> First, it is still hotly debated when the next glacial period is due, and most geological studies I've read actually put it at closer to 50,000 years from now.
You're misremembering that I'm pretty sure. Quick google shows this at the BBC couple weeks ago:
"The last Ice Age ended about 11,500 years ago, and when the next one should begin has not been entirely clear...In the journal Nature Geoscience, they write that the next Ice Age would begin within 1,500 years - but emissions have been so high that it will not..."
Everything I've read is that the average is about 11,000 years before the next one starts, which means if we were on average track the Little Ice Age would have been the start of the next one. If the Modern Warm Period recovery is due to us, well then good for us I say!
> But even if the next ice age were imminent, and you actually cared about preventing it, you'd argue for saving our fossil fuels and doling them out slowly to stabilize against the gradual cooling, when we need them, rather than using them all up now and overshooting, when we don't.
A clever argument, but no: I'd argue for throwing up nuclear power stations now so they can pump out water vapor when the need arises. Water vapor is a way more effective GHG than CO2 is. Indeed, it's not actually clear that water vapor leaves enough stray IR around in the appropriate wavelengths for CO2 to have anywhere near the effect that IPCC models assume. That we're not seeing temperatures rise under clouded conditions as much as under clear conditions is a fairly sound piece of evidence that it doesn't, and the Modern Warming Period is likelier to be due to historically low cloud cover, pace the Svensmark cloud seeding theory; all the 20th C. warming can be explained by a 2% decrease in cloud cover without having to invoke GHG at all.
But since we only have 30 years of reliable (ie, satellite) cloud cover measurements, anything before being deduced from ship's logs and the like, and being able to measure the Sun's activity in any kind of quantitative fashion is of similar lack of vintage, we have no idea what changes in cloud cover there's been; nor how the models should account for them. Currently accepted models assume, with absolutely no supporting evidence for that assumption whatsoever, that they are a positive feedback. Actual measurements are unclear but support more the idea that they're actually a negative feedback. Should have a pretty good clue either way in another five-ten years or so.