09/10/97
Never mind global warming -- ice age may be looming
	 
	    By Paul Mylrea
	    LEEDS, England (Reuter) - Never mind fears of global
warming. The world may be heading back into an ice age, a
leading British scientist said Wednesday.
	    ``The earth could still flip back into its ice age so
tomorrow the politicians might be telling us we're going back
into a glaciation and to chop down all the trees, burn all the
coal and start driving cars,'' said Jane Francis, an expert in
ancient climate systems from Leeds University.
	    Francis said it was ``farcical'' to try to prevent a
phenomenon such as the warming of the earth by greenhouse gases,
which most scientists say is already changing the climate and
will become dramatic next century, when it was probably no more
than a blip in geological terms.
	    She told Britain's main science festival that the earth was
currently living through a ``brief'' warm spell in an ice age
which started 30 million years ago.
	    She said her studies of fossilized trees found in Antarctica
had shown wide variations in climate patterns within this ice
age.
	    About two million years ago, the warm spell was briefly warm
enough to allow trees to flourish at the south pole before the
ice covered the area again.
	    ``The lesson to be learned from these fossils is that it may
only be a short-lived warming and we could soon go back into our
ice age,'' she said.
	    Francis said the length of the current ice age meant all the
climate records being looked at by scientists came only from
within this 30-million-year period.
	    ``So all we are looking at are fluctuations within that
ice-age earth, and it's going to take phenomenal change to get
out of an ice-age earth into a greenhouse earth ....
	    ``What we are seeing really is just another interglacial
phase within our big icehouse climate,'' Francis told Reuters.
	    Dismissing political calls for a global effort to reverse
climate change, she said, ``It's really farcical because the
climate has been changing constantly.
	    ``What we should do is be more aware of the fact that it is
changing and that we should be ready to adapt to the change,''
she said.
	    ``Rather than just going with one focus that we're going
into a greenhouse, we should be aware that we could, quite
quickly, flick back into another state ... and we should be able
to cope with that as well.''
	
 ^REUTER@