The false can never grow into truth by growing in power.
We are witnessing the convergences of a number of interwoven crises, with multiple, interlocking effects and symptoms, building up a “perfect storm”:
A regional cooling of the climate forecast for North America and Northern Europe (Now the Pentagon tells Bush: climate change will destroy us, Guardian, 22 February 2004; Global warming may lead to colder winters in Britain, Independent, 30 June 2006; Real risk of a Maunder minimum ‘Little Ice Age’ says leading scientist, BBC, 28 October 2013 Cold winters have been caused by global warming: new research, Telegraph, 27 October 2014; Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say, The Independent, 23 marzo 2015; Climate scientists fear ‘Day After Tomorrow’ scenario, MSNBC, 10 September 2015; Two distinct influences of Arctic warming on cold winters over North America and East Asia, Nature, 31 August 2015; Death rate rises as cold snap grips UK, Guardian, 4 February 2015; NASA Study: Mass Gains of Antarctic Ice Sheet Greater than Losses, NASA, 30 October 2015; Growing Antarctic Ice Sheets May Have Sparked Ice Age, Live Science, 04 December 2014); the Syrian and Iraqi Armageddon; ISIS-Daesh; the European refugee and migrant crisis; the Western and Chinese financial instability (Here’s how the growing corporate debt bubble could burst, Fortune, 4 October 2015).
Our leaders, at least in the West, do not appear to be able to perceive the distress of the engines of our civilization. Or perhaps they are not in a position to effectively intervene, obstructed or driven as they likely are by powerful and selfish interest groups (Naomi Klein, Disaster capitalism: how to make money out of misery, Guardian, 30 August 2006).
At some point, in the foreseeable future, ordinary people could decide that it is time to rise up and seize the power from leaders that are failing them.
WAR ON TERROR
They do not move beyond short-term solutions, such as dropping bombs to make the world a safer place, escalating the problems instead of solving them. After fifteen years of battling it should by now be clear that the “War on Terror” cannot be won and only serves the purpose of radicalising young Muslims, as in Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Gaza, Somalia, Yemen). A perpetual war which is eroding the principles we uphold and claim to defend from the assault of extremists.
WAR ON REFUGEES
Presidential candidates such as Trump, Carson, Bush, leading European intellectuals, and several Eastern European politicians have expressed frightening views on the fate of immigrants, refugees, and ordinary citizens, involving mass border-closing, mass deportations, mass internments, mass surveillance, that is, the creation of continent-wide Guantánamos in Europe and North America.
They are allowed to do so on the back of fear of Islam and Terror (“First they came for the Muslims…”).
As Alexander Hamilton once remarked in Federalist 8 (1787): Safety from external danger is the most powerful director of national conduct. Even the ardent love of liberty will, after a time, give way to its dictates. The violent destruction of life and property…a state of continual danger, will compel nations the most attached to liberty to resort…to institutions which have a tendency to destroy their civil and political rights.”
In point of fact, during WWI and WWII, the U.S. government imprisoned thousands of citizens whose only fault was to belong to the “wrong” ethnic group. McCarthyism and the McCarran Internal Security Act (1950) somehow revived the witch-hunting spirit of the provisions included in the notorious Alien and Sedition Acts (1798), allowing the detention, expulsion and de-naturalization of persons suspected to be engaged in “un-American” activities.
Nowadays, one sometimes wonders if a neo-McCarthyist Committee of Uneuropean Activities will at some point be appointed.
The rejection of Syrian and Iraqi refugees would condemn many of them to certain death (see the Jewish precedent in 1930s Europe) and would bolster the Daesh caliphate, whose chief aim is to ensure a permanent clash of civilizations by fuelling divisive feelings in societies.
Solidarity, compassion, unity, inclusiveness, humanity, love may well be the ultimate kryptonite against neoconservative and Islamic fundamentalists.
WAR ON CLIMATE
With thousands of refugees fleeing to Europe each day, over the next winters Europe’s exorbitant energy costs could make this humanitarian crisis even worse than it already is.
Cold temperatures kill 20 times more people than hot temperatures (Mortality risk attributable to high and low ambient temperature: a multicountry observational study, Lancet, 25 July 2015) and yet the Paris climate summit’s attendants are asked to pledge nearly $1 trillion in GDP every year for the rest of this century in order to reduce global temperatures by a minuscule 0.048°C (Bjorn Lomborg, Paris climate promises will reduce temperatures by just 0.05°C in 2100, Global Policy, 9 November 2015).
These are precious sources that could be much better spent on means to help the vast majority of Syrian refugees professing to be willing to go back to their country once the civil war will be over to remain in safe areas in the Middle East and to rebuild their houses, businesses and the nation’s infrastructures.
AN IMPENDING, SYSTEMIC COLLAPSE?
We know from the past that instances of regional climate change leading to cooler and more extreme and unpredictable conditions are responsible at least in part for widespread civil disturbance, warfare and social collapse due to repeated crop failures (Eric H. Cline, 1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed, 2014).
