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UK Government: ‘No Global Cooling During The Next Several Centuries’

House of Lords

Climate Change Question – Asked by Lord Donoughue – House of Lords, 23 October 2013

Lord Donoughue: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of (1) the likelihood and timing of any future phase of global cooling, and (2) the potential impact on the United Kingdom and global economies of any future extensive glaciation; and what precautionary plans they have to limit any damage they predict to the United Kingdom economy and its people from any such extensive glaciation. [HL2653]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Baroness Verma) (Con): The UK government has made substantial investment in research that concerns the likelihood and timing of future changes in global and regional climate.

All of the climate models and policy-relevant pathways of future greenhouse gas and aerosol emissions considered in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) recent Fifth Assessment Report show a long-term global increase in temperature during the 21st century is expected. In all cases, the warming from increasing greenhouse gases significantly exceeds any cooling from atmospheric aerosols. Other effects such as solar changes and volcanic activity are likely to have only a minor impact over this timescale.

With regard to future glaciation the timescales are very long. Changes in the Earth’s orbit are considered to have driven the glacial cycles that have occurred every 100,000 years approximately, during the past one million years. The British Antarctic Survey has advised that the Earth is about halfway through the current interglacial period and the onset of the next glaciation is not expected for around 10,000 years at least. Although a future extensive glaciation would have huge geopolitical consequences, the transition into such a state would be slow, allowing for adaptation over many generations.

The slow changes in the Earth’s orbit are not, however, expected to cause any net global cooling over the next several centuries, which will be dominated by a warming global climate due to greenhouse gas emissions.