Ralph: can we use climate change to delay a new Ice age?

Ralph: Geologically speaking we are headed for the next Ice Age – although that still might take a while. If this transition would manifest itself in a cooling down of the climate, how bad would it be to slightly stimulate the greenhouse effect in order to delay a new Ice Age? In short, what is your opinion about Salomon Kroonenberg‘s view?

Paul Gilding: Yes, that is an interesting one. The first thing to say is that you have to separate natural variation in climate, being normal, from human induced climate change. The climate naturally varies a lot in terms of climate change, but most of these variations happen on enormous time scales. Also, you did not have seven billion people inhabiting this planet before. That is a really important understanding, because people often say 'Oh, don’t worry, the climate always varies'. Indeed you should not worry for the planet, you should worry for humans. Seven billion people with their cities, their agriculture, cultures and civilization... We have to understand that those things depend on an unusual stable climate. That is one thing.

The second thing is that that ice age story is just not true. The science is very clear that that idea was wrong. There was an idea at one stage that maybe we are going cooler, but science made clear that this will not be true for the coming period. It might be true some time far away in the future, because we are always due for an ice age, coming from a warmer period. But those transitions happen in nature very slowly compared to what we are currently doing to the climate. When this transition will be happening, we will have plenty of warnings and we would have the time to adapt. One of the most important things about human induced climate change is the speed at which it happens.

And another comment on that science: because it is uncomfortable, the idea that the world is in trouble and that we have to change... All those things are unpleasant or uncomfortable for many people, so we hold on to any piece of information which bends it could be better. It is a natural thing: I would love climate change not to be real, so you want to hold on to that. But we have to accept the view of what the vast majority of scientists says.

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