Ancient Farmers Profoundly Altered The Earth’s Climate


Thousands of years ago humans began to clear the lands to plant vegetables, flooded grounds to cultivate rice, and raise livestock. But, according to a new study published in the journal Scientific Reports, without even knowing it, these ancient farmers altered the Earth’s climate. And that came with both positive and negative consequences.

Ancient farmers save the Earth from another Ice Age

The new research, which focused on how the agricultural practices during the early history of mankind triggered a surge in the atmospheric emission of the heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide and methane, found something astonishing, among others. Namely, the ancient farmers saved the planet from another Ice Age.

And, honestly, we have to be thankful for that since a new Ice Age would have been disastrous for the evolution of humans. But, on the other hand, these agricultural practices in the early history of humanity represent the first human footprint on Earth’s climate.

“Had it not been for early agriculture, Earth’s climate would be significantly cooler today. The ancient roots of farming produced enough carbon dioxide and methane to influence the environment,” explained the study’s lead author, Stephen Vavrus, a scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Basing their study on climate models, the researchers discovered that if those ancient farmers hadn’t started agricultural practices, the Earth’s climate would be much colder with at least 1.3 degrees Celsius. In the Arctic region, the difference would’ve been more prominent, of about 4-5 degrees Celsius.

We are now stuck in “a warmer and warmer and warmer interglacial”

While ancient farmers helped the Earth to skip a new Ice Age, around 5,000 years ago when they started their agricultural and farming practices, the amounts of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere surged, peaking around the year of 1,850 AD. However, that’s a very negative consequence of those practices which the entire humankind rely on.

On the other hand, as scientists put it, this was also one of the major causes of the global warming we are all facing nowadays.

“There is a pretty good agreement in the community of climate scientists that we have stopped the next glaciation for the long, foreseeable future, because even if we stopped putting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, what we have now would linger (…) We have maybe stopped the major cycle of Earth’s climate, and we are stuck in a warmer and warmer and warmer interglacial,” explained the study’s co-author, William Ruddiman from the University of Virginia.


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