# Swedish boffins: An Ice Age is coming, only CO2 can save us

A group of Swedish scientists at the University of Gothenburg have published a paper in which they argue that spreading peatlands are inexorably driving planet Earth into its next ice age, and the only thing holding back catastrophe is humanity's hotly debated atmospheric carbon emissions. "We are probably entering a new ice …

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1. #### Ice age?

I thought we were already in an ice age? Hence the polar caps?

1. #### Re: Ice age?

Beat me to it - I thought the same.

1. #### Re: Ice age?

I thought caps were on the top - hence only one is a cap (either depending on which way up you hold the Earth). The other is then surely more like a polar panty liner.

1. #### Re: Ice age?

There is no up or down in space. The Earth has no top.

1. #### Re: Ice age?

Actually, it's pretty safe to say it does. The Milky Way has a distinct planar orientation to it (the starts within are not distributed in a globular pattern but spiral out pretty flatly). There's also the idea of orienting worlds on their orbital or rotational axes. Earth's current coordinate system is oriented on rotational axis.

1. #### Re: Ice age?

That simply means there is a vertical axis. Which end of that axis is 'up' or 'down' is merely convention.

1. #### Re: Ice age?

"That simply means there is a vertical axis. Which end of that axis is 'up' or 'down' is merely convention."

But either way, there is an up and a down whichever is which. So the original point is right. Or would if they hadn't misunderstood "cap" to mean a type of head-clothing, rather than in the sense of things that "cap" the ends of something.

2. #### Re: Ice age?

RHD Rule:

Wrap your hand around the earth . (figuratively speaking). Fingers with the direction or rotation. Up is with your thumb.

I got so confused trying to do this I think East is toward my adams apple.

1. #### Re: Ice age?

So what if you hold it upside-down? From the perspective of someone outside the Sol system, their perspective may be different from ours (IOW, we may see it as the underside of the Milky Way, they'll see it as the top side).

2. #### Re: Ice age?

Which hand?

2. #### Re: Ice age?

Actually, it's pretty safe to say [Earth] does [have a top]

I'm looking forward to us contacting extraterrestrial life so that we can decide which side of the "topist" and "bottomist" divide we lie on. Or to put it another way, whether we root more for turnwise or widdershins.

I've only one niggling doubt: wasn't this already played out in Gulliver's Travels?

2. #### Re: Ice age?

If the Earth has no top how do you explain Australia being on the bottom of the planet? Hah.. thought so, no answer to that smartypants. And for the pedantics that insist on proof that Australia is indeed at the bottom of the planet, first of all England is at the top, so that alone should be sufficient proof, but when you take into consideration they have summer at Christmas - clearly wrong and completely against nature - then the evidence is there for all to see.. unless they're some blinkered, head-in-the-sand-at-Christmas Australian standing upside down on the bottom of the world.

1. #### Re: Ice age?

WHAT is your favourite colour ? horn-gloat rag-strewn...

(Holy Grail etc )

No matter what happens, the politicians will seize it and tax. We get an ice age..look it's climate change, hot and dry, oh look its climate change....I'm reminded of fleas on an elephants back thinking that they can predict where it will go, and perhaps, just perhaps they can get it to change course.

1. #### Re: Follow the money

Never mind the money, it might be too late to wake up early, but me will continue to try to understand, anyway.

2. #### Re: Follow the money

Yep and only the politicians and scientists are interested in money and some in private industry has nothing to gain by continuing with the status quo.

3. #### Authoritative is as authoritative does....

"..it's true that 'Mires and Peat' isn't exactly Nature or Cell..."

Umm. I am aware that it hasn't got the same global presence or (probably) highly inflated opinion of itself as those two establishment publications.

But, without having done a lot of research, I suspect from the name that it is pretty hot on the chemistry and ecology of mires and peat bogs. In fact, I would not be surprised to find that it was the world's authoritative publication on those subjects......

