Man-made climate change could delay the next ice age by as long as 100,000 years, a new study suggests.
Researchers used an elaborate Earth modelling system to predict the effect continued CO2 emissions could have on our atmosphere.
Lead author Andrey Ganopolski, of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact (PIK), said: “Our study shows that relatively moderate additional CO2-emissions from burning oil, coal and gas are already sufficient to postpone the next ice age for another 50,000 years.
“The bottom line is that we are basically skipping a whole glacial cycle, which is unprecedented.
“It is mind-boggling that humankind is able to interfere with a mechanism that shaped the world as we know it.”
The beginning of ice ages are marked by periods of very low solar radiation ion the summer, something Earth is experiencing now.
However, the study says that there seems to be no evidence that Earth is entering an ice age of any kind.
Co-author Ricarda Winklemann said: “Past and future emissions have a significant impact on the timing of the next glacial inception.
“Our analysis shows that even small additional carbon emissions will most likely affect the evolution of the northern hemisphere ice sheets over tens of thousands of years.
“Moderate future anthropogenic CO2 emissions of 1,000 to 1,500 gigatons of carbon are bound to postpone the next ice age by at least 100,000 years.”
Co-author and PIK director Hans Joachim Schellnhuber said: “Like no other force on the planet, ice ages have shaped the global environment and thereby determined the development of human civilization.
“For instance, we owe our fertile soil to the last ice age that also carved out today’s landscapes, leaving glaciers and rivers behind, forming fjords, moraines and lakes.
“However, today it is humankind with its emissions from burning fossil fuels that determines the future development of the planet.”