Is human interference with the climate a good thing, in this case?
In a study published in the journal Nature, scientists at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research found that even moderate human interference with the Earth's carbon balance could delay the planet's next ice age by 100,000 years.
"Even without man-made climate change, we would expect the beginning of a new ice age no earlier than in 50,000 years from now — which makes the Holocene as the present geological epoch an unusually long period between ice ages," lead author Andrey Ganopolski explains, as reported by Phys.org. "However, our study also shows that relatively moderate additional anthropogenic CO2 emissions from burning oil, coal and gas are already sufficient to postpone the next ice age for another 50,000 years. The bottom line is that we are basically skipping a whole glacial cycle, which is unprecedented. It is mind-boggling that humankind is able to interfere with a mechanism that shaped the world as we know it."
This research potentially explains the beginning of the past eight ice stages as well, the journal's findings additionally report.
Ganopolski added that the journal's findings report that there's "a unique functional relationship between summer insulation and atmospheric CO2 for the beginning of a large-scale ice-sheet growth."
He adds that this explains the past but will also allow scientists to anticipate future glacial periods as well.
Scientists involved in this study analyzed the effects of human-made CO2 emissions on ice volume in the Northern Hemisphere before coming to their conclusion.
"Due to the extremely long life-time of anthropogenic CO2 in the atmosphere, past and future emissions have a significant impact on the timing of the next glacial inception," co-author of the study Ricarda Winkelmann said. "Our analysis shows that even small additional carbon emissions will most likely affect the evolution of the Northern Hemisphere ice sheets over tens of thousands of years, and moderate future anthropogenic CO2 emissions of 1,000 to 1,500 gigatons of carbon are likely to postpone the next ice age by at least 100,000 years."