The era of the Anthropocene: why is the average temperature on Earth rising?

Table of contents:

The era of the Anthropocene: why is the average temperature on Earth rising?
The era of the Anthropocene: why is the average temperature on Earth rising?

We are living in what scientists have dubbed "the climate emergency." In theory, these words should make you feel uneasy: every year the temperature on our planet grows, as does the number of extreme weather events. Being carried away by their own worth and underestimating the importance of wildlife, humanity did not notice how it got to the edge of the abyss. In Breaking Frontiers: A Scientific View of Our Planet, climatologist Johan Rockström and naturalist David Attenborough explore the destruction of Earth's ecosystems and how this crisis can be prevented. According to Rockstrom, humanity has just entered a new era - the Anthropocene (this is an informal term that denotes an era with a high level of human activity affecting wildlife and ecosystems). Earlier on our planet, the Holocene reigned - a period during which the temperature on Earth was optimal for the emergence and development of life. So, back in 2013, evidence was found that people lived in the Western Amazon as early as the Middle Holocene. So what does the future hold for us?

The era of the Anthropocene

In 2016, a team of researchers was tasked with considering whether human impact on Earth deserves the name of a new geologic boundary. According to the results obtained, scientists overwhelmingly agreed that the Anthropocene is indeed happening: we are within it, and it probably began around 1950.

The Holocene comes from ancient Greek words that translate to "quite recent." This era began about 11,700 years ago and was marked by the retreat of glaciers at the end of the Ice Age. The term itself was first used by Paul Kratzen and Eugene Stormer in 2000 to refer to changes in geological significance due to human activity. It turned out that the magnitude of these impacts increased in the last century.

Map of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere.

And it's not just fossil fuels and the resulting climate change - in recent decades, humans have caused landscape changes, massive wildlife extinctions and environmental pollution.

Three years later, a group of international researchers from the University of Colorado called for a new approach to understanding environmental risks in the Anthropocene. The authors of the work concluded that if we ignore the social and political economic factors that led us to this present, then finding a solution to the problem will be extremely difficult.

“As the Anthropocene develops, managing new and emerging risks will need to take into account changes that occur over many years, decades, centuries or even millennia. In this increasingly interconnected and accelerating world, we must truly learn how to intelligently and meaningfully interact with our environment in order to work towards a more sustainable world,”the researchers write.

Emergency climatic situation

While climate change may seem far away, it is already driving an increase in extreme events, including droughts and heat waves, today. As climatologist Peter Gleick notes in an article for the Bullettin of the Atomic Scientists, humankind is not ready for climate change despite decades of warnings from scientists.

Part of the reason lies in denial of the problem, the indecisiveness of politicians and the legacy infrastructure built for the climate of the past, not the future.For example, during the extreme heat in Europe in 2019, several thousand people died, and power plants had to be closed because the water temperature was too high to cool them. An extreme heat wave in 2003 claimed the lives of an estimated 70,000 people.

This year, the heat again made itself felt, setting a new record.

And this is just the beginning. Until now, the Earth has warmed up by only one or two degrees and is on the way to several more degrees of warming. Yet the serious imbalances we now face in extreme weather conditions will only get worse every year unless we can achieve rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

The researchers note that the temperature extremes we see today will become regular events, accompanied by even higher temperature extremes as the planet warms up and the weather changes more and more.

Popular by topic