Global Warming's Chilly Consequences

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MCMURDO STATION, Antarctica: Futurists, pack a parka with those Hawaiian shirts -- global warming comes with its own ice age. Scientists told a conference of Antarctica Treaty nations Tuesday that unless the current rise in world temperatures isn't halted in the next generation, Mother Nature will cool us down on her own. Warming oceans will melt the massive western Antarctica ice shelf and dump untold volumes of cold water into something called the Global Conveyor Belt, a transoceanic current system that would then deliver parts of the world -- they didn't say which -- into a regional ice age.

Stay away from small islands, too; the ice shelf contains 90 percent of the world's fresh water, and the Big Melt would raise sea levels by a beach-house-sinking 76 yards. Apocalyptic? Maybe. Avoidable? Well, that's one bit of salesmanship that global-warming watchdogs have learned lately: Always leave a sliver for hope, because politicians don't cotton to lost causes. "Once the conditions are set in train to melt, the process cannot be stopped," said Peter Barrett, an Antarctic scientist from New Zealand's Victoria University of Wellington. "Some people would say it's getting too late... we need awareness and political will to address the problem." Better get a good pair of earmuffs too.