It is difficult to predict the advent of the new Ice Age—the time when continental glaciers will start to cover Scandinavia, Central and Northern Europe, Asia, Canada, the United States, Chile, and Argentina with an ice layer hundreds and thousands of meters thick; when mountain glaciers in the Himalayas, Andes, and Alps, in Africa and Indonesia, once again will descend into the valleys. Some climatologists claim that this will happen in 50 to 150 years. ( 53,54)
What fate awaits the Baltic Sea, the lakes, the forests, animals, cities, nations, and the whole infrastructure of modern civilization? They will be swept away by the advancing ice and then covered by moraine hills. This disaster will be incomparably more calamitous than all the doomsday prophecies of the proponents of the man-made global warming hypothesis.
Similarly, as the study of Friis-Christensen and Lassen (50) shows, observations in Russia established a very high correlation between the average power of the solar activity cycles (of 10 years to 11.5 years duration) and the surface air temperature, and "leave little room for anthropogenic impact on the Earth's climate." (55) Bashkirtsev and Mashnich, Russian physicists from the Institute of Solar-Terrestrial Physics in Irkutsk, found that between 1882 and 2000, the temperature response of the atmospheric air lagged behind the sunspot cycles by approximately 3 years in Irkutsk, and by 2 years over the entire globe. (56) They found that the lowest temperatures in the early 1900s corresponded to the lowest solar activity, and that other temperature variations, until the end of the century, followed the fluctuations of solar activity.
The current sunspot cycle is weaker than the preceding cycles, and the next two cycles will be even weaker. Bashkirtsev and Mishnich expect that the minimum of the secular cycle of solar activity will occur between 2021 and 2026, which will result in the minimum global temperature of the surface air. The shift from warm to cool climate might have already started. The average annual air temperature in Irkutsk, which correlates well with the average annual global temperature of the surface air, reached its maximum of +2.3°C in 1997, and then began to drop to +1.2°C in 1998, to +0.7°C in 1999, and to +0.4°C in 2000. This prediction is in agreement with major changes observed currently in biota of Pacific Ocean, associated with an oscillating climate cycle of about 50 years' periodicity. (57)
The approaching new Ice Age poses a real challenge for mankind, much greater than all the other challenges in history. Before it comes let's enjoy the warming, this benign gift from nature, and let's vigorously investigate the physics of clouds. F. Hoyle and C. Wickramasinghe (58) stated recently that
"without some artificial means of giving positive feedback to the climate . . . an eventual drift into Ice Age conditions appears inevitable." These conditions "would render a large fraction of the world's major food-growing areas inoperable, and so would inevitably lead to the extinction of most of the present human population."
According to Hoyle and Wickramasinghe,
"those who have engaged in uncritical scaremongering over an enhanced greenhouse effect raising the Earth's temperature by a degree or two should be seen as both misguided and dangerous," for the problem of the present "is of a drift back into an Ice Age, not away from an Ice Age."
Will mankind be able to protect the biosphere against the next returning Ice Age? It depends on how much time we still have. I do not think that in the next 50 years we would acquire the knowledge and resources sufficient for governing climate on a global scale. Surely we shall not stop climate cooling by increasing industrial CO2 emissions. Even with the doubling of CO2 atmospheric levels, the increase in global surface air temperature would be trifling. However, it is unlikely that permanent doubling of the atmospheric CO2, even using all our carbon resources, is attainable by human activities. (29) (See also Kondratyev, Reference 59.)
Also, it does not seem possible that we will ever gain influence over the Sun's activity. However, I think that in the next centuries we shall learn to control sea currents and clouds, and this could be sufficient to govern the climate of our planet.
The following "thought experiment" illustrates how valuable our civilization, and the very existence of man's intellect, is for the terrestrial biosphere.
Mikhail Budyko, the leading Russian climatologist (now deceased), predicted in 1982 a future drastic CO2 deficit in the atmosphere, and claimed that one of the next Ice Age periods could result in a freezing of the entire surface of the Earth, including the oceans. The only niches of life, he said, would survive on the active volcano edges. (60)
Budyko's hypothesis is still controversial, but 10 years later it was discovered that 700 million years ago, the Earth already underwent such a disaster, changing into "Snowball Earth," covered in white from Pole to Pole, with an average temperature of minus 40°C. (15)
However let's assume that Budyko has been right and that everything, to the very ocean bottom, will be frozen. Will mankind survive this? I think yes, it would. The present technology of nuclear power, based on the nuclear fission of uranium and thorium, would secure heat and electricity supplies for 5 billion people for about 10,000 years. At the same time, the stock of hydrogen in the ocean for future fusion-based reactors would suffice for 6 billion years. Our cities, industrial plants, food-producing greenhouses, our livestock, and also zoos and botanical gardens turned into greenhouses, could be heated virtually forever, and we could survive, together with many other organisms, on a planet that had turned into a gigantic glacier. I think, however, that such a "passive" solution would not fit the genius of our future descendants, and they would learn how to restore a warm climate for ourselves and for everything that lives on Earth.