Panic! 9,000 Billion Tons of Ice Lost in Greenland!

Have you ever wondered why they called that place up north “Greenland” instead of, say, “Whiteland”? The reason is that at the time humans first moved there, much of the place was in fact green….as it was a lot warmer than it is today, when allegedly, we are shortly all going to be roasted due to global warming (those living in coastal ares are supposed to drown before they have a chance to burn for their carbon footprint sins).


ice-cubesWe’re losing ice so fast, we soon won’t know what to put into our scotch. Clearly, global warming is evil.

Image credit: Valentyn Volkov


Never mind that we are actually in an interglacial period, which essentially means “a brief time-out within an ice age before everything freezes again.” Brief in geological time-scales that is, which is thankfully not really relevant in terms of human lifespans. And we are currently firmly on the long term down-slope:


cenozoicEarth’s climate over the past 65+ million years (today is on the left hand side of the chart). The temperature maximum is estimated to have occurred about 50-55 million years ago, since then the trend is pointing down – click to enlarge.


A more near term chart (this one has to be read from left to right, i.e., today is on the right hand side) also shows this trend quite clearly. The recent period of warming is an unremarkable blip, indistinguishable from any of the other unremarkable blips that have occurred in the past. In fact, we should be eternally grateful that the downtrend has been briefly interrupted. The “little ice age” as it is known today was not a happy time. There were frequent crop failures and the winters were bitterly cold. The Thames in London tended to be frozen in Winter.


gisp-last-10000-newThe red blip to the right is the small recovery in temperatures since the terrible cold of the little ice age. Who exactly almost warmed us beyond recognition 8,500 years ago is not quite clear – can we blame Cro-Magnon, the Neanderthal genocide perp? The Romans probably had too many cows or something. The main point is however the long term downtrend. This may indeed be worth worrying about, if one wants to insist on worrying about something – click to enlarge.


The point of this introduction is to bring the following into proper perspective. In the short term, there has been a minor warming trend since the last cooling cycle ended in the mid- to late 1970s (at the time, even the CIA produced papers discussing the much-feared return of the ice age). In the course of this period, the Antarctic has continued to gain ice, with the result that sea ice coverage on the South Pole keeps reaching new record highs year after year.

However, it is different in the Arctic, where sea ice has been in retreat in spite of the fact that global temperatures have barely changed over the past roughly 20 years. Greenland is clearly losing ice. We all know the scary images of calving glaciers and polar bears lost on drifting ice sheets (although recent research into the miraculous fact that the polar bear population is absolutely thriving has concluded that the species has no problem with warmer temperatures).

So how bad is the situation? Well, it’s really scary. Greenland has lost 9,000 billion tons of ice over the past 115 years! Or, as others have put it, 9 trillion tons of ice, which sounds even scarier. As David Middleton points out though, it is indeed very much a question of how one decides to put it. There is a completely different way of formulating the headline, but one must suspect that this version wouldn’t sell any papers. Here it is:


Greenland has Retained 99.7% of its Ice Mass Over the Past Century

That’s right – the 9,000 billion tons amount to mere 0.3% of Greenland’s ice mass, or a 5 meter deep layer of an ice sheet estimated to be 1.5 kilometers thick. At this rate, all the ice will be gone in about 33,000 years (we suspect the polar bears won’t care).

What makes this especially remarkable, is that those 0.3% are a lot less than the margin of error embedded in estimates of the actual ice mass – these estimates range from 2.6 × 106 km3 to 5.5 × 106 km3. The latter estimate would make for a 3 km deep ice sheet at the center. The calculation of the 0.3% ice loss over the past century is based on the low range estimate. A picture is worth more than a thousand words as they say. Here is a look at Gulliver’s lost ice cube:


The Lost Ice CubeGreenland’s lost ice cube in perspective – or as one reader of David Middleton’s article put it: The consensus among 99.7% of Greenland’s Ice Cubes is that “We Are Still Here!” – click to enlarge.


Obviously, in the face of such a huge problem, we should destroy industrial civilization a.s.a.p. and quickly return to a pastoral lifestyle (our dear central planners should be excepted from this onerous requirement, so that they can remain in good health and continue to think for us in peace). Some of us may subsequently become polar bear food, but that is a small price to pay for saving the entire planet! Saving the planet? Cue George Carlin:


George Carlin on saving the planet


Conclusion – A Socionomic Phenomenon Losing Momentum?

Readers may have noticed that in spite of the all the scary sounding headlines, a lot of zest has gone out of global warming propaganda in recent months. Robert Prechter has long suspected that the entire crusade is essentially a social mood phenomenon, a kind of mass hysteria. As he wrote in 2007:


“My primary intent is to take a look at the question from the point of view of a social psychologist to decide whether it appears to be the result of hysteria. I am not a climatologist, but I am a student of manias and herding, and that is what the global-warming craze appears to be about. There is powerful evidence of herding at the social level: The projection is extreme, and the tone is strident. The GW movement has not a little taste of old-time religion in its accompanying admonition of humanity. Professors and scientists who challenge all these methods and conclusions are rejected as heretics. Commentary on the subject is even selling theater tickets. Hysteria often signals the end of a trend. What I expect, based upon observing mass movements, is that this fear, too, will go away.”


(emphasis added)

These days, we more and more often see the apocalyptic predictions and pronouncements of the past mocked in the media, as this story about ABC’s mad cap projections for 2015 (which were released in 2008) shows. Along similar lines, it is becoming ever more obvious that so-called “green energy” simply cannot exist without government subsidies – which is another way of saying that it amounts to little more than naked cronyism. Global economic weakness has forced more and more governments to cut these subsidies, and the industries concerned are promptly keeling over.

Economic difficulties also tend to focus the attention of people on problems that are of more imminent concern to them, such as what they are going to do if they lose their job. Recent surveys show that global warming has declined to the very bottom of the list of most people’s priorities. Adaptation is incidentally the best way of dealing with climate change – it is how humans have succesfully handled the changing climate for thousands of years. As Donna Laframboise has stated in the wake of the Paris climate summit:


“Self-aggrandizing politicians imagine that the Paris agreement matters. So where are the officially-organized celebrations, the fireworks displays to mark last week’s momentous achievement? Deep down, even they seem to know it’s all fatuous blather.

Green lobbyists, government bureaucrats whose jobs depend on the climate scare, academics who research climate, and environmental activists pretending to be journalists all think what happened in Paris last weekend is awfully important. Those are the constituencies that now keep the climate ball rolling. Those are the vested interests that will make it difficult for the rest of us, long term, to free ourselves from the climate obsession. Pay cheques and self-regard.

But the available evidence indicates that the public has overwhelmingly tuned-out. Climate change isn’t a vote winner. It’s an expensive distraction from real world concerns.


(emphasis added)

Indeed, it increasingly feels like the hysteria has finally peaked – and for good reason.


energy-consumptionGreen energy subsidies and what they have achieved. One is tempted to call this a typical government boondoggle, but in reality it is an extremely costly form of cronyism (a.k.a. theft).


Charts via Wattsupwiththat (details on data sources in the charts), BP statistical review of world energy 2015



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