January 27, 2004


Play this exciting Mystery Phrase guessing game, brought to you by The Independent:

Britain is likely to be plunged into an ice age within our lifetime by (INSERT MYSTERY PHRASE HERE), new research suggests.

Is the correct answer:

a) Mad Cow disease?
b) Halliburton?
c) David Beckham?
d) Robert Fisk?
e) normal English weather?
f) the BBC?
g) a mythological climatic phenomenon, which apparently causes everything in some way or another?

Guess quickly, before your keyboard ices over!

Posted by Tim Blair at January 27, 2004 09:53 PM

Which option do I pick to to blame Bush? Or oil?

Posted by: Sortelli at January 27, 2004 at 09:59 PM

That would be the Halliburton option, which covers both. In fact, Halliburton -- according to The Independent, and The Guardian -- was also Jack the Ripper.

Posted by: tim at January 27, 2004 at 10:01 PM

D'oh. But that Cheney seemed like such a nice boy. :(

*mutters to self* Now where do I punch the chad? Voting machine must have been built by a Republican...

Posted by: Sortelli at January 27, 2004 at 10:09 PM

I always love this blog.

That said, Tim is bordering on a knee-jerk antiscientific attitude here.

The change in ocean currents is pretty well-established, and could possibly trigger an ice age. It has apparently happened before.

Furthermore, the idea that the ocean current changes are due to the melting of a lot of Arctic ice is not unreasonable (and the current melting trend in the Arctic ice is also well established).

Where Tim and I would agree is that these phenomenon have not been conclusively linked to the use of fossil fuels.

However, to simply laugh at the apparent disconnect between "global warming" and an ice age in Britain is to be intentionally thick about it. The climate is complex. During the last ice age, Siberia was much warmer than it is now.

Posted by: Mike Smith at January 27, 2004 at 10:22 PM

I resent that! As anybody who knows me will attest, I'm unintentionally thick!

(That being said, the rush to blame relatively simple causes -- industry, humans, etc -- to explain complex global warming/cooling strikes me as an even more obvious example of "intentional thickness". Wouldn't you agree?)

Posted by: tim at January 27, 2004 at 10:32 PM

Don't forget cow farts. Methane. Another reason the beef industry must be abolished.

Posted by: Sortelli at January 27, 2004 at 10:37 PM

As Mike points out, this sounds weird but isn't nonsense. It could certainly be wrong, but it's not nonsense.

England is up above 50 degrees North - further north than, say, Vancouver or Newfoundland. The only reason it isn't a miserable frozen wasteland is the Gulf Stream.

If the Gulf Stream gets disrupted - which has happened in the past - Western Europe will get its own little ice age.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at January 27, 2004 at 11:01 PM

"Many studies have shown that similar changes in the waters of the North Atlantic in geological time have often plunged Europe into an ice age, sometimes bringing the change in as little as a decade."

Works for me.

Posted by: Bruce at January 27, 2004 at 11:06 PM

"Similar events in pre-history are known to have caused sudden "flips" of the climate."

Damn that Dubya for not ratifying Kyoto 5000 years ago.

Posted by: JohnO at January 27, 2004 at 11:15 PM

One problem Mike, 12700 years ago Humans didn't drive SUV while going to work at Haliburton. Yet over 12700 years later its being laid at the feet of humans. Is it possible that the weather of earth has a habit of changing on its own ? That man is just along for the ride ( except for me of coarse 8D). Now I have to go get me a Big Mac.

Posted by: Alien Grey for Haliburton at January 27, 2004 at 11:17 PM

Unscientific? The problem with the doom-worshippers is a LACK of impirical rigeur!
Tim is perfectly right to point to the piece.

Posted by: Joe at January 27, 2004 at 11:23 PM

The correct answer is of course, George Bush's belligerence. How could you all miss it?

Posted by: Patrick at January 27, 2004 at 11:26 PM

I was in England a few weeks ago. You mean it could get even COLDER?!!

Posted by: Richard at January 28, 2004 at 12:01 AM

Volcanoes. I believe one exploding volcano in the 1800's changed the weather a lot.

If 2 blow up, its ice age time!

Or something like that.

I wonder if global warming is caused by a shortage of exploding volcanoes?

Posted by: Bruce at January 28, 2004 at 12:08 AM

Just in case this isn't a smelly load of hoowie, What would Euro's do in the event of another Ice Age?
Emergency Ice Age procedures need to be planned.

