After the wet and cold centuries of the Little Ice Age (around 1550-1850 A.D.), the world's climate recuperated some warmth, but did not replicate the balmy period known as the Middle Age Warm Period (around 800-1300 A.D.), when the margins of Greenland were green and England had vineyards.
Climate began to cool again after World War II, for about 30 years. This is undisputed. The cooling occurred at a time when emissions of C02 were rising sharply from the reconstruction effort and from unprecedented development. It is important to realize that.
By 1978 it had started to warm again, to everybody's relief. But two decades later, after the temperature peaked in 1998 under the influence of El Nino, climate stopped warming for eight years; and in 2007 entered a cooling phase marked by lower solar radiation and a reversal of the cycles of warm ocean temperature in the Atlantic and the Pacific. And here again, it is important to note that this new cooling period is occurring concurrently with an acceleration in CO2 emissions, caused by the emergence of two industrial giants: China and India.
To anyone analyzing this data with common sense, it is obvious that factors other than CO2 emissions are ruling the climate. And the same applies to other periods of the planet's history. Al Gore, in his famous movie "The Inconvenient Truth," had simply omitted to say that for the past 420,000 years that he cited as an example, rises in CO2 levels in the atmosphere always followed increases in global temperature by at least 800 years. It means that CO2 can't possibly be the cause of the warming cycles.
So, if it's not CO2, what is it that makes the world's temperature periodically rise and fall? The obvious answer is the sun, and sea currents in a subsidiary manner.
The tilt of Earth, the shape of Earth's orbit (distance to the sun), and Earth's "wobble" as it turns around the sun are all important factors in the cyclical recurrence of ice ages and interglacial periods. It has been observed that ice ages last about 100,000 years, and warm interglacials only 12,000. And within these warm periods, variations in solar activity cause shorter periods of less-pronounced warming and cooling.
There is no way to know for sure if the present cooling period will last several decades or 100,000 years. Russian scientists have just warned that a fully-blown ice age is not to be ruled out, as about 12,000 years have elapsed since the end of the last one.
Entering a new ice age would be a disaster for humanity: billions of people could die from lack of food, from the cold, and from the collapse of the world economy, social strife, war, etc.
And if what's ahead of us is only a little ice age, the consequences would still be pretty dire. World food reserves are already low, and we can barely feed the current population of the planet. Surfaces of arable land used for bio-fuels and biomass are increasing. Cool and wet summers would cause crop failures as they did in the Little Ice Age (as a result, starving Parisians had taken to the streets, soon sending their king to the guillotine). Winter frost would also bring its share of misery, destroying fruits and vegetables on a large scale.
Let's just hope we'll only have a few years of cooling, and that another warming period will follow. But it may be wishful thinking. In any case, there will be hardship during the cold cycle, whatever its length.
As President Obama takes office, and as the European Union is about to waste one trillion euros to de-carbonize the economy (in a bid to stop nonexistent man-made global warming) they would be well-advised to perform a reality check on what's currently happening to the climate. Talking to independent scientists about the positive properties of CO2 (plant food that enhances crops) would also be a good idea.
If they don't, we may be in for mass starvation. And let's not forget that the world population is increasing by about 78 million every year.
David J. Bellamy is a professor at three British universities and an officer in several conservation organizations. Mark Duchamp, a retired businessman, has investigated global- warming theory and written more than 100 articles.