When this interglacial ends ….

This interglacial will end.

It may take another 100 years or 5,000 or it may already have ended. From whenever the end is reckoned  it could take about 4,000 years for full glacial conditions to set in.


This interglacial will end

The ice sheets will advance again. New land will be exposed as sea levels fall – up to 120m.

The land mass of the world with the reduced sea levels might look like this (http://www.ngdc.noaa.gov/mgg/topo/globega2.html:

world map ice age image National Geophysical Data Center at NOAA

world map ice age image National Geophysical Data Center at NOAA

Geography will change. Islands will expand. Some seas will disappear as water gets locked up in the expanding ice sheets.  Greenland will expand. Siberia will connect to North America again. The United Kingdom will once again rejoin the continent. Indonesia and Australia will be extremely close. Japan will no longer be islands. The Baltic Sea will not exist. The Persian Gulf will disappear. Across the world coastlines will be “pushed out”. Ancient coastal city sites – long submerged – will reappear. The ice sheets will expand and will drastically reduce populations above 55 °N. The global population would have stabilised and may even fall. Populations will migrate. Nation states will  see their boundaries changing – physically not just by war. No doubt there will be new human conflicts as populations shift – though the shifts will be over hundreds of years and quite gradual in our terms. Average global temperatures will be about 2 – 4°C colder than today.

But this time the ice sheets will not stop humans from utilising the resources under some of the ice sheets. As during the last glacial period, human innovation and engineering will flourish and reach new heights as the challenges are met. New science and new technologies will appear. Art will take new forms. A new wave of exploration will occur – this time into space. And through all of this our energy needs will increase.

Time line of prehistoric inventions (pdf)

But it is the availability of abundant energy which will be the deciding factor, which allows growth to continue and which allows the continued  improvement of the human condition. And this energy will primarily be fossil energy and nuclear energy.  It will be nuclear energy for large central plants (> 1000 MW), fossil energy (coal, and gas) for medium sized plants (100 – 1000 MW)  and gas for municipal and domestic applications. Transportation will – largely as now – be electric or oil-based though the proportion of electric (charged from “cheap” nuclear power) vehicles will increase. Solar and wind and wave and tidal power will have their little place but will – as now – be of small impact.

It is fossil and nuclear power which will allow humanity to meet these new challenges. They will be a necessity for humans to flourish. Carbon dioxide emissions – as now – will be irrelevant. It is in the development of small nuclear, energy storage and more efficient gas- winning and utilisation that we should be concentrating.

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2 Responses to “When this interglacial ends ….”

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