no, we’re not about to see another ice age

Climate change denialists have ran out of contrarian theories so they decided to recycle an old one.

frozen lake

When dealing with global warming deniers, you’re going to end up talking to people ready to convince you that up is down and black is white because they’re afraid that up and black are conspiring to raise their taxes, or trick them into destroying their economy, or install a new world order. There’s going to be a lot of ideological cherry-picking and a lot of shoddy science used to justify their stance that the planet is not warming, or at least not by our hand, like papers that put the blame for rising temperatures on cosmic rays without poring over the actual climate data to check if the idea plays out in in reality. Having ran out of arguments years ago, denialists are now starting to recycle their tricks and are circling around the notion that we’re actually on the verge of another Little Ice Age, laid out in a paper published by a Russian scientist still convinced that the Maunder Minimum was really the culprit of the powerful cold snap that lasted between 1300 and 1850. It seemed familiar the minute I saw it and sure enough, the same blogs were peddling the same exact idea as long as seven years ago.

Now, there are numerous problems with the idea that global warming will be cancelled out by another ice age, but before we get to them, let’s get the basic facts of the matter straight. The mini ice age in question wasn’t global which already means that having the sun as a primary culprit is going to be a tad questionable since a drop in solar radiation shouldn’t plunge one part of the world into ice and snow while leaving others far less affected. That discrepancy suggests a much more complicated mechanism than the sun at work, and thorough modeling of the atmospheric effects cased by a sudden loss of sunspots between 1645 and 1715, known as the Maunder Minimum, generally agree about a no more than 0.4 degree cooling, leaving both the uneven temperatures between Northern and Southern hemispheres and the additional 1.6 degrees of cooling in the North unexplained. And this wasn’t the only minimum during this period. There was also the Dalton Minimum which has an even more muddled link to global temperatures, since volcanic activity that cooled the North was on the rise, skewing the data.

In fact, volcanism was on the rise in general at the time and all the leading theories on the subject point the finger at volcanoes disturbing currents in the North Atlantic and sending more snow and storms to Europe and North America while the role of the sun seemed relatively minimal. So to look at potential slowdowns in sunspot production and declaring that a new ice age will begin by 2060 runs contrary to the vast majority of scientific literature on the subject and fails to account for the many differences between the pre-industrialization and post-industrialization eras in human history. The Little Ice Age did not hit in spite of vast output of greenhouse gasses into the air, it hit long before we had our factories and mass production, so its effects right now would be drastically different than they were prior to electricity being a basic prerequisite for a home in most places on Earth. Some researchers are actually worried that global warming may delay an actual ice age for which we’ll be due in about 20,000 years, caused by cyclical fluctuations in Earth’s orbit rather than a possible lack of sunspots, which may not be drastic.

This means that if you’re worried about an ice age starting when the sun’s surface suddenly goes quiet, you’re worried about a B sci-fi movie scenario, not an actual thing that can or will happen. Trying to pin any cold snap or warming period on sunspots rather than Milankovich Cycles ignores both the complexity of the Earth’s climate and our effects on the atmosphere by pumping out a hundred times more greenhouse gasses than every volcano on the planet combined. Not only that, but this isn’t even a new idea and it hasn’t been debunked just once already. It’s nothing more than recycling a paper out of context to pretend that we don’t actually have to do anything about global warming and if we ignore it and elect people who think it’s an elaborate ruse to raise taxes or enslave the world, it will just go away. But reality an only be denied for so long, and no matter how many times we’re told that the sun is responsible for global warming, it won’t make this idea true or stop raising average global temperatures year over year.

# science // climate change / environment / global warming / sunspot


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