1. #### Re: Authoritative is as authoritative does....

I'm sure it's absolutely boffo on the subjects of mires and peat. Global climate? Less so. Doesn't even fit the interglacial timings.

No surprise to see it waved around on El Reg, mind.

1. #### @Andy Gates

Why would it matter whether they are experts on global climate? The only conclusion of the research is the unprecedented scale of carbon sequestration in peat, and the enormous rate of growth of mires and bogs. The additional conclusion that the amount of carbon sequestrated might be high enough to offset human industrial CO2 emissions is added almost as an afterthought.

By the way, annual anthropogenic CO2 emissions are within the margin of error of estimates on amount of CO2 emissions from a medium-sized volcano eruption. How could human-made CO2 be responsible for anything? That's the thing that I've never seen climate scientists refute. It's like they're trying to explain how we can heat an ocean using a candle.

2. #### Re: Authoritative is as authoritative does....

"Mires and Peat" . Nah, not a patch on Bogs and Sod.

4. #### If the science holds up...

.... we should get a new directive from our Dear Leaders.

Instead of banning the use of Peat in horticulture, we should encourage it. Possibly providing grants for pensioners to dig it into their gardens? And certainly expanding its use in power stations....

Isn't climate science wonderful? Especially allied with a command economy run by moronic politicians with no technical knowledge whatsoever...

1. #### Re: If the science holds up...

" expanding its use in power stations"

if I understood this correctly, we want to leave the peat bogs alone so they can capture the CO2 from the fuel we are burning and so balance teh temperatures out, NOT burn more peat!

1. #### Re: If the science holds up...

I think you missed the point. I read it as we're heading into an ice age and unless you burn all of the peat, it'll happen more quickly (as it were).

Am I wrong?

1. #### Re: If the science holds up...

@theodore, no YOU missed the point. If we don't stop the cause of the next ice age, how are the politicians going to justify all the anti-CO2 taxes?

2. #### They may have no technical knowledge

But there's still room in their wallets and time for skiing trips or Mohitos in Tuscany

5. #### Also...

On the subject of climate, is there any follow up or outcome on this story yet?

C.

6. #### Mires and Peat

I must be hungry. I initially read that as "Pies and Meat" mmmmmnn - ice-age mammoth pies,

7. Without getting into the debate about whether warming is super-damaging or not-a-big-deal, I thought this rather elegantly shows the "last 10/12/16 years have not shown any warming so AGW is a crock" statement to be a load of denialist bollocks.

Funky gif this way.

1. #### Good Point

...but have you seen the same GIF for the last 1000 years?

1. "have you seen the same GIF for the last 1000 years?"

What would it show and what would that mean?

(Just trying to keep up).

2. #### Graph proves article accuracy

Unless I misread your graph, it appears to show that temperature over the last 15 years to have been flat or declining - exactly as the article stated. It does also show that over 40 years, it has increased by 0.5 degrees. The two facts are not mutually exclusive.

1. #### Re: Graph proves article accuracy

Temperatures have been flat or declining only if you treat the Daily Mail as science.

1. #### Re: Graph proves article accuracy

And the medieval warming period was also caused by human activity...

...pull the other one, it has bells on.

8. This post has been deleted by its author

9. #### Hurrican Sandy caused by global warming?

Nonsense. Everyone knows it was the homosexualists*

*Note: This is a joke.

1. #### Re: Hurrican Sandy caused by global warming?

Thought is was all them "Commie" satellites that did this?

Beer Friday is upon us. Cheers everyone!

2. #### Re: Hurrican Sandy caused by global warming?

You're wrong, of course. It was them chemtrails what did it.

3. #### Re: Hurrican Sandy caused by global warming?

Hurricanes are caused by warmth.

This has been the most expensive US election ever.

There has been blanket politicking throughout US.

Politicians spout hot air.

Hurricane Sandy hit at the peak of the electioneering.