If this is the case, then a systemic collapse triggered by several butterfly effects and processes of structural degradation is on the cards. This is by no means an unprecedented occurrence (e.g. Bronze Age, Mayan and Anasazi decadence, Vikings forced to abandon their colonies in Greenland and North America, etc.: regional cooling appears to have been the chief cause of these events) and we should be already making sensible preparations for what is to come (Brandon Lee Drake, The Influence of Climatic Change on the Late Bronze Age Collapse and the Greek Dark Ages, Journal of Archaeological Science, 2012).
AN ABRUPT ENDING TO THE HOLOCENE
We have some very strange weather at the moment, but what’s interesting is that some of the research we’ve done shows that there have been times in the past when the jet stream has been as far south as it is now. In the 1680s and 1690s the jet stream was as far south as it is today, but all that really does is demonstrate how incredibly complicated predicting weather is. Our climate in the 1690s and 1690s wasn’t as it is now, that period is known as The Little Ice Age.
Dennis Wheeler, Emeritus Professor of Climatology, University of Sunderland, 6 march 2014
…when the atmosphere cools, the jet stream becomes more erratic, swinging in zigzags, first north then south, and becoming very weak and susceptible to disturbances caused by sea temperature and by snow and ice on land and sea…Recent severe weather conditions in North America and elsewhere are a result of this weaker, more erratic pattern of windflow. High pressure building over the southwestern United States seaboard, aided by ocean temperature conditions, zigzags the jest stream so that it is too weak to push the “blocking high” system away. A dominant flow from northwest to southeast is established across the whole of the United States east of the Rockies, encouraging the southward flow of the jet stream and cooling a great area of ocean south of Newfoundland.
Douglas Orgill and John Gribbin, “The Sixth Winter”, 1979
As the planet was warming (1979-2001) the jet stream was moving north, at a speed of 12-13 miles per year (the polar convective cells were shrinking). Now that it has stopped warming, the jet stream is gradually shifting southward (the polar convective cells are growing): “Instead of circling the earth in the far north, the jet stream has begun to meander, like a river heading off course. This has brought chilly Arctic weather further south than normal, and warmer temperatures up north. Perhaps most disturbingly, it remains in place for longer periods of time” (“Jet Stream Shift Could Mean Harsher Winters”, Discovery, 16 February 2014).
Jet streams trending equatorially are a phenomenon linked to cooling poles (a greater differential between tropical and polar temperatures) and to low solar activity (an active sun flattens the jet stream: more latitudinal (“zonal”) jet stream; a quiet sun makes it more meandering: more meridional jet stream) (cf. Brian Fagan, “The Little Ice Age: How Climate Made History 1300-1850“).
What will likely occur over the next few years is that heat will be pulled from the tropics to the poles to offset their cooling trend. This means more powerful storms, overall windier conditions and maximum precipitation (i.e. snow), as it normally happens when warm meets cold. When mid latitudes will be cool enough, nothing will stop the Arctic cooling and the northern hemisphere will plunge into an ice age.
So, no matter how counterintuitive this may sound, global warming produces global cooling and triggers glaciations. Every ice age has been preceded by an upward spike in global temperatures increasing oceanic evaporation and precipitations falling as snow, feeding glaciers at high latitudes and high elevations.
If this is the beginning of a cooling phase or even the end of the current interglacial, then we are to expect snowy winters and shorter, hot summers keeping the oceans warm, with more evaporation.
This is how it works:
The beginning of the last glacial period was characterized in the Northern hemisphere by major accumulation of snow at high latitudes and the formation of a huge polar ice sheet. For climatologists this was paradoxical, since snowfall is always associated with high humidity and relatively moderate temperatures. Now, a French team coordinated by María Fernanda Sánchez-Goñi, a researcher at EPHE working in the ‘Oceanic and Continental Environments and Paleoenvironments’ Laboratory (CNRS/Universités Bordeaux 1 & 4) has solved this paradox. By analyzing sediment cores dating from 80 000 to 70 000 years ago, the researchers have shown that during this period water temperatures in the Bay of Biscay remained relatively high, whereas temperatures in mainland Europe gradually fell. Carried northwards by wind, the humidity released by this thermal contrast appears to have caused the snowfall that formed the polar ice sheet.
Interglacial periods do indeed end with a global warming phase, as a gap is needed between warming tropics (warm oceans provide the necessary moisture) and cooling subpolar zones, for a glaciation to occur (Andrews and Barry, Glacial Inception and Disintegration during the Last Glaciation, Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Vol. 6, p.205, 1978; How Global Warming Can Chill the Planet, Live Science, 17 December 2004; Kukla and Gavin, Did glacials start with global warming? Quaternary Science Review, Vol. 24, August 2005, pp. 1547–1557; Wallace S. Broecker, The End of the Present Interglacial: How and When?, Quaternary Science Reviews, 1998, Vol. 17, pp. 689-694; Tatjana Boettger et al., 2009, Instability of climate and vegetation dynamics in Central and Eastern Europe during the final stage of the Last Interglacial (Eemian, Mikulino) and Early Glaciation, Quarternary International, 207, 137-144; María-Fernanda Sánchez-Goñi et al., 2013, Air-sea temperature decoupling in Western Europe during the last interglacial/glacial transition, Nature Geoscience, Vol. 6, pp. 837–841).
