Friday, January 22, 2016

Warming Bad, Ice Age Good

Husna Haq at Christian Science Monitor writes about how carbon emissions since the industrial revolution have actually averted a real geological/climatological catastrophe - another global ice age. If this is true then atmospheric greenhouse gasses have been a genuine blessing, but Ms. Haq doesn't see it that way:
[A] new study suggests climate change may have delayed the next ice age by 50,000 to 100,000 years.

Human interference in the form of burning fossil fuels has irrevocably changed Earth's cycles, significantly delaying the next glacial cycle, according to a study published in the journal Nature....

Were it not for high levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, Earth would be due for an ice age, a period of extreme cooling of the climate during which ice sheets cover large swatches of the land.
This sounds like it should be cause for rejoicing, but then Ms. Haq delivers herself of a real head-scratcher:
While it may appear to be good news that humans have successfully delayed the next ice age, it's actually not.(emphasis mine)

Ice ages play a significant role in shaping the landscape and leaving behind fertile soil for Earth's civilizations. They carve channels in Earth, leaving behind rivers and lakes. If the period between ice ages becomes too long, the planet may become relatively dry and barren, explains Gizmodo.
Gizmodo is a tech blog so I don't know what particular expertise they have in climatology or geology, but never mind that. What seems to concern Ms. Haq is that since the earth is not now undergoing glaciation, new rivers and lakes are not being formed.

Think about that for a moment. If an ice age did recur most of North America and Europe would be covered with an ice sheet about one mile high. Whole cities would be crushed and leveled as the ice advanced southward from the arctic. Much of the world's population would be pushed into a considerably reduced habitable region which would create enormous chaos and conflict as migrants struggled with indigenous people for land and resources. Agriculture would be disrupted and mass starvation would ensue, as would mass extinctions of wildlife, but Ms. Haq would apparently prefer all these calamities befall the world than have global warming raise sea levels a few inches. What else could she mean when she says that averting an ice age via global warming is not good news?

One can only stand in jaw-dropping astonishment at how some people think.