The election is over, and there is no hurricane.

Q.E.D.

10. "If Franzén and his team are right, the big chill is now under way, and is only just being held off by increasing human carbon emissions - perhaps explaining why temperatures have been merely flat for the last 15 years or so, rather than descending."

Surely this is wrong. If Franzén and his team are right then we can expect the world to be still warming and can expect significantly more warming over the 21st century, just like all those climate scientists are saying. That's because Franzén and his team's work is saying CO2 is a strong driver of global temperature. They only predict cooling IF CO2 levels fall. But CO2 levels aren't falling and won't fall without emission cuts. CO2 levels are rising sharply due to human emissions of now over 30 billion tons of CO2 a year. In contrast Franzen and his team say the peatland sink *might* reach 3.7 Gt yr. So it isn't likely to even dent the increase in CO2.

So there is simply no cooling or big chill predicted. Instead expect continued warming. Global temperatures over the last 15 years are consistent with this.

http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2012/11/short-term-trends-another-proxy-fight/

1. #### 30 billion tons vs 3.7 giga tons?

So if I read you correctly - and I have no figures here of my own you understand - human activity is emitting 30 billion tons of CO2 per yer, and the peatlands may extract up to *3700 billion* tons (3.7 giga tons) per year.

And you think the peatland will barely dent the CO2 increase? If those numbers are correct, they'll annihilate it...

1. #### Re: 30 billion tons vs 3.7 giga tons?

Well it depends on what you mean by billion, but you have it backwards regardless. I'm assuming American usage, so billion = 10^9, which is also what Giga means (10^9) so 30 billion tons is about 8 times 3.7 Giga tons.

2. #### Re: 30 billion tons vs 3.7 giga tons?

Given human emissions are about 4% of total global emissions :s

1. #### Re: 30 billion tons vs 3.7 giga tons?

An -additional- 4%. That's why it's forcing change.

2. #### Re: 30 billion tons vs 3.7 giga tons?

Oops - just let a good one off!!...0.000000000001% added

Oh, except it wasn't a dry one.

OK, shower and washing machine tonight...0.00000001% then.

11. #### Well, if peat sequestrates CO2...

Why the hell is a lot of my town heated by a peat-burning power station? I think they have similar in Sweden.

I thought that burning released the CO2 from the peat??? Plus, the immense effort and 'global warming' of putting a new road from the northern peatlands to Oulu so the trucks (CO2 again...) can transport it...

1. #### The Irish have a way with peat

They build a power station where the peat is, water is always there also. Then they strip the surrounding soil and leave the land barren.

I think a power hungry world won't leave any beneficial peat, we'll burn it.

12. #### Good news for IT then

As there won't need to be vast spaces taken up by cooling equipment.

13. #### I lump together

... climate scientists with dieticians, boy bands, and politicians as sources of credibility.

1. #### Re: I lump together

Then you are a stupid person indeed.

1. #### Re: I lump together

You missed out revengeful downvoters.

2. #### Re: I lump together

But you have to admit they are by far the most entertaining of that group.

14. Don't you ever read these papers before posting articles? The paper doesn't claim that peatlands are spreading, only what the potential area might be in Sweden in the absence of human activity. This is in the very first paragraph of the summary, which is the first thing in the paper.

There's a highly speculative claim later in the paper where they consider the idealised maximum extent of global peatlands, and come up with values for carbon sequestration and impacts on radiative warming, but the numbers seem highly unrealistic. That's the only place where the paper discusses the impact on climate - the paper does *not* claim that we're currently being pushed into an ice age.

In the real world, peatlands are decreasing, mainly due to human drainage and clearance activities, with consequent massive release of carbon into the atmosphere. That is quite a different story from that presented in the Reg's article, but that's only to be expected, of course.

Lewis' reporting is even more misleading, in that, the paper predicts peatlands growth IF THE CLIMATE GETS WARMER. Lewis please look up ISOTHERM in a dictionary.

