The European colonization of America resulted in climate change. When they colonized, the Europeans killed so many native Americans that the environment was transformed, causing Earth’s climate to cool down, according to new research reported by The Guardian.
Native Americans were killed in huge numbers by both conflict and disease spread by the Europeans. The native population was decimated, reduced 90% in just a century after Christopher Columbus landed in America in 1492.
Because of the “large-scale depopulation,” huge areas of agricultural land were left unattended, which allowed the land to become overgrown with vegetation.
This new vegetation "soaked up enough carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to actually cool down the planet, with the average temperature dropping by 0.15C in the late 1500s and early 1600s," according to a study from University College London.
“The great dying of the indigenous peoples of the Americas resulted in a human-driven global impact on the Earth system in the two centuries prior to the Industrial Revolution,” wrote the UCL team of Alexander Koch, Chris Brierley, Mark Maslin and Simon Lewis.
This specific drop in temperature is known as the “Little Ice Age.”
Over the past century, deforestation and urban development has stimulated the release of greenhouse gases, causing the planet to warm up around 1C. Scientists have recently warned that we have approximately 12 years to reduce emissions drastically. If not we will face increasingly inclement weather.
“There is a lot of talk around ‘negative emissions’ approaching and using tree-planting to take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere to mitigate climate change,” study co-author Chris Brierley told the BBC.
“And what we see from this study is the scale of what’s required, because the great dying resulted in an area the size of France being reforested and that gave us only a few parts per million.
“This is useful; it shows us what reforestation can do. But at the same, that kind of reduction is worth perhaps just two years of fossil fuel emissions at the present rate.”