Some suggestions. Invade north Africa and let the Muslims keep the tundra.
Or maybe you could all move to Canada.(Canada will have had a corresponding warm up inversely proportional to Euros frost up) Tell them it is the Crown's decree when the Canucks balk.
Third plan buy a parka and look on the bright side. You won't have to spend money on refridgeration. Also for some reason the cooler the sea gets the more the fish like it. In Antarctica when they have really cold weather the fish multiply like crazy.

Posted by: papertiger at January 28, 2004 at 12:11 AM

You could see this coming from a mile away. Why? I've been hearing to many blokes joking to the effect "Hey, global warming. Bring it on! Sounds downright cozy to me."

The unbiased, scientific rejoinder would naturally be, "Oh you think that's cute do you? Well, what if global warming brought on an ice age, funny-boy? Hmm, I don't see you laughing now."


Posted by: John at January 28, 2004 at 12:46 AM

You guys are considering some of the logical and likely reasons. Haven't you read enough of the various 9/11 conspiracy theories, or who killed Princess Di theories, to understand logic and reason should be tossed out to get at the "real reasons"?

For example:

This mini Ice Age is part of Bush's Conspiracy for World Wide Rule by the oil companies.

First, the US attacks itself (9/11) to provide a reason to invade both Afghanistan and Iraq.

The US invades Iraq to control the oil (it's all about the oil!!).

Causes a mini Ice Age in Europe via technology we obtained from the crashed Alien spaceship in Roswell (the team who is doing this is lead by Elvis .. you all *knew* he wasn't dead!).

The oil companies will earn billions because of increased demands in Europe. The oil companies take over the world.

See how simple it is? Logic and reason lead to dull and boring stories. Toss them aside and you can create much better ones.

Posted by: Chris Josephson at January 28, 2004 at 12:48 AM

I love England and all, but it would be worth the sacrifice if France were to also freeze over.

Posted by: Jerry at January 28, 2004 at 01:35 AM

There are a few things I'd miss about Europe, but really, it's possible to get good beer and well-made shoes almost anywhere now.

Posted by: Bruce at January 28, 2004 at 01:55 AM

Here in Edmonton Alberta, (it's -39C this morning, with the wind chill it's -43C) the global warming phenomenon is not panning out as well as we were led to believe.

Posted by: John at January 28, 2004 at 02:40 AM

Seems to me the premise of "Our Fragile Environment" is the problem.

If you discover a way a warming trend can cause cooling, you may have just stumbled onto the mechanism by which the climate maintains equilibrium.

Posted by: Bob at January 28, 2004 at 02:50 AM

Please, please!
The answer is quite obvious: who do we blame when something goes wrong we can't (or won't) understand?...

the Jooooooos!

Posted by: Clayton Barnett at January 28, 2004 at 02:54 AM

Will an ice age in Europe solve the immigration problem? And what will happen to the global warming problem if it's too cold? The rhetorical effects will be huge.

Posted by: Ron Hardin at January 28, 2004 at 03:34 AM

The problem with current global warming/climate change theories is that they're pretty much unfalsifiable. Getting warmer? Must be true. Getting colder? Must be true. Nothing's changed? Better act now to stop it!

The way it's usually reported, pretty much anything that happens can be retroactively justified by pointing to some aspect of the theory. And every conflicting pronouncement is spoken with absolute authority. That's not valid scientific inquiry - it's religious faith.

Posted by: Bryan C at January 28, 2004 at 03:57 AM

h) Pussy Galore's Flying Circus.

What? Ice age? Oh, I thought it read "nice age." Never mind.

Posted by: Tongue Boy aka Emily Latelle at January 28, 2004 at 04:12 AM

h) global smarming

Posted by: Rich at January 28, 2004 at 05:06 AM

To clarify, yes, I agree with Tim and others that the Earth's climate has always been changing, and that the phenomenon described in the article may well having nothing to do with fossil fuels.

My point is that one shouldn't laugh at a theory that says an overall warming of the Earth could modify the Gulf Stream, causing England to get as cold as northern Quebec (which is at the same latitude). This is only a contradiction if you are being thick (intentionally or otherwise). Since such weirdness exists in the climate at the present time (and it is weird that England is so much warmer than Quebec), any climate theory must include such weirdness.

Furthermore, it is even possible that the Earth is warming (overall), and yet that the warming trend is not related to fossil fuels.

If someone somewhere said that Michael Jackson's nose falling off was due to global warming, Tim's bit about the phenomenon "causing everything" would be apt. But it's not so much of a stretch for "global warming" to disrupt the Gulf Stream.

Posted by: Mike Smith at January 28, 2004 at 05:17 AM

It will be a cold day in Hell before France freezes over. Sorry, I meant it will be a cold day in Hell when France freezes over.