It IS some good news, in that the "GAIA" will provide some negative feedback

Can we have a "abuse" button on Register reporters too please

2. "The paper doesn't claim that peatlands are spreading, only what the potential area might be in Sweden in the absence of human activity. "

I think that this part got cherry-picked somehow, and then further guesswork was added on:

"By extrapolating to include the rest of the world's high-latitude temperate areas - the parts of the globe where peatland can expand as it does in Sweden - they project the creation of an extremely powerful carbon sink."

There's a big difference between simply reading a paper, and reading a paper with the specific goal of finding something that can spun into evidence supporting pre-existing views.

15. #### WTF??

"Naturally this theory runs counter to the global warming scenario as presented by many other scientists and most of the media" - Only partly

This theory in no way invalidates that (a) humans have been increasing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere over the last 200 years (b) More CO2 in the atmosphere lowers the amount of heat radiated off the earth and (c) observed temperature increases in the last 200 years are consistent with (a) and (b).

What IS in doubt / arguable is whether this level of warming is unusual for the planet on a historical scale (validity or not of the hockey-stick), whether the changes are self-correcting (positive vs negative feedback processes in models), what is the result of the warming going to be (will the icecaps really melt? how much will sea level really rise?), and whether the change is a good thing or a bad thing (Maybe UK tourists can just drive down to Southampton instead of fly to Ibiza?)

The scenario presented by IGCC is that this warming is unprecedented, that positive feedbacks will accelerate warming rapidly, that ice-melt, rising sea-levels and freak weather will cause catastrophic events and that climate change is a BAD THING.

Hopefully this new study can help to calm things down a bit - Yes the earth is warming because we're pumping too much CO2 in, but the expansion of peat bogs is capturing more CO2 and balancing this out

1. #### Re: WTF??

Lewis apparently lives in "a hypothetical Holocene lacking human presence"

16. #### straw man?

"wildly unjustifiable assertions that global warming caused Hurricane Sandy"

The reasonable opinions I have read is that Sandy was naturally occurring, NOT "caused" by global warming, but that increased water temperatures in the North Atlantic contributed to increasing Sandy's strength.

More generally, rather than " isolated events prove theories", the fact that 1-in-100 years* events are starting to occur rather more frequently than once in 100 years mean that things ARE changing. Maybe not all for the worse, but at least let's have a proper look at what's going.

*Of course it could also be that these really are 1-in-a-million events, and are therefore a Pratchettian certainty to occur

17. #### An alternative conclusion can be had by *reading the paper*

In fact you just need the abstract:

'We estimate the potential extent of peatland in Sweden, based on slope properties of possible areas excluding lakes and glaciofluvial deposits. We assume no human presence or anthropic effects, so the calculation is speculative. It may have been relevant for previous interglacials.'

So in other words, Lewis has once again cherry-picked a headline not substantiated by the research.

The paper (an interesting read BTW) suggests that peatlands might be one mechanism by which the Earth tips from interglacial conditions - such as those we've had since the beginning of the Holocene - to glacial conditions.

1. #### Re: An alternative conclusion can be had by *reading the paper*

>So in other words, Lewis has once again cherry-picked a headline not substantiated by the research.

Oh come on let Brother Lewis preach to the choir. Who needs research when you have faith? Can't you just feel it in your gut?

2. #### Re: An alternative conclusion can be had by *reading the paper*

Lewis Page in climate-science-cherry-picking shocker! In other news, Papal Catholicism revelation...

How did you get 2 down-votes for your post? Do people not like being presented with the *actual* science - oh, sorry, silly me - this is the Register. As you were, then...

1. #### Re: An alternative conclusion can be had by *reading the paper*

"How did you get 2 down-votes for your post? Do people not like being presented with the *actual* science."

No, people like to receive the intellectual equivalent of a hand-job, where they can read pseudo-scientific crap in the media which supports their existing views and biases, thus validating them and hence themselves, which results in self-gratification.

