It has plagued scientists and politicians for decades, but scientists now say global warming is not the problem.
We are actually heading for the next Ice Age, they claim.
British and Canadian experts warned the big freeze could bury the east of Britain in 6,000ft of ice.
A taste of the future: Plunging temperatures around Britain created dramatic 2-ft icicles over Sleightholme River in County Durham
Most of Scotland, Northern Ireland and England could be covered in 3,000ft-thick ice fields.
The expanses could reach 6,000ft from Aberdeen to Kent – towering above Ben Nevis, Britain’s tallest mountain.
And what’s more, the experts blame the global change on falling – rather than climbing – levels of greenhouse gases.
Lead author Thomas Crowley from the University of Edinburgh and Canadian colleague William Hyde say that currently vilified greenhouse gases – such as carbon dioxide – could actually be the key to averting the chill.
The warning, published in the authoritative journal Nature, is based on records of tiny marine fossils and the earth’s shifting orbit.
The Big chill: Experts warn that 3,000ft ice sheets could cover most of Britain
The Earth has seen dramatic climate fluctuations – veering between cold and warm extremes – over the past three million years, the researchers say.
And changes in the Earth’s orbit and slowly falling levels of carbon dioxide are the cause.
The team says we are approaching a turning point, in the next 10,000 to 100,000 years, which will lead to the new ice sheets smothering much of Europe, Asia and South America.
The theory, which is based on computer models, suggests ice sheets will also slash sea levels by up to 300m, so Russia and Alaska will be connected by land.
The North Sea will become part of a huge glacier stretching from Holland and Scandinavia to the Russian Far East.
Stark: Computer modelling suggests ‘a rapid transition into the glacial state,’ the researchers say
Professor Crowley said the stark findings do not mean we should stop fighting warming.
But he urged: ‘Don’t push the panic button.’
‘There’s no excuse for saying “we’ve got to keep pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere,”‘ he told Reuters.
‘Geologically it’s tomorrow, but we have lots of time to argue about the appropriate level of greenhouse gases.’
By Cher Thornhill
Last updated at 5:06 PM on 13th November 2008
Source: Daily Mail