Guest essay by Eric Worrall
“The Wheel of Time” TV series apparently features magical powers, dark forces and a warmer climate.
Wheel of Time is set thousands of years from now, yet it’s still burdened with today’s climate change
December 22, 2021 7.41am AEDT
- Dann Mitchell Professor of Climate Science, University of Bristol
- Emily Ball PhD Candidate, Climate Science, University of Bristol
- Rebecca Áilish Atkinson Research Fellow, Cognitive Psychology, University of Sussex
- Sebastian Steinig Research Associate in Paleoclimate Modelling, University of Bristol
Wheel of Time, the 14-book epic fantasy now turned into an Amazon Prime TV series, is a medieval-style adventure set in the Third Age of the World of the Wheel. While not explicit in the storyline, notes from the late author suggest that the First Age was actually modern-day Earth, which ended with a dramatic event (perhaps even climate change). From these notes, we estimate the show takes place around 18,000 years from today.
For climate scientists like us, this poses an interesting question: would today’s climate change still be experienced in the World of the Wheel, even after all those centuries?
About a quarter of carbon dioxide emitted today will remain in the atmosphere even 18,000 years from now. According to biogeochemistry models, carbon dioxide levels could be as high as 1,100 parts per million (ppm) at that point. That’s compared with a present-day value of 415ppm. This very high value assumes that the Paris climate goals will be exceeded and that many natural stores of carbon will also be released into the atmosphere (melting permafrost, for instance).
But the high carbon dioxide concentrations do not necessarily mean a warmer climate. That’s because, over such a long period, slow changes in the orbit and tilt of the planet become more important. This is known as the Milankovitch Cycle and each cycle lasts for around 100,000 years. Given that we are currently at the peak of such a cycle, the planet will naturally cool over the next 50,000 years and this is why scientists were once worried about a new ice age.
This Conversation article is almost as sad as endless stories about Santa’s reindeer dying from global warming. How can anyone be so obsessed about anthropogenic climate change, that they seriously try to relate a fictional world 18,000 years in the future to their obsession?
I have no problem with stories which involve climate change, I really enjoyed “The Day After Tomorrow“. Its a great adventure story, even if the scientific basis of the story is as ridiculous as the science of “Star Wars“.
“Hiero’s Journey” is an obscure book set in the distant future, which mentions warmer weather, but doesn’t go on about it. The characters in “Hiero’s Journey” have more pressing problems than worrying about whether their distant ancestors should have installed more renewables, like avoiding the radiation mutant horror screaming towards them. Snowpiercer is awesome.
I’ve never read “The Wheel of Time“, its one of those series which has lingered on my maybe list. I might still try the books – reader comments welcome. But now I’m a little nervous about watching the TV adaption.
Merry Christmas from WUWT & Australia