Posted by: charles austin at January 28, 2004 at 07:30 AM

But seriously, I blame plate tectonics and the weakening of the earth's magentic field for the massive changes in the weather. When will a politican step forward and offer a plan to offset the changes in the earth caused by plate tectonics and the changes in the earth's magnetic field? Why are they hiding this solution from us? Are all the world's politicians really controlled by the Gnomes of Zurich riding telluric currents?

Posted by: charles austin at January 28, 2004 at 07:36 AM

Maybe the Earth's magnetic field is being disrupted by too many refrigerator magnets. We must pass a binding international treaty limiting the number of magnets per refrigerator to two (2), unless you are Chinese or Indian.

Posted by: Mike Smith at January 28, 2004 at 07:56 AM

Tim Lied!!! The Earth Fried!!!!

Posted by: Jerry at January 28, 2004 at 09:35 AM

Although "global cooling" may be valid science, I question the timing of this recent research.

Why didn't we hear about this potential ice age during the late 90s when we were experiencing higher than average temperatures? All I recall, it was the IPCC and climate doomsdayers who were predicting a 6 degree (C) rise in global temperatue within 100 years.

But now that Europe and North America are experiencing a few cold snaps, the research (and soon a Hollywood movie) is coming out predicting an ice age!

My own prediction: Wait until the next heatwave...and the climate doomsdayers will return to the good old fashion "droughts and deserts" prophecies.

PS. My favourite environmental skeptic is John Daly. Check out his site! :-)

Posted by: Justin Miller at January 28, 2004 at 10:11 AM

Why didn't we hear about this potential ice age during the late 90s when we were experiencing higher than average temperatures?

Actually, we're still experiencing higher temperatures. 2003 was the second warmest year on record, according to NOAA.

Posted by: felixrayman at January 28, 2004 at 10:40 AM

The only “nightmare scenario” I can envision is that the people responsible for this “study” get to implement policy to “manage” climate change.

Posted by: Simon at January 28, 2004 at 12:12 PM

felixrayman: considering that those records only go back about a hundred years, I don't think that counts much. The earth has been having warming/cooling cycles, some much more drastic than what we are possibly experiencing now, for as long as the earth has existed. The earth was much warmer during the time of the dinosaurs, and I don't think it was due to their driving very large SUVs around.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at January 28, 2004 at 12:55 PM

One of the key features of greenhouse scenarios is that no matter where you live, you'll be worse off. If you live somewhere dry you'll get more drought. If it's wet you'll get more flooding. If it's hot you'll get hotter, and if it's cold... you're gonna freeze!

Posted by: James at January 28, 2004 at 12:59 PM

We humans are pretty arrogant thinking that we can compete with what the Universe can throw at us at any time: orbital changes, sun-spots, exploding supernovae, colliding asteroids (remember Shoemaker-Levy little encounter with Jupiter?), not to mention such pedestrian, Terran phenomena as volcanic eruptions, changes in magnetic field etc.

Realistically, the danger of being hit by a stray comet is way greater to the life on this planet than global temperature raising even by 10F in next 100 years (and currently this is one of the extreme prediction). Yet nobody is demanding that we set up a system to deal with the comet threat; hell, we don’t even bother to monitor all sectors of space! Thank G-d for the amateur astronomers…

Posted by: Katherine at January 28, 2004 at 01:33 PM

Well, if cows cause global warming when they fart it is obvious that dinosaur farts caused their warm climate. No meteor in Mexico - they just stopped eating beans.

Posted by: Duke at January 28, 2004 at 03:59 PM

MoveOn.org said it best when they were asked why they were hosting Al Gore's whine about global warming on the coldest day in New York for decades:

"We can't control the weather."

Posted by: Sortelli at January 28, 2004 at 06:48 PM

I read this story in Britain in 1997. Obvously some hack short of copy has just re-discovered it and is presenting it as news.

Posted by: sue at January 28, 2004 at 07:00 PM

"One of the key features of greenhouse scenarios is that no matter where you live, you'll be worse off. If you live somewhere dry you'll get more drought. If it's wet you'll get more flooding. If it's hot you'll get hotter, and if it's cold... you're gonna freeze!"

And if you live where the weather is perfect, you can expect it to get hotter and colder and dryer and wetter.

Fortunately, using the Kyoto method of climate control, you can send large sums of cash to third-world countries in exchange for "greenhouse gas emissions credits" which can then be used to regulate your climate more to your liking.

Posted by: Arty at January 29, 2004 at 01:58 AM