The First International Conference on Global Warming and The Next Ice Age

Petr Chylek and Glen Lesins

The First International Conference on Global Warming and the next Ice Age (organized by Petr Chylek, Petr.Chylek@Dal.Ca, and Glen Lesins, Glen.Lesins@Dal.Ca) took place at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, between August 20-24, 2001. The Conference was co-sponsored by the American Meteorological Society, the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society and the European Space Agency. More than a hundred scientists from thirteen countries attended the Conference. It was one of the largest meetings devoted exclusively to climate change ever held in Canada.

The main purpose of the meeting was to gather scientists with very different views on the current climate change and to allow them an opportunity to present their opinion, to listen to other viewpoints and to promote open discussion. Fifteen of the scientists attending the Conference also served as co-authors or reviewers of the 2001 IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report, which represents the current "consensus" view on climate change, ascribing most of the current warming to the anthropogenic production of carbon dioxide. However, other views suggesting that a considerable fraction of the current warming trend may be caused by changes in ocean circulation, variability of solar output and by natural variability of a complicated nonlinear climate system were also presented.

Since it was expected that different opinions on the cause of current climate change would create some amount of disharmony among the attending scientists, each morning session started with a mini-concert of classical music (Jubilee String Quartet, violin and cello, and classical guitar). The attending scientists had a unique opportunity to listen to a rare Stradivarius cello, played by Denise Djokic. All present highly appreciated the music.

The topics discussed at the Conference could be divided into three categories: (1) Observations, (2) Interpretation, and (3) The Next Ice Age. The main points raised were as follows.

  1. Observations: The climate has always been changing. Many past changes were sudden and comparable to the current rate of climate change. The globally averaged surface air temperature has increased during the last century at the rate of about 0.6oC per hundred years. This increase has been non-uniform in time and space with some regions becoming warmer, some colder and some remaining unchanged. Most of the temperature increase occurred during the winters. There is no evidence of increasing strength or frequency of severe storms like cyclones and tornadoes. While the mid-latitude and tropical glaciers have been melting, some of the Scandinavian glaciers are growing. There is no clear evidence of a rapid thinning of the Arctic ice or Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets.
  2. Interpretation: The partitioning of the observed temperature increase between likely causes (anthropogenic aerosols and greenhouse gases, the long term variability of ocean circulation, variability of the solar output, and natural climate variability) is highly uncertain and not well understood at present. A few more decades of careful observations and intense research will be needed to help resolve this question.
  3. Next Ice Age: The predictions of the timing of the next ice age vary between 5,000 and 50,000 years.

It has been also suggested that due to the increased levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse

gases, the next ice age may never come (a blessing for Canada).

Suggestions for all the inhabitants of the Earth, including the "policy makers"

  1. Regardless of what is the main cause of current climate change, we all need clean air and clean water. Therefore, we have to invest in the development of renewable energy resources, we have to reduce wasteful consumption of energy and useless industrial products. We must preserve a clean environment and save natural resources for the future generations. This we will do because we want to do it, because it is the right thing to do, because we are considerate members of humanity, and not because of an exaggerated prediction of a climate catastrophe.
  2. Any reduction in the greenhouse gas emission by industrial nations will not by itself be an effective tool in producing a sustainable environment, unless it is coupled with the stabilization of the population and raising the living standards of all developing countries.