A new study that finds humans have been causing climate change for almost two centuries is an important wake-up call that we are running out of time to act on climate change, the Climate Council said today.
The paper, published in Nature by Australian National University researchers, finds that warming began during the early stages of the Industrial Revolution and is detectable as early as the 1830s, proving climate change is not only a 20th century phenomenon.
Professor Will Steffen said the study underscored that the climate system was even more sensitive to small increases in greenhouse gases than previously thought, and underlines how urgently we need to act decisively on climate change now.
“In the first half of the 1800s, the human population was much smaller, homes did not have electricity and coal-fired power generation was in its infancy,” he said.
“And yet this study finds that the Earth’s climate was still responding to the small increase in carbon emissions at the start of the Industrial Age.
“So it’s unsurprising the climate began changing even more quickly and with larger and more damaging impacts once development began accelerating from the middle of the 20th century.
“The rate of temperature rise since 1970 is 170 times faster than the background rate over the past 7000 years.
“Last month was the hottest month in the history of the Earth and 2016 is likely to be the third year in a row to break global temperature records.
“This study demonstrates that human influence on the climate system can be traced back to centuries ago, but that those 19th century changes were small and slow compared to the massive, planet-wide changes in climate we are experiencing today.”
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