Atmospheric Science

Early Intervention

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Science  14 Feb 2014:
Vol. 343, Issue 6172, pp. 710
DOI: 10.1126/science.343.6172.710-c

Anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions from the use of fossil fuels may be the most important cause of modern global warming, but it is important to remember that humans can affect climate in other ways, such as through anthropogenic land cover change (ALCC). Agriculture and industrial activities have modified more than half of Earth's natural biomes, and ALCC has influenced global climate both through biogeophysical feedbacks, such as modification of the exchange of momentum and moisture between the land and the atmosphere and the alteration of radiative and heat fluxes ; and biogeochemical ones, including emissions of greenhouse gases and aerosols from biomass burning, deforestation, and rice cultivation. He et al. investigate how important ALCC has been in the past, by using a climate model forced by recently compiled observational data to assess how ALCC affected climate over the preindustrial Holocene. They found that ALCC increased global temperatures by around 0.73°C in that interval, an amount comparable to the ∼0.8°C warming that has occurred during industrial times. So it seems that early anthropogenic activity had a significant impact on climate thousands of years before the Industrial Revolution began, mostly as a result of the greenhouse gas emissions caused by activities related to farming, such as deforestation and rice cultivation.

Geophy. Res. Lett. 41, 10.1002/2013GL058085 (2014).

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