Potsdam, Germany: Global warming has delayed the next ice age by about 50,000 to 100,000 years, scientists said on Wednesday.
According to a new study published in the journal Nature, human interference in the form of burning fossil fuels has irrevocably changed Earth's cycles, significantly delaying the next glacial cycle.
The study led by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research pointed that the planet seemed naturally on track to escape an ice age for the next 50,000 years, an unusually long period of warmth.
“Humans have the power to change the climate on geological timescales,” lead author of the study Andrey Ganopolski of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany was quoted as telling to Reuters.
In a new explanation for the long-lasting plunges in global temperatures, scientists point to a combination of long-term shifts in the Earth's orbit around the sun, together with carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.
The findings suggest human influences “will make the initiation of the next ice age impossible over a time period comparable to the duration of previous glacial cycles,” they wrote.
He said the lingering impacts of greenhouse gases in a far distant future did not in any way affect the urgency of cutting emissions now that are blamed for causing downpours, heat waves and rising seas.
“Like no other force on the planet, ice ages have shaped the global environment,” said Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute and an author of the study. He suggested a new epoch might instead be called the "Deglacial".
In the past million years, the world has had about 10 ice ages before swinging back to warmer conditions like the present. In the last ice age that ended 12,000 years ago, ice sheets blanketed what is now Canada, northern Europe and Siberia.
(With Agency inputs)