Farmers Cause Ice Age Postponement

September 12, 2018

by John McClaughry

Dr. Ron Bailey, the science editor at Reason.com, has an intriguing headline on his recent post: “If You Hate Ice Ages, Thank a Farmer. Chopping down forests and irrigating rice paddies boosted greenhouse gases enough to prevent the onset of a new ice age.”

Bailey reports that University of Virginia climatologist William Ruddiman concluded after studying 2.6 million years of climate cycles, that global average temperatures of our current interglacial period—the Holocene—should be dropping, and glaciers should now be growing in northern Canada and Siberia. But they’re not.

Ruddiman hypothesized that an increase in greenhouse gases that began 8,000 years ago was keeping the onset of a new ice age at bay. He calculated that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels should have fallen from their post-deglaciation peak of around 268 parts per million to around 240 ppm by 1800. Instead, pre-industrial carbon dioxide concentrations were actually around 285 ppm. What was the cause of these higher-than-normal concentrations of greenhouse gases?

Farmers: carbon dioxide sequestering forests were chopped down to grow crops, while the rotting of vegetation in rice paddies boosted global methane concentrations.

Ruddiman finds that without the increase in greenhouse gases caused by farming, current global average temperatures would likely have been about 1.3 degrees Celsius lower than they were in 1850. The Earth is now about 2.1 degrees Celsius warmer than it would otherwise have been. So thanks, farmers, for staving off the next ice age.

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Robin J Chesnut-Tangerman September 16, 2018 at 1:37 pm

John, This is really grasping at straws, similar to standing in the path of Hurricane Florence and exulting that, “At least we aren’t having a drought!”
If we accept these conclusions, then human activity has contributed enough greenhouse gasses to raise temperatures 3.4˚ C. from where they would otherwise be. Considering that even a 1˚ C. change begins to disrupt growing seasons, food supplies, mating seasons, pest populations, storm intensity, wildfire frequency, and so on, your report is even more alarming.

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post:

About Us

The Ethan Allen Institute is Vermont’s free-market public policy research and education organization. Founded in 1993, we are one of fifty-plus similar but independent state-level, public policy organizations around the country which exchange ideas and information through the State Policy Network.
Read more...

Latest News

Proposal  5 to Amend the VT Constitution

March 18, 2019 by John McClaughry Proposal 5 to amend the Vermont Constitution to promote “reproductive liberty”, is now under Senate consideration. I don’t propose to discuss the...

An AP Climate Story

March 15, 2019 by John McClaughry Here’s an interesting story from Associated Press, dated June 29, 1989: “A senior U.N. environmental official says entire nations could be wiped...

Join Us! For EAI’s 25th Jefferson Day Dinner

Tuesday, April 9th At Trader Duke’s, 1311 Williston Road, South Burlington 5:30 pm social hour. Dinner & Program 6:30 pm. Click Here to Order Your Tickets Online “Jefferson, the...

So, We Can Stop Pretending Pre-K Is “For the Kids.”

March 12, 2019 by Rob Roper When the state started to ramp up its government-funded, government-run pre-k programs in 2005-2006, the rhetoric was all about how great this...

EAI’s Carbon Tax Stance Attacked By National Organization

March 8, 2019 By David Flemming Some folks are getting anxious that “progress” on passing carbon taxes at the state level has stalled nationwide. Media Matters, a nationwide...

Video