Climate change and us: Visual chronicle of a disaster foretold

The Earth’s climate has changed more in the last hundred years than in the previous thousand. Far from being a scientific curiosity, it is a global phenomenon that threatens to change the world as we know it.

How has it been possible? How we could get to this point? What role has the human being in this process? And more importantly, what are we doing to fight it? Today we delve into the depths of climate change.

The human touch

Humans have had one love-hate relationship with nature from the beginning of time. Pollution has been the ‘touch’ human par excellence. In fact, if we know that human settlements existed somewhere in the world, it is precisely because we find waste, residues or traces of contamination there.

Although today we will not talk about small deposits of waste, chasms bones or ‘boxes prehistoric tools’ (with its tiny flint axes).

Climate change
Image Source: Google Image

As human societies grew, our ability to pollute grew up with them. One of the most striking historical examples is the Monte Testaccio in Rome. This triangular hill covers an area of about 20,000 square meters and has more than 30 meters high. Nothing too flashy until you looks at the fact that consists of 26 million broken amphora.

Between the first and third centuries AD, Rome was a monster with an insatiable thirst for olive oil and thousands of amphorae the restocked every day. These amphorae came from all parts of the Empire, but especially from the Andalusia province, many kilometers away.

How to return the ballot boxes to their place of origin was much more expensive than discarding an empty time, Mount Testaccio were thrown and covered with quicklime. Today, almost 2000 years later, the mountain is still there in the heart of Italy.

Rivers of manure

For centuries, the great human agglomerations have left their mark on nature. We travel now to the very center of another empire, the British, during the Victorian era. In the worst neighborhoods in London, the crowding was almost unimaginable.

According to historians, the 27 houses in an alley, lived 1100 people. That is, over 40 per household. Elsewhere, inspectors discovered 63 people in one house. The house had only 9 beds.

These huge masses of people created a brutal amount of excrement and waste. In a typical report, an inspector spoke of two houses whose patio was covered by a layer 15 cm garbage and excrement. The neighbors had arranged a “way” of bricks so that the occupants could cross the yard jumping.

All these residues are added to the 40,000 tons of waste from livestock and horses that took place in London every year. Thames, according to a famous description of those years, was “a continuous stream of liquid manure”. As the historian said Martin Diaz, “Dickensian England, the greatest world power, was a giant yes, but not with feet of clay, but something much more dirty.”

It was so savage and systematic abuse for centuries that only after more than 50 years of work and huge amounts of money, the British government has managed to save the Thames and start recovering marine flora and wildlife that once lived there.

Examples like these have hundreds. And the truth is that throughout history has become increasingly more apparent ability to change human nature. What we did not know is how much could change.

Can we change the Earth?

Overall, the consensus was that we could make small changes. Humans were decorators, interior designers, but could not make substantial changes, we were not engineers. We are so small relative to Earth, how could it be otherwise?

Moreover, we are very small even with respect to the atmosphere, smaller layer of the earth. Carl Sagan said that if we imagined the earth as a large wooden ball, the atmosphere would not thicker than the thin veneer that surround. In fact, in many ways, the atmosphere (and hydrosphere) land have the same functions as varnish to protect and care for the surrounding object.

If we look at it with perspective, they make up a system to balance and compensate the energy you get from the sun and the energy lost in space. Its main feature is that the winds and ocean currents smoothed and regularized variations in temperature and humidity that are taking place worldwide.

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Many things … and man

Things like ocean variability and temperature, the vast expanses of vegetation, volcanism or orbital variations affect that balance. But also human action. This human influence acts primarily through some major factors:

  • Greenhouse gases (such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrogen oxide produced by industry, transport and livestock)
  • The use of land that is forcing a change in the global climate structure facilitating deforestation in some areas – lost more than 24 billion fertile soil each year – and the growth of forests – between 25 and 50% – in others.
  • And aerosols.

Earth today

Today, despite years of debate concerned, nobody discusses climate change . Nor nobody doubts the impact of human beings on it. Now the debate, given, is limited to how much of that change is due to human activity and how much to own the planet’s evolution dynamics. And it is normal, the figures are brutal:

  • Carbon dioxide is 403.28 parts per million (the record in 650,000 years)
  • The temperature has risen nearly 1 degree and a half since 1880: 9 of the ten warmest years on record have occurred in the last 16 years.
  • Arctic ice is decreasing at the rate of 13.4% per decade
  • The land ice is lost at a rate of 287 billion cubic meters a year. The losses in Greenland doubled between 1996 and 2005.
  • The sea level is rising 3.4 millimeters per year (the world average is up 178 millimeters in the last 100 years) and now threatens one billion people.

And almost without realizing it arrived today. Amid the longest streak of hot months we remember, the question has become how we can stop global change that threatens all humanity but especially the most disadvantaged.

Open the eyes

Fortunately things have begun to change, investment in green economy grew between 2012 and 2014 by 30% worldwide, there are more than 500,000 people working in green activities and every day growing awareness among the population.

Driven by the urgency, more action (social, national and international) emerges to reduce carbon footprint, water consumption and emissions of greenhouse gases. It is unclear effectiveness of these measures and to what extent this is a process of no return.

So we are warming the earth and if something clear is that we have to solve it, we must have a head cold .

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