January 9, 2012
CO2 Emissions Could Prevent Next Ice Age
Increases in carbon dioxide emissions will prevent us from experiencing the next Ice Age, which experts believe would have occurred within the next millennium, according to research published in this week's edition of the journal Nature Geoscience.
An international team of scientists examined variations in the Earth's orbit, as well as global weather and climate patterns, determining that the next worldwide deep-freeze should begin within the next 1,500 years, the Telegraph reported on Monday. However, that Ice Age will not occur due to the impact of human CO2 emissions on the environment.
"The period between the end of an ice age and the beginning of the next is typically about 11,000 years due to a natural cycle related to the Earth's orbit," the UK newspaper said. "The temperate stretch in between global freezes can be longer or shorter depending on a number of factors, but with the last ice age having ended 11,600 years ago the arrival of another already appears overdue."
The research team, which included scientists from Cambridge University, University College London, the University of Florida, and Bergen University in Norway, calculated that atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration levels would have to fall below 240 parts per million (ppm) in order for glaciations to begin, BBC News Environmental Correspondent Richard Black said.
Currently, the level is approximately 390 ppm, he added.
"At current levels of CO2, even if emissions stopped now we'd probably have a long interglacial duration determined by whatever long-term processes could kick in and bring [atmospheric] CO2 down," Cambridge University's Luke Skinner told BBC News.
"From 8,000 years ago, as human civilization flourished, CO2 reversed its initial downward trend and drifted upwards, accelerating sharply with the industrial revolution," he added. "Although the contribution of human activities to the pre-industrial drift in CO2 remains debated, our work suggests that natural insulation will not be cancelling the impacts of man-made global warming."
The Global Warming Policy Foundation, an organization supporting sustained greenhouse-effect conditions to maintain the present global climate, told the Telegraph that the study proved that man-made carbon dioxide emissions were helping to prevent a "global disaster."
Skinner told Black that he and his colleagues expected such a reactions and called it "an interesting philosophical discussion," but that such believes were "missing the point" of the research.
"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," he added. "The rate of change with CO2 is basically unprecedented, and there are huge consequences if we can't cope with that."
On the Net:
- Nature Geoscience
- Cambridge University
- University College London
- University of Florida
- Bergen University
- Global Warming Policy Foundation