Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Winter's A-Comin'



Over at CommonDreams there's a fascinating and startling report on Global Warming (you know, that spooky superstitious stuff that our Worldly and Wise president doesn't believe in?). Turns out, things could be a little worse than we thought. Turns out A New Ice Age could be as little as 2 years away.

...[I]f enough cold, fresh water coming from the melting polar ice caps and the melting glaciers of Greenland flows into the northern Atlantic, it will shut down the Gulf Stream, which keeps Europe and northeastern North America warm. The worst-case scenario would be a full-blown return of the last ice age - in a period as short as 2 to 3 years from its onset - and the mid-case scenario would be a period like the "little ice age" of a few centuries ago that disrupted worldwide weather patterns leading to extremely harsh winters, droughts, worldwide desertification, crop failures, and wars around the world.

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For early humans living in Europe 30,000 years ago - when the cave paintings in France were produced - the weather would be pretty much like it is today for well over a thousand years, giving people a chance to build culture to the point where they could produce art and reach across large territories.

And then a particularly hard winter would hit.

The spring would come late, and summer would never seem to really arrive, with the winter snows appearing as early as September. The next winter would be brutally cold, and the next spring didn't happen at all, with above-freezing temperatures only being reached for a few days during August and the snow never completely melting. After that, the summer never returned: for 1500 years the snow simply accumulated and accumulated, deeper and deeper, as the continent came to be covered with glaciers and humans either fled or died out.

Are you listening, George? George!?! Mr. Bush!! Take your nose out of that copy of Bible for Dummies and read some frickin' science!

Most scientists involved in research on this topic agree that the culprit is global warming, melting the icebergs on Greenland and the Arctic icepack and thus flushing cold, fresh water down into the Greenland Sea from the north. When a critical threshold is reached, the climate will suddenly switch to an ice age that could last minimally 700 or so years, and maximally over 100,000 years.

Well, maybe they're just a bunch of pessimists, those cranky scientists. Surely they haven't taken into account our vast technological superiority over our Neanderthal ancestors! What with all that oil just waiting to be drilled and burned to keep our cars running and our homes warm... Why, we could outlast two Ice Ages, back to back! So nothing to worry about. Besides, Jesus is coming back any day now.

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