Monday, September 10, 2007

Raping Gaia for the kiddies

Here's an unusual global warming study:

The effects of burning fossil fuels today will extend long beyond the next couple of hundred years, possibly delaying the onset of Earth's next ice age, more properly called a glacial period, says researcher Toby Tyrrell of the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom.
In the most recent glacial period, sheets of ice covered all of Canada and most of the northern United States, as well as all of Scandinavia and most of Britain and Russia.
To understand how beneficial global warming could turn out to be, it helps to understand that for the past 40 million years, the Earth has been getting steadily colder, not warmer.

Continental drift has brought more land closer to the poles, and the Antarctic and Arctic ice caps have gradually grown, with intermittent periods of contraction.

Those periods of contraction, when it gets briefly warmer, are called interglacial periods, and we've been in one — the Holocene interglacial — for the past 10-12,000 years.

Unfortunately, interglacial periods don't last long. The previous one, the Eemian, lasted 15-17,000 years before another ice age set in.

Glacial periods last, on average, 100,000 years, steadily getting colder until temperatures suddenly shoot up again.

Without human industrial activity, we would be already at least halfway through the current interglacial. A new glacial period would be due in 5-10,000 years.
So now when someone complains to you about the pile of smouldering tyres in your frontyard, you can say "It's for the kiddies...".

To be less partisan, ice ages are a bummer. It's easier to deal with coastline erosion than with two kilometres of ice above your head. The dangers of ice ages were dwelt on thirty years ago during the global cooling scare. It's good to see a little perspective for once.

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