Carbonware: Googling forests, Windows on your carbon

With carbon, climate and COP 15 in the news, Google and Microsoft are now battling over carbon mindshare, introducing the latest web-based “Carbonware” designed to help combat carbon emissions and global warming. These add to a growing list that includes the many “carbon footprint calculators” designed to enlighten us on our carbon emissions and the activities we undertake that cause […]

China is burning (carbon) for you

Do not ask for whom China’s carbon burns, it burns for you! A new article in press at Energy Policy by Lin and Sun assesses the extent of carbon emitted to the atmosphere in China because of exports produced for consumption by other nations. While the exact contributions by exports are complex, and depend on economic sectors, as much as […]

Burning the biosphere before you were born

Millennia before humans discovered coal, indeed, millennia before there was civilization, Homo sapiens had discovered fire and was making extensive use of it. In a study just published by Bill Ruddiman and myself (Ruddiman and Ellis, 2009), we show that early farmers using fire likely cleared vast areas of forest thousands of years ago, even when human populations were small, […]

The tortoise and the hummer (and the nano!)

Today, the Tata Nano (Wikipedia entry), the first “people’s car” of the 21st century, rolled out of a dealership in Mumbai, hitting the streets at 56 miles per gallon (and 1300 lbs; its a 4 passenger vehicle!). Compare this with the pinnacle of US auto ingenuity, the Hummer, a 6 passenger vehicle built for one, weighing in at 6600 lbs […]

Guns, forests and carbon

Not only do humans burn away forests to enhance their food supply, they also do it when they battle each other! Or so says a study published by Zhen Li and his colleagues this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Li et al. 2009). By linking a careful investigation of paleoclimate indicators from sediments with burning […]

A Fair Way to Solve Global Warming

It will not be possible to solve global warming without dealing with the dramatic global and local inequalities in carbon emissions and the wealth created from them. Since the Industrial Revolution began, some people and some nations have been pumping a lot more carbon into the atmosphere than others (and you know which one you are!). Moreover, those burning the […]

The human jungle

Are pristine rainforests the only ones that matter? We know that forests do change as they age, developing some unique characteristics when mature, and that some species cannot live outside of large swaths of ancient tropical forests. But what about the rest of tropical forests- the younger ones, the forests that people live in or have cut in recent decades […]

The costs of carbon

What is the best way to reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere? We all know that reducing global warming will require reducing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. But there are so many ways to do this- by reducing our energy use (driving a fuel efficient car, using less electricity, …), by pulling carbon from the air […]

Guns, Germs and Carbon: post-Colombian pandemics drive global cooling

Diseases introduced by Europeans after 1492 are now known to have caused massive population declines in the Americas, and the failure of ancient agricultural systems across huge regions, many of which depended on the regular burning of forests. Now, researchers, led by Richard Nevle and Dennis Bird have investigated the climate consequences of this massive decline in agriculture and the […]

Pushing back the Anthropocene at the AGU

The Early Anthropocene Hypothesis holds that human alteration of climate began with forest clearing and rice production more than 6 thousand years ago. Here are my personal impressions of recent work supporting this hypothesis, from last week’s annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San Francisco (a conference of 15,000- so big its like Woodstock for Earth scientists). […]