The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
56 Million Native American Deaths Caused by European Colonizers Changed Earth's Climate, Study Says
The widespread genocide of Native Americans by European colonizers between the 16th and 17th century killed so many that it helped cool the globe, according to new research.
A study published in the journal Quaternary Science Reviews calculates that the 56 million indigenous deaths across the Americas caused by disease and European-led massacres led to the overgrowth and reforesting of large tracts of agricultural land, contributing to a 0.15C degree drop in the early 1600s known as the Little Ice Age.
"For once, we've been able to balance all the boxes and realize that the only way the Little Ice Age was so intense is ... because of the genocide of millions of people," coauthor Mark Maslin told CNN.
As reported by the BBC:
"The [research] team reviewed all the population data it could find on how many people were living in the Americas prior to first contact with Europeans in 1492.
It then assessed how the numbers changed in following decades as the continents were ravaged by introduced disease (smallpox, measles, etc), warfare, slavery and societal collapse.
It's the UCL group's estimate that 60 million people were living across the Americas at the end of the 15th Century (about 10% of the world's total population), and that this was reduced to just five or six million within a hundred years.
The scientists calculated how much land previously cultivated by indigenous civilisations would have fallen into disuse, and what the impact would be if this ground was then repossessed by forest and savannah.
The area is in the order of 56 million hectares, close in size to a modern country like France.
This scale of regrowth is figured to have drawn down sufficient CO₂ that the concentration of the gas in the atmosphere eventually fell by 7-10ppm (that is 7-10 molecules of CO₂ in every one million molecules in the air).
'To put that in the modern context - we basically burn (fossil fuels) and produce about 3ppm per year. So, we're talking a large amount of carbon that's being sucked out of the atmosphere,' explained co-author Prof Mark Maslin."
For a deeper dive:
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Jessica Taft
Fifteen kids from a dozen countries, including Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, recently brought a formal complaint to the United Nations. They're arguing that climate change violates children's rights as guaranteed by the Convention on the Rights of the Child, a global agreement.
Susan Vineyard / iStock / Getty Images Plus
By Justin Mikulka
Increasingly, U.S. shale firms appear unable to pay back investors for the money borrowed to fuel the last decade of the fracking boom. In a similar vein, those companies also seem poised to stiff the public on cleanup costs for abandoned oil and gas wells once the producers have moved on.
Top officials at the Department of Housing and Urban Development confirmed to lawmakers last week that they knowingly — and illegally — stalled hurricane aid to Puerto Rico.
It appears Jane Fonda is good for her word. The actress and political activist said she would hold demonstrations on Capitol Hill every Friday through January to demand action on the climate crisis. Sure enough, Fonda was arrested for demonstrating a second Friday in a row Oct. 18, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Only this time, her Grace and Frankie co-star Sam Waterston joined her.
Switzerland's two Green parties made historic gains in the country's parliamentary elections Sunday, according to projections based on preliminary results reported by The New York Times.