There has been a lot of talk about shipping’s CO2 emissions over time and some unjustifiable outrage after specific mention of it was left out of the COP21 agreement. However, an article in Bloomberg on Wednesday suggests that things aren’t so bad and shipping might actually be proving to be the saviour of the human race. The article by Alex Morales covers a paper by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in the journal Nature. The paper apparently says that fossil fuel emissions may have delayed the next ice age by 100,000 years or more and that the conditions necessary for the onset of a new ice age were narrowly missed at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s. Since then, rising emissions of heat-trapping CO2 from burning oil, coal and gas have made the spread of the world’s ice sheets even less likely. The scientists found that even without further output of heat-trapping gases, the next ice age probably wouldn’t set in for another 50,000 years. That would make the current so-called inter-glacial period “unusually long,” according to the lead author, Andrey Ganopolski.
“However, our study also shows that relatively moderate additional anthropogenic CO2-emissions from burning oil, coal and gas are already sufficient to postpone the next ice age for another 50,000 years,” which would mean the next one probably won’t start for 100,000 years, he said.The Bloomberg article continues; “This study further confirms what we’ve suspected for some time, that the carbon dioxide humans have added to the atmosphere will alter the climate of the planet for tens to hundreds of thousands of years, and has canceled the next ice age,” said Andrew Watson, a professor of Earth sciences at the University of Exeter in southwest England who wasn’t involved in the research. "Humans now effectively control the climate of the planet." Now since it is well known that the last ice age made most of Northern Europe, the US and Canada and much of Asia virtually uninhabitable, any delay in the next glaciation must bode well for the human race. As for controlling the climate, well that may be a bit optimistic but maybe humanity can spend the extra time allotted to living rather than just surviving to fine tuning that control for the better.