So anything that acts as the metaphorical equivalent of their mum knocking on the door with a cup of tea and de-rails or interferes with that self-satisfaction is going to get lashed out at without any real consideration.

18. #### So many clicks

All you have to do is insert stick into hornet nest and wiggle it about a bit.

19. #### A solution?

Aha! A solution to global warming. All we have to do is have everyone turn their backyards into mini peat bogs, and we'll be saved.

Hmm. How do I do a peat bog on a 5-foot wide concrete balcony?

20. #### tax reform

Shouldn't we set our best minds in government to come up with a carbon shortfall tax schedule? However we do it to ourselves, someone has to feed the monkeys.

21. Good news. We can stop / reverse global warming by turning Sweden into a peat farm.

I'll vote for that.

22. #### Questionable extrapolation

Their extrapolation is BS. Swedish peatlands may or may not be expanding, but for example in the neighbouring Finland where I live (which is similar in many ways with respect to climate, biology and economy) they definitely are getting reduced by draining. Typically they are converted to fields or cultivated forests (both are carbon neutral affairs in the long run). A lot of the peat is also burned for fuel, releasing the sequestered CO2.

It is the same story in any place with expanding economy. Bogs are economically mostly useless and usually get turned into something else, or mined for the energy.

Peat will not save us from global warming.

1. #### Re: Questionable extrapolation

When you say bogs are economically useless, you forget cranberry bogs!

Mmmm, cranberries......

2. #### Re: Questionable extrapolation

Their extrapolation is not BS. They just assumed no human activity at all to find the max area the peat could cover.

23. #### So basically Mr. Lewis misrepresented the research?

While I am recovering from the shock, I will have to write my own thesis "probablistic outcomes of ursine defecation in arboreal environments".....

24. #### Its about time the reg got a new section

Lewis long ago left the realms of science, this is some kind of religious crusade.

poor man, it took his powers of reason years since, now it's effecting his eyesight.

to summarise;

if it wasn't for that thing i said isn't happening, at least is happening, but isn't caused by us, yes that thing, well these guys wrote a paper which takes a few stabs in the dark, massively extrapolates the results, leaves out a few significant variables and proves i was wrong all along.

so that's lewis 1, rest of the word nil i guess.

25. #### I leave you with one last thought......

Burn more coal, for peat's sake!!!

26. Despite the empty vessels driving most of the comments, please keep going, Lewis!

I place much more value on facts over hype. AWG is a classical smoke-filled bubble, and it's about to burst.

27. #### we are doomed

When we'll have no petrol nor coal left, it means we will be freezing ?

28. and by the way, who wrote the nice comment at the end of the article ?

29. #### Paging Mr. Moss, Mr. Pete Moss....

Time to curl up by the fire with a bottle of Scotch and

watch the Mastodons and the Wooly Mammoths duke it

out across the street....

But wait....there's a fight....and a hockey game breaks out...

It's Michael "Hide the decline" Mann and Al "Gaia con Fritos" Gore...

There's a lot of high-sticking going on, but a whistle, a train whistle

rings out to stop the melee....a locomotive engineer from the IPCC

whistles the play to a stop, and orders the weathered combatants

to return their "No Bull" prizes...

No energy to continue....with the new models, the "Corn Census"

has shown that all plant material must be diverted to ethanol

production...an inconvenient proof that Mann has no effect

upon climate, weather he likes it or not....

30. The Dunning-Kruger exhibited on here by armchair scientists is NOTHING short of awe-inspiring! Ice age?

Oy vey es mir....

31. #### Excellent stuff

But I'm just more confused now.

32. #### Line 4 of the original paper's summary demonstrates Lewis is a climate denying fool

"We assume no human presence or anthropic effects, so the calculation is speculative."

Lewis is 180 degrees out. His only saving grace is that his reporting can only improve from here.

