Climate change has always happened, as the Ice Age movies prove. So what is the hype about? You might ask, ‘why don’t we just adapt’? Here is a try at an easy clarification of climate change history, based mainly on explanations by Dr. Nic Flemming, one of the best ever specialists for sunken sites and cities.
Let us start with some basics.
- Number 1: Climate change happens periodically and there is nothing we can do about it.
- Number 2: Actually, the sea levels should today fall (I know that might come as a surprise to some).
- Number 3: Scientists think they only do the contrary, because of our behavior as humans.
Climate change happens periodically
We all fear climate change, because it seems we are going to lose something. In faraway history, let us say 5,000 years or even 100,000 years ago, climate change already happened, and people did indeed lose a lot. Nobody was building expensive oilrigs and condominiums for rich retired Americans on the beach then. If the sea moved, prehistoric people moved. If the sea dropped 20 m, which it did at some stages, vegetation spread out onto the shelf after a few decades, and Paleolithic people moved with it. However, Prehistoric people did care about climate change. They even cared a lot, when it got cold, or when it got dry or when their hunting grounds disappeared into the ocean.
Nonetheless, there was nothing they could do, but adapt. The whole area between the UK and the mainland Europe was once dry land. When it was covered by water, prehistoric civilizations moved. Around what is now Saxony in Germany at one moment Germanic tribes lived, the climate change and the area got deserted, and they moved out. When climate changed back, Slaves took the place. The same is true for the Sahara, which was once an inhabited place with Giraffes, recorded on ancient petroglyphs.
Actually, the sea levels should fall today
When you look at the graph, you see that we are on the top of the curve on the Milankovith cycle. Sea levels should drop. The problem today is that the effect of the sun on melting ice is also determined by the so-called greenhouse effect. If there is more CO2 in the atmosphere, the Milankovitch Cycle is disturbed, and possibly accelerated or retarded in its effect. That is, the effect of the CO2 could either enhance or counterbalance the natural change caused by the Milankovitch Cycle.
What is happening now is that the Milankovitch Cycle reached a natural warm stage with a maximum high sea level about 5,000 years ago, and we then have had a stable phase, which is very difficult to predict in terms of its natural duration. Civilisation has blossomed with this sea level stability. Suddenly, into this stable and beneficial state we inject the Industrial Revolution and increase the CO2 in the atmosphere, and thus start to warm up the sea and melt the ice, when in fact you would expect the next phase to go the other way, i.e. make sea levels drop. At the highest sea level point of the natural Milankovitch Cycle we add CO2 and start melting ice and making the sea level even higher. That is damaging to coastal populations, and may not stop.
Sea Levels raise because of us
The sea level changed drastically and naturally for tens of thousands of years, and the next natural changes of this kind will occur one day, and there will be nothing we can do about it. However, on the most important human political scale of 10-100-200 years, a few generations, we have messed it all up, and started the sea level to rise quickly, when it would not have done so without our interference. We have destabilised the climate system, and we have no way of being sure what will happen next.
The joker- in-the- pack caused by modern industry is that we are injecting the CO2 into the atmosphere when the Milankovitch Cycle is already at its warmest point. This creates a state of the system, which has never existed before.
A sobering reminder that this is reality
The study of prehistoric underwater heritage is a sobering reminder that all these things can really happen, and that we are powerless to control nature when it really starts to move on a big scale. The sea level has caused populations to abandon land before, although they had much less invested capital to lose in the process than us. We are reckless to disturb such a powerful system, and start changes that may trigger one climatic response after another in a chain reaction.
Look for instance at the Mediterranean – only in that area alone there lay around 150 sunken cities or parts of them. Around Denmark alone are estimated to lay 20.000 prehistoric sites of human civilisation, under water.
The intensity of detail revealed by the study of pprehistoric underwater heritage and the associated climatic and environmental processes is improving the knowledge of past sea levels and climates, and how they work.
The examination of prehistoric underwater heritage should make people think. This is a reality check. The sea level really can change through many meters, and it can force populations to move, and releasing a gas that makes the sea level rise faster is just not a clever thing to do.
Image: Sunken coastal structures, Malindi, Kenya (c) Ringuer