Science Faction: Unlikely Saviour

First things first. I’m not coming at this from the point of view of either an environmentalist or climate denier or anything like that. I find this story interesting from the perspective of a writer. The world is delightfully complex and news stories like these remind us not to get too entrenched in one position or another. It seems that even your survival might depend upon a completely opposing point of view to your own.

It appears that human pollution - essentially carbon dioxide emissions – is deferring the next Ice Age. In the journal Nature Geoscience, scientists write that according to their latest study the next Ice Age would begin within 1,500 years - but carbon emissions have been so high that it will not. The atmospheric concentration of CO2 would have to fall below about 240 parts per million before the glaciation could begin. The current level is around 390parts per million and even if we stopped our carbon emissions dead tomorrow, it would take about 1,000 years to drop.

The scientists behind the study said "It's an interesting philosophical discussion - 'would we better off in a warm world rather than a glaciation?' and probably we would."

Perhaps environmentalists wouldn’t agree. What is interesting about this is not whether one side is right or wrong. The environmental arguments are well known. It obviously does not make any sense to pollute your own environment. From a writer’s perspective, it’s interesting to look at the paradox here. Reducing carbon emissions, it seems, will lead to harsh existence for humanity and a world in which we will not be able to feed our populations. The environmental arguments will ring pretty hollow in a world where half the population is going to die. Forget humans for a moment – imagine the mass extinction of animal and plant species that an Ice Age will result in. Ironically, it seems poisoning our planet is acting towards the preservation of these species.

Ultimately, it probably comes down to the extent to which you pollute the planet. Environmentalists will rightly warn against complacency, but in a world where the arguments against climate change are almost a religion, it’s interesting for the advocates of these arguments to reassess their position: to not become complacent themselves. The planet is complex and we cannot hope to know everything about it. There’s nothing wrong with scientists and supporters of both sides of the argument admitting that when it comes the dynamics of an entire planet’s climate system – across a period of time much longer than humanity has been in existence – there are many things that they simply do not know.

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