Possibility of climate change by pre-modern farmers?
Published 18th October 2009 - 2 comments - 8058 views -
Where most of the people think the concept of climate change is just a few decades old, some scientists believe it’s a concept more than a thousands years old. Man has been polluting the environment ever since its existence, so the concept of climate change can't be a new or just a few centuries old. The various dramatic effects we see today were not evident then but , sure, there must have been few changes. Changes were less because there was little or no industrializtion. Industrialization is like a catalyst that is why we are witnessing such radical climatic changes.
Man’s agricultural activity could have caused climate change over 5000 years ago. These practices released large amounts of green house gases. Though they can't be compare with today's emissions (which has visibly disrupted the ecological balance), but were large enough to increase the temperature by few Fahrenheit. One of the most destructive farming practices was slash and burn, which was deforestation. Another destructive practice has been growing methane-bubbling crops.
One of the major doubts that can float around is –Could man, so few number then, have produced enough emissions to even bring about a visible change in the climate? Can ancient systems of farming being essentially organic in nature might not cause significant changes in climate? William Ruddiman, a scientist who strongly believes man caused climate change several centuries ago, said there were enough people to cause a change and that one farmer was as destructive as a multiple farmers are today. How? The practice of slash and burn made it possible. Man burnt down large area of forest covers and then used as his farm. Man shifted when his land productivity decreased as there was no need for people to take up efficient methods of cultivation. Land was present in excess so they were constantly on a move. It was later when population increased to a large number, the pressure to have high yields in lesser amount of land rose.
slash and burn farming.
Methane is a very potent greenhouse gas; 23 times more effective in trapping heat than carbon dioxide (CO2). Rice paddy fields are one of the major contributors of methane today. Rice was grown in large quantities even then so there must have been sufficient levels of methane, which could originate a possibility of climate change, thousands of years ago.
Rice paddy fields
Ruddiman examined the air bubbles, trapped in polar ice 5000 years ago, and found unexpected increases in carbon dioxide and methane. His theory also concentrated on how the extra trapped heat, which otherwise would have escaped, combined with the natural cycles may have kept the earth temperature steady and saved mankind from another ice-age. As Ellis, Ruddiman’s collaborator, puts it, “Early farmers didn’t change climate but kept the climate from changing”.
This theory obviously brought in a lot of criticism. The other section of scientists who don’t share similar opinion of any significant climate change occurring before the industrialization, call it a ‘bunch of bosh’ fear that the idea of pre-modern man as emitters would dilute the importance and urgency to fight today’s troubles and I think that is very likely to happen. But I think it is very important to acknowledge the fact that could have been climate change even before. I'm not how sure how will it help in our agenda to fight climate change today but I hope it can help us develop and modify the present answers to climate change.
Below given links have some interesting arugements:
About the author
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