Thoughts on the little ice age and global warming

Our supply of fossil fuels can’t last forever, so seeking alternatives is inevitable

Nowhere in the rule book does it say nature is required to worry about us getting too warm and conveniently start to cool us off just when we need it.

What topic to tackle this week? Sometimes it is a struggle to figure out what weather-related topic to discuss, especially during the winter months — doubly so during a quiet winter like this one. Then, it seems like I suddenly have more topics than I know what to do with.

One topic I am going to avoid for a little while, after this article, is explanations of climate change and global warming. This is one of those topics that can really get people going, on both sides of the issue. What you may not know is that there are internet trolls constantly on the lookout for any articles that talk about climate change and/or global warming. Every time I write about it, I get several emails from readers, some of which are legitimate, as I recognize the names from previous correspondence. Often, I do not recognize the person, which by itself is not surprising, but the emails are all very similar — a bunch of clips and links to articles and websites that argue against the viewpoint I am trying to make. I have tried to email them back in the past, but they rarely discuss any of the issues I bring up, but rather simply send me more links. So I no longer try to reply to them. It is like talking about sports, politics or religion. No matter what you say or how you say it, the chance of anyone listening is slim.

That said, here are a couple of points that I would like to make on this topic. No. 1: It is global warming not Winnipeg, Manitoba, Alberta, Canada or Texas warming. It refers to long-term warming of the climate as viewed from a global perspective. Some areas and time periods can be cooler, and some areas and time periods can be warmer. Global warming means the warmer areas or periods outnumber the cooler ones.

Second, let’s say most scientists have it wrong about global warming but we continue a course of weaning off fossil fuels and limiting carbon emissions into the atmosphere. Well, we eventually must wean ourselves off fossil fuels anyway as they just can’t last forever, and whoever leads in the replacement technology will be the new economic leaders; why can’t that be us? There will still be a need for fossil fuels even with a strong switch to alternate sources of energy, so we might as well try to be tops in both markets. Another byproduct of reduced emissions would be a cleaner atmosphere. I can’t see how anyone could argue that is a bad thing.

Last on the list — see how this topic can take you down a rabbit hole? — I have been getting articles sent to me by individuals about the possibility of a new Maunder minimum, or little ice age, coming by 2030. For those of you who have not heard about this, the Maunder minimum was a period of very low sunspot activity that lasted from around 1645 to 1715, with a second low point from 1790 to 1830 known as the Dalton minimum. Low sunspot activity is correlated with a decrease in global temperatures, hence the term “little ice age.”

While it was a cooler-than-average period, it was not an ice age. Both were periods of colder-than-average temperatures that did create some problems with late and early frosts damaging crops and some very cold winters and cool summers. It did not result in snow sticking around all summer long with crop failures year after year. Our current sunspot activity has been relatively low since 2009 and the next sunspot cycle, lasting until about 2030, is forecasted to remain on the low side, right around the levels of the Dalton minimum but not as low as the Maunder minimum. Interestingly, while our sunspot numbers have been low since 2009, global temperatures have been setting records for warmth in almost every year since. Maybe we should be happy we are currently in a sunspot minimum. What makes me worry is what might happen when we pull out of this minimum.

Nature

OK, I lied, there is one more thing that keeps popping up: the notion that the current warming is naturally occurring, so we should just stay the course, because nature is nature and humans as a race cannot possibly be impacting the planet’s atmosphere and climate — just like we as humans cannot possibly be impacting the land or water. The fact that there are plastics in the oceans must be purely natural, right?

I am not sure why this viewpoint makes people feel comfortable about a warming planet. At least if it’s us humans causing the warming temperatures, then if we believe the science, we still have time to fix it. If it is simply a natural occurrence, we are entirely at the mercy of nature. There is nothing saying that nature will worry about us getting too warm and conveniently start cooling us off just when we need it. I try not to think about this viewpoint, because then I start to lose sleep. To quote the famous Carl Sagan in his 1994 book Pale Blue Dot, “there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.”

OK, that is it. I did promise to discuss how my new weather station is going. After my little rant last issue about the fact that the Ambient Weather station is a rebranded EcoWitt station that you can buy a little cheaper through Amazon, I have come to terms with it and overall, I am happy with the station over the first couple of weeks. I promise, next issue I will go into detail on the setup and use of the station, along with a list of its pros and cons.

By the way, I did see an article that listed the WS-5000 as the best weather station buy of 2021. Be sure to check out my new website, bezte.ca/weather.

About the author

Co-operator contributor

Daniel Bezte

Daniel Bezte is a teacher by profession with a BA (Hon.) in geography, specializing in climatology, from the U of W. He operates a computerized weather station near Birds Hill Park.

Comments

explore

Stories from our other publications