33. #### Peat bogs have only *one* natural enemy

Irish farmers.

34. Re-peat, and thin no more...

35. Obviously, the solution is to burn more peat! It will generate CO2 as well as heat, and it will help reduce the spread of peat lands... :-)

1. OK, I am starting to tune my car into a peat burning engine.

Am gonna save the world !

36. #### Denier

Lewis, you should also smoke tobacco: trust the manufacturers, it isn't bad for your health.

What these studies say is that it is very likely that we should be heading for an ice age. And we aren't.. mainly because of our activity.

While I would agree that it is better for us puny humans not to have an ice age, the reverse of an ice age is still worse.

Not only that, but we have destroyed/greatly altered most of the natural environment. So many plants and animals live in "secluded reserves". As the climate changes, they will be unable to live there, but as we have destroyed the connecting territories (we want highways, farms, houses...) many species will die out.

37. #### Right On Scientists

What people believe in their hearts to be Right is almost by definition wrong. Besides, if I were to care what anyone else thought, it would imply I ought to control what they think. Which I probably could but chose not to.

Read the great fiction writer Norman Spinrad for an early statement of the obvious truth here this research is finding hints of. "The Iron Dream". 1972. Iron Mentalists (sic) stop co2 emissions we get an ice age.

And while you're at it, please learn how to refrain from attributing your own opinions to others without presenting evidence that they indeed share them ! Wherever did you find the quote you attribute to Professor Franzen to the effect that «We are probably entering a new ice age right now. However, we're not noticing it due to the effects of carbon dioxide» (which in itself would indicate that the Professor agrees that anthropogenic contributions to the global carbon-dioxide cycle are, in fact, contributing to the global warming he recognises as taking place) - it certainly does not appear in the article to which you link. Nor is there any basis for your statement that :

«The researchers believe that the Little Ice Age of the 16th to 18th centuries may have been halted as a result of human activity. Increased felling of woodlands and growing areas of agricultural land, combined with the early stages of industrialisation, resulted in increased emissions of carbon dioxide which probably slowed down, or even reversed, the cooling trend.»

given that the article nowhere addresses this specific period or topic. Nor does the paper anywhere employ the term, «catastrophe». It does note, however, that «We assume no human presence or anthropic effects, so the calculation is speculative. It may have been relevant for previous interglacials.» One gets the impression that you are citing an article on the paper by Franzen et al which significantly distorts its import , but that for some reason you wish to disguise this fact and therefore refer instead to the paper itself, which, following your source, you have either deliberately misconstrued or entirely misunderstood....

Epic failure and no mistake....

Henri

39. #### Interesting research - Deceptive and biased reporting

"Unfortunately if you believe that isolated events prove theories, you would pretty much have to accept that global warming has stopped: ten to fifteen years of flat temperatures, or even a few very cold winters - both of which have just happened - are a lot more significant than one storm (and they atill aren't significant enough to mean anything much in a climate context)."

This kind of bias has no place in a publication that purports to provide any level objectivity or useful science reporting. Most of the media has pointed out that there has been an increase in severity of weather events lately and has asked anyone they can get on, from scientists to insurance eggheads, whether it is related to Global Warming; most have said "we don't know for sure".

In this case, the fluke that it was exceptionally warm for one year 15 years ago is used to distort the fact that that global temperatures are rising on a consistent basis. If you look at the past 10 years, 20 years or 50 years, temperatures are rising; it is only when you use 15 years that you get a flat "trend".

As others have pointed out, this research posits that man made climate change is real, but that there may be offsetting factors that mean it could be keeping us from going into an ice age. That is a big supposition, and based on reading of the geological record that can also be interpreted in very different ways.

If we are driving up temperatures so fast that we cause major sea rise and weather disruptions over the next 50 years, it really won't matter if the natural trend would have been going the other direction (over a period of hundreds of years); the economic and human welfare disruptions will be massive.

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