The Laurentide Ice Sheet: Two Cheers for Global Warming!

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NewBostonPost staff members were recently discussing this new religion of “climate change,”  and how President Joe Biden and his “envoy” John Kerry repeat the mantra that climate change is an “existential threat” to us and indeed the whole human race.

One suggested that we should be thrilled about climate change – or, as it used to be called, global warming. Asked why, he described the Laurentide ice sheet.

It is a good bet that many climate change warriors don’t know about the Laurentide ice sheet, but they should.

According to scientists, the Laurentide Ice Sheet covered millions of square miles, including most of Canada and a large portion of the northern United States – including New England.

Greater Boston was covered by this massive ice sheet which was, in places, twenty feet thick. It retreated about 15,000 years ago in what geologists call deglaciation. That is to say, it melted, leaving only portions in the Arctic Circle.

Why did it melt?  Temperatures rose.  Why did temperatures rise?  Well, more on that in a minute.

For now, let’s consider the consequences.

Since nobody at the time knew how to live under, inside, or on top of 20 feet of ice, the melting of the Laurentide Ice Sheet made New England habitable.

Two cheers for global warming!

The fact that the Laurentide Ice Sheet disappeared from New England only about 15,000 years ago can help us draw certain tentative conclusions which are relevant to this mantra that “climate change” is an existential threat to human beings today.

Fifteen thousand years sounds like long ago. But it’s a tiny sliver of crushed ice in the glacier of time. Scientists tell us that the earth is approximately 4.5 billion years old. Fifteen thousand is about three and one-third ten thousandths of 1 percent of 4.5 billion.

To offer some perspective:  The ratio is about one minute 45 seconds out of a century.

Why the math?

To begin with, it is well known that there have been enormous changes in the climate of the earth that have had nothing to do with mankind and its effect on the climate. Changes in the climate appear to take long periods to come about – not the ridiculous modern climate change models that show the extinction of mankind in the next several decades.

Secondly, the Laurentide Ice Sheet did not melt and retreat primarily due to carbon dioxide. It is not even clear why temperatures rose enough to make the Laurentide Ice Sheet disappear. Perhaps it was the absence of sunspots (as occurred in the colder days of the Maunder Minimum in the 17th century). Or a change in ocean tides or currents. Or other factors. But surely not a rise in carbon dioxide caused by increased global population and industrialization, since neither was present. (There wasn’t any industrialization during glacier times around here because there weren’t any people to do the industrializing.)

If asked how much carbon dioxide is in the atmosphere, some people guess 15 or 20 percent.  In fact, CO2 makes up approximately .04 percent of the atmosphere. Over the past century, it has risen from .0028 percent. Is the reason that temperatures have risen approximately two degrees Fahrenheit since 1880 the increase in carbon dioxide to .04 percent?

In analyzing a problem, we all know that correlation is not necessarily causation. Just because carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has risen, is this the reason for global warming over the past century?  Perhaps it is, but perhaps not.

The earth’s temperature appears to rise and fall in long cycles. The earth was much warmer 1,000 years ago when the Vikings farmed in Greenland without a concomitant rise in CO2 in the atmosphere.

The trajectory of the Earth’s climate and temperature is a complex matter, and the simplistic climate change models, many of which are apocalyptic, are not helpful. They are just mechanisms to scare the young, the uninformed,  and those who do not take a commonsense approach to climate change. Politicians like President Biden who invoke Chicken Little in their “existential threat” mantras only compound the problem.

At the end of our staff discussion, we all agreed that we do not know why the climate is getting warmer. We think that a good dose of humility on this issue would benefit us all. Moreover, is there really anything that we can do to change the climate trajectory of the 4.5-billion-year-old earth? 

Strong measures to change the way we all live should be taken based on valid empirical data, which is not available currently. We ought not destroy our economy or drive large numbers of people to poverty over hypotheses that are not proven and that may not be provable.

It is prudent to plan for physical changes under way that may affect the way we live. But it isn’t prudent to destroy our way of life to satisfy the demands of underwhelming theories.

In the meantime, we say two cheers for global warming which has allowed those who live in New England (and Canada) to have a fruitful climate and life.

But we say two cheers, not three cheers, because we realize that we really don’t know why the earth is warming. And three cheers smacks of hubris!


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