An early history of rice

When did rice change the planet? Rice is the most important food crop on earth, feeding more than half of all humans. Most is produced in Asia in the flooded paddy systems that form the core of the most intensively-managed of all ancient agricultural anthromes, the rice villages, where its high productivity in response to sophisticated irrigation schemes and traditional […]

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 […]

On Doctoring the Planet

Our planet is heating up in a hurry! Call in the Earth doctors! Let’s fix the planet! Now that we’ve pushed Earth systems out of the comfort zone, Earth and environmental scientists are increasingly being called on to address the big questions that affect all of us, like “How can we keep the planet habitable for humans?”. While the simple […]

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 […]

Tools for the Carbon Economy

By Jonathan Dandois Will the census of the future ask homeowners how many trees they have on their property? With humanity now faced with a changing climate under even the most stringent efforts to reduce carbon emissions, carbon accounting has become a hot topic for scientists, politicians and economists. While carbon accounting at the scale of individual households and their […]

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 […]

Rewriting the history of global climate change

For thousands of years, humans have been changing global climate, maybe even helping us avert the next ice age, all long before the Industrial Revolution. Interested? Then you should read Plows, Plagues, and Petroleum: How Humans Took Control of Climate by Paleoclimatologist Bill Ruddiman. I’ve just finished reading it – and I give it my highest recommendation- especially to those […]

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 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 […]