldest points in those glacial periods, an adventurous animal can walk from England across Europe and Asia to North America without getting its feet wet. This almost certainly explains the Asian origins of native American populations, which are thought to have crossed the current Bering Strait on foot in repeated waves between 80,000 and 12,000 years ago.
The last glacial period ended starting about 18,000 years ago, the height of the Wisconsonian glaciation, when the first of several dramatic warming trends began. Average temperatures rose and fell and rose again by 20 degrees Celsius in barely 5,000 years, less than the time between Sumerian civilization and the present day. Sea levels, which lag temperature swings by long periods of time, rose 300 feet between 15,000 and 8,000 years ago. That’s an average of more than one meter per century. Among humans, sedentary agriculture first arose when temperatures stabilized near current levels about 12,000 years ago. There was at least one settled community that reached a population of 8,000 inhabitants in Turkey some 9,500 years ago. At the dawn of civilization, man would have experienced floods on a biblical scale.
In fact, major environmental changes have happened in time scales that are readily understandable in terms of human history. The Baltic Sea, for example is typically a freshwater glacial-runoff lake that disappears completely during glacial periods. When the North Sea finally rose high enough to breach the land bridge between Denmark and Sweden there were already large settled communities practicing agriculture. The saltwater ecology along the western edge of the Baltic Sea is not much older than the first pyramids.
Before the interglacial period began 18,000 years ago, most of North America was buried under a vast sheet of ice. That glacial period (“ice age” in common parlance) lasted more than 100,000 years, though with significant variations in temperature, glacier cover, and sea levels—mini-cycles referred to as “stadials” and “interstadials.” During that time, anatomically modern humans spread throughout the world across land bridges that connected most of the continents. Our ancestors dominated the warmer climes and competed with Neanderthals for food across the tundra and ice of Europe.
The warm interglacial period before that glacial period only lasted from 145,000 to 127,000 years ago. At their maximum, temperatures were significantly warmer than today, with ocean levels about thirty feet higher. Evidence in the form of algae fossils suggests that during at least some part of this period, the Arctic Ocean was completely free of ice cover, during the summer months if not year round. Only Antarctica retained its vast ice sheets and glaciers.
This repeating cycle of 100,000-year glaciations and 10,000 to 20,000 year interglacials has been fairly consistent over the past 2.6 million years. The planet has trundled through the entire cycle dozens of times. If the pattern holds, we are due for another major glaciation sometime in the next several thousand years: The northern hemisphere will again become substantially covered in glaciers, ocean levels will fall hundreds of feet, and the earth’s overall production of plant biomass will fall substantially below what the current human population needs to feed itself. That will pose some ticklish technological challenges even for our hyper-adaptable species. Hopefully, such changes will be incremental enough to allow for adaptation.
It’s impossible to say when (or even whether) this next “ice age” will come, partly because the scientific theories of what drives these epochal glacial cycles are all underdetermined—that is, theories explain part of the climate variation but not all of it. For example, the start of interglacial periods seems correlated to variations in the earth’s orbit. But the extent of orbital “eccentricity” does not fully explain the amount of warming that occurs, implying that other factors and feedback amplifiers are also involved.
It is true, and at least somewhat alarming, that the current atmospheric carbon dioxide level of 400 parts per million (ppm) is far higher than at any time in the past 800,000 years, almost entirely as a result of humans burning fossil fuels. What we hear less often, however, is that during the first 1.8 million years of the Pleistocene Ice Age, carbon dioxide levels were significantly higher than that. Major glaciation occurred a dozen or more times, without taking much notice at all of what should have been a much stronger greenhouse effect. And for 245 million years before that, carbon dioxide levels were vastly higher… Compared with that 245 million-year record, pre-industrial carbon dioxide concentrations of 280 ppm were perhaps perilously close to the level, around 150 ppm, below which plants cannot grow. (See, “Twilight of the Climate Change Movement” by Mario Loyola, Ibid.)
We recently learned that the Canadian government has determined yet again that, polar bears are doing just fine. Who and what of God’s creatures will the Left choose to spotlight next as being in the crosshairs of modernity, unicorns and leprechauns? On the bright side, with creatures like Al Gore and James Hansen headed for extinction there is at least a chance that unbiased scientific inquiry will survive pervasive politicization, common sense will flourish, a new age of reason will prevail and the productive can get back to making America great again.
Imposition of command-economy solutions to the non-problem of global warming, handed down by official government experts from their ivory towers and enforced by unelected authoritarian bureaucrats, is what the dispiriting hand of socialism brings to the table. No amount of Leftist propaganda about stopping the seas from rising will turn that sow’s ear into a silk purse!
Every year produces more raw data than the year before,
and the discrepancies between the new data and the
simple climate models are increasing. ~Mario Loyola