Greenland Was Much Warmer in Recent Past

Published September 1, 2007

A new study of Greenland’s ice sheet shows the Earth’s temperature a few hundred thousand years ago was approximately 15 degrees Celsius warmer than it is today, contradicting assertions by global warming alarmists that current temperatures are unprecedented and dangerous to the planet.

Lush Forest Preceded Ice

Scientists drilled ice cores more than a mile deep into the base of the Greenland ice sheet and analyzed DNA from remains of insects and plant life found there. A thorough study of the DNA, reported in the July 6 issue of Science magazine, concludes only a lush boreal forest could have supported the pollen, insects, and other life found beneath the ice sheet.

The particular plant and animal species that thrived in this boreal forest required temperatures ranging from approximately 10º Celsius in the summer to approximately -17º Celsius in the winter. Temperatures currently range from -8 degrees Celsius in the summer to -30º Celsius in the winter in the same regions of Greenland.

The analysis showed the forest thrived roughly 500,000 years ago. A mere blink of an eye in geologic time, this relatively recent balmy warmth contradicts alarmist assertions that the Earth is experiencing unprecedented warming.

Warmer Periods Common

Scientists have known that during the past 450,000 years temperatures in Greenland have several times been at least 3º Celsius warmer than today. Although these warmer periods had already contradicted assertions by global warming alarmists that current temperatures are unprecedented and alarming, the new discovery of temperatures 15º Celsius warmer than today is nothing short of astonishing.

“It provides further evidence that natural processes can and do produce climate change, and that this can be large enough to produce effects similar to those predicted to result from anthropogenic warming,” Dr. Martin Sharp, co-author of the study, told the Canadian Television Network.

“[W]hat we’ve learned is that this part of the world was significantly warmer than most people thought,” Sharp added in a news release.

“There is a great deal of natural climate variability that obviously has not been caused by humans,” said Marlo Lewis, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington, DC. “In light of what we know about the Earth’s climate, you cannot say that any rise in temperatures proves that humans are driving the climate.”

Lewis noted future technologies may well render any human impact on global temperatures moot. “In 50 years, we very well could be using forms of energy that emit little or no greenhouse gases anyway,” said Lewis. “We could very well know how to efficiently and economically suck carbon dioxide out of the air.”

James M. Taylor ([email protected]) is a senior fellow for The Heartland Institute and managing editor of Environment & Climate News.