Last update: October 16, 2017

Financial PostDecember 22, 2016CanadaCanada

Lawrence Solomon: Proof that a new ice age has already started is stronger than ever, and we couldn’t be less prepared.

Nathan VanderKlippe /National Post, file

By Lawrence Solomon

Lawrence Solomon
Lawrence Solomon

The New Little Ice Age Has Started.” This is the unambiguous title of a new study from one of the world’s most prestigious scientific institutions, the Russian Academy of Science’s Pulkovo Observatory in St. Petersburg. “The average temperature around the globe will fall by about 1.5 °C when we enter the deep cooling phase of the Little Ice Age, expected in the year 2060,” the study states. “The cooling phase will last for about 45-65 years, for four to six 11-year cycles of the Sun, after which on the Earth, at the beginning of the 22nd century, will begin the new, next quasi-bicentennial cycle of warming.”

Habibullo Abdussamatov, the head of space research at Pulkovo and the author of the study, has been predicting the arrival of another little ice age since 2003, based on his study of the behaviour of the Sun’s different cycles and the solar activity that then results. His model — informed by Earth’s 18 earlier little ice ages over the past 7,500 years, six of them in the last thousand years — led to his prediction more than a decade ago that the next little ice age would occur between 2012 and 2015. Unlike the global warming models of scientists, which were soon disproved by actual measurements, Abdussamatov’s models have been affirmed by actual events, including the rise of the oceans and the measurable irradiance sent earthward by the sun. This record of accuracy — which he has repeatedly demonstrated in studies between 2003 and now — leads him to now confidently state that in 2014–15, we began our entry into the 19th Little Ice Age.

An underheated planet is a real threat humans have actually faced

Abdussamatov was once a lonely voice in the view that Earth could be embarking on a prolonged cooling spell due to solar, not manmade, factors. No longer. Because sunspots are eerily disappearing from the face of our sun — just as they disappeared during the Little Ice Age in the late 1600s — speculation of another cooling period has been widespread by bodies such as the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan and the Riken research foundation. Last year, a team of European researchers unveiled a scientific model at the National Astronomy Meeting in Wales predicting a “mini ice age” from 2030 to 2040 as a result of decreased solar activity.

For one thing, we can deep freeze dreams of economically exploiting the vast energy wealth of the Arctic Ocean, which geological surveys indicate is the richest in petroleum of all the oceans. The conventional belief that global warming would soon melt the Arctic, and make economic the large-scale infrastructure needed to operate in its inhospitable environment, had many in the oil industry — and in governments — gearing up to claim their share of this new frontier. Their dreams will now need to be set aside for the cold century ahead.

The “upcoming new Little Ice Age will have a very serious impact” on energy security, Abdussamatov explains, because “deep cooling in the new Little Ice Age in the middle of this century would make it almost impossible to exploit offshore fields and pump oil and gas tens to hundreds of kilometres from the coast at depths of hundreds of meters.” Freezing conditions will also curtail energy developments elsewhere over many decades, elevating the need for energy conservation in a much more heat-needy world.

But Earth’s new climate will affect much more than the energy sector. Abdussamatov leaves us with a dire warning.

“The world must start preparing for the new Little Ice Age right now. Politicians and business leaders must make full economic calculations of the impact of the new Little Ice Age on everything — industry, agriculture, living conditions, development. The most reasonable way to fight against the new Little Ice Age is a complex of special steps aimed at support of economic growth and energy-saving production to adapt mankind to the forthcoming period of deep cooling.”

An overheated planet has never been a threat, say climate skeptics, not today, not ever in human history. An underheated planet, in contrast, is a threat humans have repeatedly faced over the last millennium, and now we’re due again.

“The upcoming climate change will be the most important challenge and a priority issue for the world and define the main events in politics, the economy, and the most important areas of the whole of humanity in the coming decades,” Abdussamatov concludes. It’s time we took the threat of climate change — of the real climate change — seriously.

Lawrence Solomon is executive director of Energy Probe, a Toronto-based environmental group. LawrenceSolomon@nextcity.com