“The battle over whether man-made or natural forces are the primary driving force behind global warming and climate change will likely become more contentious in the next few years. The key point is that the world’s population is at greater risk of serious harm from colder temperatures rather than warm temperatures.”
“Since the EPA’s ruling, the effort to find a solution to the wood-burning stoves remains elusive. As the editors of the local Fairbanks newspaper put it, ‘The borough faces two unpalatable alternatives: More stringent restrictions on home heating devices that could impact residents’ ability to heat their homes affordably, or choosing to stand pat and accept a host of costly economic sanctions and health effects to residents.’”
I previously commented on a New York Times column by personal health writer Jane Brody (highlighting recent studies showing that cold temperatures cause more deaths than heat spells). In “Beware: Winter Is Coming,” she wrote:
While casualties resulting from heat waves receive wide publicity, deaths from bouts of extreme cold rarely do, and those resulting from ordinary winter weather warrant virtually no attention. Yet an international study covering 384 locations in 13 countries, including the United States, found that cold weather is responsible, directly or indirectly, for 17 times as many deaths as hot weather.
Yet far too many studies and public policies are fixated on extreme heat events associated with the apocalyptic view of global warming, aka climate change.
Consider a recent (Obama-era) demand from the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) that Alaskan residents stop using wood-burning stoves for warming, because of air pollution issues. And also consider the results of a European scientific model presented at the National Astronomy Meeting in Wales predicting a “mini ice age” from 2030 to 2040 as a result of decreased solar activity.
Wow! With the media reporting either the warmest month or year in modern times (or at least since man started collecting temperature data), the idea that we might be actually heading back into another Ice Age is disturbing. However, if we were cynics, we would lean on the old axiom that when a trend is on the front page of the newspaper, it has peaked, and we are on the way to an alternative scenario.
EPA vs. Alaskan Wood Stoves
In a blog at The Federalist, “EPA to Alaskans in Sub-Zero Temps: Stop Burning Wood to Keep Warm,” Alaskan native John Daniel Davidson wrote about the absurdity of the EPA’s move to restrict the use of wood-burning stoves, based on his personal experience growing up in the nation’s forty-ninth state. Reports are that the EPA could soon declare the Alaskan cities of Fairbanks and North Pole, with a combined population of 100,000, to be in “serious” noncompliance of the Clean Air Act early in 2017.
In 2008, the EPA ruled that wide swaths of the most densely populated parts of Alaska were in “non-attainment” of federal air quality standards. This set off an initiative by Alaskan state and local government officials to find ways to cut down on the pollution from wood-burning stoves. All options, including fining residents using the stoves have been considered, because being in non-compliance risks the loss of federal funds for transportation projects.
The problem is that there aren’t any realistic options. Heating oil is very expensive. and natural gas isn’t available. Electric heat generated by wind and solar is also not a feasible alternative.
In Fairbanks, the average low temperature in December is -13o F, which only gets colder in January (-17o F). The coldest days during the winter can see a high temperature of -2o F with lows in the -60o F range – killing conditions if heat is not maintained. Therefore, most residents, and especially lower-income residents, keep their wood fires burning all day and night, even though they know it can be unhealthy.
Part of the problem is that the smoke coming from wood stove fires is not like smog in large cities. The main problem for wood-fire smoke during the winter is that with these extremely cold temperatures there is a problem due to local inversions when the smoke falls rather than rises. Importantly, the areas impacted by inversions in Alaska are very small, such as a single street or city block, rather than an entire city.
Since the EPA’s ruling, the effort to find a solution to the wood-burning stoves remains elusive. As the editors of the local Fairbanks newspaper put it, “The borough faces two unpalatable alternatives: More stringent restrictions on home heating devices that could impact residents’ ability to heat their homes affordably, or choosing to stand pat and accept a host of costly economic sanctions and health effects to residents.”
Neither of those options is satisfactory. From the EPA’s point of view, the official in charge says the agency isn’t trying to make residents’ lives more expensive or difficult, but the agency has an obligation to enforce the air quality standards set by the Clean Air Act. The bottom line is that these wood stoves are a problem, but the government isn’t interested in working with the people to find an acceptable solution to the emissions challenge.
A New Ice Age?
As for a new Ice Age, the Russian Academy of Science’s Pulkovo Observatory in St. Petersburg, considered one of the world’s most prestigious scientific institutions, recently issued a new study titled, “The New Little Ice Age Has Started.” According to the study, the average temperature around the globe will fall by about 1.5o C (2.7o F) when the planet enters the deep cooling phase of this new Little Ice Age, expected in the year 2060. The study goes on to predict that after 2060 the Earth will experience four-to-six 11-year solar cycles of cool temperatures before beginning the next quasi-bicentennial warming cycle around the turn of the 22nd century.
Habibullo Abdussamatov is the head of space research at Pulkovo and the author of the study. He has been predicting the arrival of another ice age since 2003, based on his study of the behavior of the sun’s different cycles and the solar activity that then results. His model is based on data from the Earth’s 18 earlier little ice ages over the past 7,500 years, six of them experienced during the last thousand years. Based on his model, he began predicting over a decade ago that the next little ice age would start between 2012 and 2015.
Abdussamatov’s models have been affirmed by actual data, including the rise of the oceans and the measurable irradiance sent earthward by the sun. Given the accuracy of his predictions, which have been demonstrated in numerous studies since 2003, he now predicts that we entered the 19th Little Ice Age in 2014-2015. This forecast would appear to fly in the face of climate change scientists pointing to 2015 and 2016 as being the warmest years on record – and forecasts that we will experience more record warmth in coming years.
Mr. Abdussamatov’s views stand in opposition to the conclusions of climate models, as he has tied his forecast of a prolonged cooling spell to solar, not man-made, factors. The recent disappearance of sunspots from the face of the sun, which also occurred during the Little Ice Age in the late 1600s, has made Mr. Abdussamatov’s contention no longer an isolated view. In fact, organizations such as the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan and the Riken research foundation have reached similar conclusions.
The battle over whether man-made or natural forces are the primary driving force behind global warming and climate change will likely become more contentious in the next few years. The key point is that the world’s population is at greater risk of serious harm from colder temperatures rather than warm temperatures, which seems to be ignored by government officials and the media. We guess that cold and ice don’t lend themselves to spectacular disaster scenes as well as heat-related weather events do.
“The world must start preparing for the new Little Ice Age right now,” warns Mr. Abdussamatov. “Politicians and business leaders must make full economic calculations of the impact of the new Little Ice Age on everything — industry, agriculture, living conditions, development. The most reasonable way to fight against the new Little Ice Age is a complex of special steps aimed at support of economic growth and energy-saving production to adapt mankind to the forthcoming period of deep cooling.”
In his conclusion, Mr. Abdussamatov states, “The upcoming climate change will be the most important challenge and a priority issue for the world and define the main events in politics, the economy, and the most important areas of the whole of humanity in the coming decades. It’s time we took the threat of climate change — of the real climate change — seriously.”
His message of the dangers of underestimating and failing to prepare for another Ice Age is as ominous as that of the climate change supporters who rue the disastrous risks we are running by not preparing for an overheated planet. If the science of climate change were truly settled, we wouldn’t be having these debates, but the absence of sun spots and its correlation to the Little Ice Age is a fact. It seems that only a few in the media are willing to point out the serious risks to the human population from global cooling. Is it possible to prepare the world for both scenarios at the same time?
G. Allen Brooks is the author/editor of Musings from the Oil Patch, a biweekly analysis of industry and related public policy issues. A 40-year veteran of the energy and investment industries, his full autobiography can be found here.