The next ice age
Many climate scientists now agree that global warming, whether cyclical in nature or caused by man, could trigger a new ice age in the Northern Hemisphere. Some of them believe this potential catastrophic event has already been set in motion.
On March 5, 2004, NASA reported that views from orbit "clearly show a long-term decline in the perennial Arctic Sea ice." Scientists at NASA and elsewhere worry that melting ice will dump enough freshwater into the North Atlantic to interfere with ocean currents. Receding ice cover exposes more of the ocean surface, causing more moisture to evaporate, leading to more rainfall and snowfall in the northern latitudes.
The oceans circulate water in a pattern called the "Great Ocean Conveyer." Saltwater is denser (heavier) than freshwater. The surface water needs to sink to drive the Conveyer. Sunken water flows south along the ocean floor toward the equator, while warm surface water from the Tropics flows north to replace the water that sank. An increase of freshwater could prevent the sinking of North Atlantic surface waters, stopping the circulation.
Evidence developed from tree rings and ice cores indicates that the Earth's climate has shifted abruptly in the past. As the world warmed at the end of the last ice age, melting ice sheets appear to have caused a sudden halt to the Conveyer, creating ice-age-like conditions for the next 1,300 years called the "Younger Dryas."
Without the warmth the ocean currents deliver, Europe‚'s average temperature would drop 10 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Portions of eastern North America would also drop in temperature but not quite as much. These types of abrupt climate changes could result in massive crop failures, leading to food shortages.
A secret report commissioned by the Pentagon, leaked to the press four months later, warns that climate change over the next 20 years (or less) could result in a global catastrophe costing millions of lives in wars and natural disasters. In what is described as a contingency scenario, the report warns that major European cities will sink beneath rising seas as Britain is plunged into a frigid climate by 2020. Dwindling food, water and energy supplies throughout the planet will generate global anarchy. The report concludes, "Disruption and conflict will be endemic features of life. Once again, warfare would define human life."
Recently, a growing number of respected scientists have publicly criticized the Bush Administration for embracing scientific studies that advance their political agenda and ignoring those that don't. Jeremy Symons, a former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) employee and whistle-blower, suggests the suppression of the Pentagon report for four months by the White House is evidence that the Bush Administration is attempting to hide the threat of climate change in order to placate large energy and oil companies.
Whether a catastrophic global climate change will occur in the near future is uncertain. If it does happen, it will take two to three years (perhaps as long as a decade) to unfold, a very short period of time in geological history but plenty of time in human existence to prepare for the consequences.
There are some sensible things to do just in case the worst case scenario comes true:
* Avoid living on or near the ocean
* Avoid living in or near a big city
* Have a reliable source of freshwater
* Keep plenty of food in stock
* Keep your powder dry and your nose to the wind
We live in precarious times. Man's inhumanity to man continues to haunt the world, creating a destiny of good versus evil. When Mother Nature controls destiny, we can only hang on and go along for the ride.