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A world of fire or ice?
As huge volumes of cold fresh water continue to pour into the north Atlantic, the Gulf stream will weaken and even shut down, bringing bitter cold to the UK and north-west Europe, which benefit most from its tropical warmth. During the Younger Dryas, the current appears to have been severely weakened, lowering north European temperatures by up to 10 C. Going back further, to the height of the last ice age some 20,000 years ago, the Gulf stream had only two-thirds its current strength. But did this weakening help  
 the last ice age, or was it a consequence? If the former, then we could be in for big trouble.
A number of recent climate models have shown that if greenhouse gas emissions double, which they may well do given the lack of political consensus, then the flow of warm water from the Gulf may slow by up to 30%. Even worse, a "business-as-usual" scenario might lead to a quadrupling of emissions and a shutdown of the supply of warm water to the north Atlantic by the middle of the next century. In around half a century, then, the seas around northern Europe could be substantially cooler, altering prevailing weather patterns and bringing much colder conditions to the region.
As the rest of the planet roasts, the UK and Europe might slowly start to freeze. The knock-on effects of changes to the ocean circulation pattern in the north Atlantic may spread rapidly, overwhelming the current warming and
 the return of ice age conditions.
Even if we successfully
 the global warming issue, we still have a problem. Without the heating effects of unmitigated human activities, the Earth will be around 3 C colder in around 8,000 years' time - well on the way to full ice age conditions. Should we not then be trying to keep the planet warm? This highlights an issue that has not been debated, largely due to the short-sightedness of our race and its leaders.
Do we wish on our descendants a world of fire - or one of ice?

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