Polar vortex — or ice age?

“Coldest Mardi Gras Ever?” asked the New Orleans Times-Picayune as revellers sported long underwear under their costumes to cope with temperatures in the thirties. On the same day it was four degrees Fahrenheit at the Baltimore-Washington International Airport, an all-time low — breaking a record set in 1873. Niagara Falls has frozen over twice this winter, and the ice cover on Lake Michigan reached 90 percent, matching the all-time record.

Record-low temperatures, so much snow that municipalities are running out of salt, and one “polar vortex” after another. What’s going on? Where is the global warming we were warned about?

The temperature of the planet has not risen for the past seventeen years.

The climate models that were supposed to project “climate change” (global warming) on the basis of manmade carbon dioxide emissions have failed. The Climategate scandal gave us a glimpse of a corrupt scientific establishment scrambling to cover up that failure.

Instead, a different set of predictions is turning out to be true. The hard science that accurately predicts future climate trends is based not on alarmism about human activity; as a matter of fact, the entire C02 output of industry and modern transportation since the Industrial Revolution has actually resulted in a wholly beneficial warming of less than one degree Fahrenheit. These predictions show the behavior of the sun is the real driver of major climate changes.

Do we live in a special time when the laws of nature are suspended? No, we don’t. Can we expect the relationship between the sun’s activity and climate, which we can see in data going back several hundred years, to continue for at least another twenty years? Yes we can.

The Little Ice Age, from 1350 to 1900, was the coldest period in the last 8,000 years, which is what you would expect from the long-term cooling from the Holocene Optimum 8,000 years ago, when sea level was two meters higher than it is now. Sunspot activity began increasing in the mid-nineteenth century, and glaciers worldwide responded by beginning to retreat in 1859. Solar activity continued rising and in the second half of the twentieth century, the sun was more active than it had been for the last 8,000 years. In response, there was a gentle warming of the Earth’s climate.

Unfortunately, solar activity didn’t stay at a high level for very long. It tipped over into decline from 2003. And our climate has responded by cooling. California researchers Leona Libby and Louis Pandolfi, using data from redwoods in Kings Canyon in that state, accurately predicted both the warming “to around the year 2000” and the subsequent cooling in an interview with the St. Petersburg Times more than thirty years ago. More recently, a 2007 Finnish tree ring study came up with a very similar result. The Finnish foresters forecast a cold period beginning in about 2015 and bottoming in 2045. According to the Finns, this will be deeper and broader than any cold period of the last 500 years.

The consequences could be dire. As the world cools and the grain belt moves south to soils that are less productive, food prices will rise, threatening our standard of living — and the very livelihoods of millions in nations now wholly dependent on imported grain, particularly in the MENA region extending from Morocco in the West to Afghanistan in the west. Wheat yields in the developing world have already plateaued since peaking in 1996. Developed country grain yields have plateaued since 2000. The supply overhang has been absorbed in the last decade, and now grain prices are running up.

The abundance brought to us by the green revolution pioneered by Norman Borlaug and others — and the warmer Sun — allowed world population to explode from 2 billion in 1930 to 7 billion today. Given our cooler Sun, the Earth will struggle to support that rate of population growth.

My generation has known a warm, giving sun, but the next will suffer a sun that is less giving. A cold Mardi Gras this year will turn into a likely food shortage 15 years from now, and our world needs to focus on preparing for what’s coming.

David Archibald, a visiting fellow at the Institute of World Politics in Washington, D.C., is the author of The Twilight of Abundance: Why Life in the 21st Century Will Be Nasty, Brutish, and Short (Regnery, 2014).