Human carbon emissions could put off a lethal ice age

Human carbon emissions could put off a lethal ice age

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Human carbon emissions could put off a “lethal” ice age which is due to start within 1,500 years, say British scientists at Cambridge University.

According to them, levels of CO2 in the atmosphere could actually insulate against a catastrophic ice age which would see glaciers advance over Europe and north America. They admit people would be “better off” in a warmer world — but caution that this is ‘missing the point’.

Lead scientist Luke Skinner says even if carbon emissions stopped today, levels would remain elevated for at least 1,000 years, and stored heat could actually prevent the next Ice Age from happening, the Daily Mail reported.

Instead, things would cool down, but not quite so severely. Thanks to elevated levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the earth would not experience “glaciation” — periods of severe cold where glaciers advance.

The current level of carbon dioxide is 390 parts per million. The scientists believe that level would need to drop to 240 parts per million to allow glaciation to take place.

“It’s an interesting philosophical discussion. Would we better off in a warm  world rather than a glaciation? Probably we would. At current levels of CO2, even if emissions stopped now, we’d probably have a long interglacial period,” he said.
“Interglacial” periods are warmer periods between periods of glaciation. The last ice age ended 11,500 years ago.

The cycle is dictated by tiny variations in earth’s orbit around the sun. Ice ages are marked by glaciers advancing over continents. At the peak of the last ice age, large areas of Europe, Asia and North America were covered in ice. The effects on human civilisation would be catastrophic.

“This is missing the point, because where we’re going is not maintaining our currently warm climate but heating it much further, and adding CO2 to a warm climate is very different from adding it to a cold climate,” Skinner wrote in Nature Geoscience journal.