Scientists analyzing the geological and ice records tell us that ice ages take place in a regular cyclic pattern and normally last about 100,000 years, with intervening interglacial periods of 10 to 15,000 years which “tend to occur during periods of peak solar radiation in the Northern Hemisphere summer”.
Because five of the last 6 interglacial periods have lasted about 11,500-12,000 years, and the Holocene began approximately 11,700 years ago, we should not discount the possibility that we might be nearing the end of the present interglacial period, a tipping-point which will return us to a glacial period marked by cooler, dryer climate, killer frosts, frequent floods, lower food production, and expanding ice sheets and sea ice.
It is thus not unreasonable to expect a marked cooling between 2018 and 2025, with wild swings in climate, and a drop of Northern Hemisphere sea and air temperatures greater than in the late Sixties (Thompson et al., An abrupt drop in Northern Hemisphere sea surface temperature around 1970, Nature, 467, 444–447).
The two main features indicating that we have already entered a transition phase are (cf. Müller and Kukla, North Atlantic Current and European environments during the declining stage of the last interglacial, Geology, 2004; Risebrobakken, Dokken and Jansen, Extent and Variability of the Meridional Atlantic Circulation in the Eastern Nordic Seas During Marine Isotope Stage 5 and Its Influence on the Inception of the Last Glacial, American Geophysical Union, Geophysical Monograph Series 158, 2005; Stefanie B. Wirth, The Holocene flood history of the Central Alps reconstructed from lacustrine sediments: Frequency, intensity and controlling climate factors, Quaternary Science Reviews, September 2013):
- Increasing precipitations during the cold season at high latitudes and on the mountains (Northern Hemisphere Snow Cover Anomalies, NOAA 1967-2013), which causes a quick build-up of the ice sheets;
- A cooling North Atlantic, as the North Atlantic Current struggles to penetrate into the Nordic Seas;
According to the Danish Niels Bohr Institute, the last ice age ended circa 11,711 years ago, “as if a button was pressed”. This transition generally takes place rather abruptly (Mini ice age took hold of Europe in months, New Scientist, 11 November 2009; Steffensen, J. P.,et al., 2008, High-resolution Greenland ice core data show abrupt climate change happens in a few years, Science, 321, 680-684; Flückiger, J., 2008, Did you say “fast?”, Science, 321, 650-651):
During the past 110,000 years, there have been at least 20 such abrupt climate changes. Only one period of stable climate has existed during the past 110,000 years–the 11,000 years of modern climate (the “Holocene” era). “Normal” climate for Earth is the climate of sudden extreme jumps–like a light switch flicking on and off…The historical records shows us that abrupt climate change is not only possible–it is the normal state of affairs. The present warm, stable climate is a rare anomaly.
The most famous evidence of this abrupt weather change comes from Otzi, the “Tyrolean ice man” whose remarkably preserved body was discovered in the Eastern Alps in 1991 after it was exposed by a melting glacier. Forensic evidence suggests that Otzi was shot in the back with an arrow, escaped his enemies, then sat down behind a boulder and bled to death. We know that within days of Otzi’s dying there must have been a climate event large enough to entomb him in snow; otherwise, his body would have decayed or been eaten by scavengers. Radiocarbon dating of Otzi’s remains revealed that he died around 5,200 years ago (Baroni & Orombelli, 1996). The event that preserved Otzi could have been local, but other evidence points to a global event of abrupt cooling. Around the world organic material is being exposed for the first time in 5,200 years as glaciers recede.
Lonnie G. Thompson, Climate Change: The Evidence and Our Options, 2012
ONWARD WITH THE ANTHROPOCENE!
Ultimately, the question we should ask ourselves is: what would be the fate of North America and Northern Europe if climate change orthodoxy were wrong (A complete list of things allegedly caused by global warming)?
We are about to find out whether large portions of the northern hemisphere will be made suddenly uninhabitable by an increasingly dry and freezing climate and, eventually, by the advancing ice sheets.
The demonization of CO2 has been one of the most outrageous fallacies in the history of science. The rate of photosynthesis, and therefore the flourishing of life on this planet, is determined by the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere. The more, the better: plants grow faster, healthier, stronger.
Photosynthesis counters entropy, that is to say, life extinction. Deliberately cutting CO2 concentration is like draining the biosphere’s blood. Our carbon emissions are, as it were, a profoundly innovative way for Gaia to sustain its biosphere and, possibly, forestall some of the effects of the forthcoming ice age.
A human civilization committed to fighting off glacial inception through CO2 emissions, greening the deserts and melting the ice to lower Earth’s albedo would be the most expedient ecological invention ever devised by Mother Nature: humans as a cure for the ice cancer.