Matt Ridley, (properly 5th Viscount Ridley DL FRSL FMedSci) whose blog I follow and whose insights I often enjoy, has taken a refreshingly contrarian view of climate change in the Global Warming Policy Forum ~ but I’m afraid that our famously thin-skinned climate minister, Catherine McKenna, will not be impressed.
In essence Matt Ridley is saying that we are, more probably than not, based upon the geological evidence, headed for another ice age; but, he reminds, us geological time and climate change are slow so we have hundreds, perhaps a thousand years to get ready for it, and he says that “The argument goes like this. Colder oceans evaporate less moisture and rainfall decreases. At the depth of the last ice age, Africa suffered long mega-droughts; only small pockets of rainforest remained. Crucially, the longer an ice age lasts, the more carbon dioxide is dissolved in the cold oceans. When the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere drops below 200 parts per million (0.02 per cent), plants struggle to grow at all, especially at high altitudes. Deserts expand. Dust storms grow more frequent and larger. In the Antarctic ice cores, dust increased markedly whenever carbon dioxide levels got below 200 ppm. The dust would have begun to accumulate on the ice caps, especially those of Eurasia and North America, which were close to deserts. Next time a Milankovich [my link to a very brief explanation of Milutin Milankovitch’s theory] great summer came along, and the ice caps began to melt, the ice would have grown dirtier and dirtier, years of deposited dust coming together as the ice shrank. The darker ice would have absorbed more heat from the sun and a runaway process of collapsing ice caps would have begun … [and] … All of human civilisation happened in an interglacial period, with a relatively stable climate, plentiful rainfall and high enough levels of carbon dioxide to allow the vigorous growth of plants. Agriculture was probably impossible before then, and without its hugely expanded energy supply, none of the subsequent flowering of human culture would have happened … [but] … That interglacial will end. Today the northern summer sunshine is again slightly weaker than the southern. In a few tens of thousands of years, our descendants will probably be struggling with volatile weather, dust storms and air that cannot support many crops. But that is a very long way off, and by then technology should be more advanced, unless we prevent it developing. The key will be energy. With plentiful and cheap energy our successors could thrive even in a future ice age, growing crops, watering deserts, maintaining rainforests and even melting ice caps.” The challenge is to make the best use of our energy resources for the next few centuries.
It all sounds a bit like a bad science fiction film, doesn’t it? Cities under vast domes, surrounded by impenetrable glaciers that stretch down to cover even the Caribbean and Mediterranean seas … humans acting like cave dwellers and so on. Perhaps our greatest cities will be abandoned … perhaps the US capital will have to move to El Paso Texas. But, hold on … Not so, Viscount Ridley says: we should be able to cope quite adequately when vast deserts that are now useless are irrigated abundant water from the artificial melting of glaciers and giant pipelines. Perhaps some out great Northern and Souther cities like Auckland, Beijing, Berlin, Boston, London, Melbourne, New York, Sydney, Toronto and Tokyo and their surrounding districts will survive thanks to artificially powered micro-climates …islands of wealth and enterprise in an ocean of ice.
I don’t know what the answer is but I suspect that Matt Ridley has a much, Much clearer world view than do Catherine McKenna and Justin Trudeau.
I want a cleaner environment for Canada: clean air to breathe, clean water to drink, clean soil in which to grow our food, and, in general, a “better” environment for all living things. It seems to me that being clean and green are good business practices ~ it’s not ideological, or, at least, it shouldn’t be. We can exploit our natural wealth and, simultaneously, clean up the environment as we go along … yes, an oil sands mine is an ugly thing, until after it closes and is returned to nature. Yes a nuclear power plant produces toxic waste, but good science and engineering can help us store it safely for thousands and thousands of years. It’s not an either/or thing.
The climate is changing, no one in their right mind disputes that … but, it has been in constant change ever since there was a climate … what direction it is changing in might be debatable and the mid to long term impacts will be, for Canada, equally debatable. I suspect that Catherine McKenna and Justin Trudeau are very short term thinkers.