“Little Ice Age”
European colonisation of the Americas resulted in the killing of so many native people that it transformed the environment and caused the Earth’s climate to cool down.
Settlers killed off huge numbers of people in conflicts and also by spreading disease, which reduced the indigenous population by 90% in the century following Christopher Columbus’s initial journey to the Americas and Caribbean in 1492.
This “large-scale depopulation” resulted in vast tracts of agricultural land being left untended, allowing the land to become overgrown with trees and other new vegetation.
The regrowth soaked up enough carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to actually cool the planet, with the average temperature dropping by 0.15C in the late 1500s and early 1600s
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
The drop in temperature during this period is known as the “Little Ice Age”, a time when the River Thames in London would regularly freeze over, snowstorms were common in Portugal and disrupted agriculture caused famines in several European countries.
the European colonisation of the Americas indirectly contributed to this colder period by causing the deaths of about 56 million people by 1600. The study attributes the deaths to factors including introduced disease, such as smallpox and measles, as well as warfare and societal collapse.
The land indigenous people required and then subsequently fell into disuse, finding that around 55m hectares, an area roughly equivalent to France, became vacant and was reclaimed by carbon dioxide-absorbing vegetation.
Widespread deforestation for agriculture and urban development has also spurred the release of greenhouse gases, causing the planet to warm by around 1C over the past century. Scientists have warned that the world has little over a decade to drastically reduce emissions or face increasingly severe storms, drought, heatwaves, coastal flooding and food insecurity.
The revegetation of the Americas after European arrival aided declines of global carbon content in the air, dropping by around seven to 10 parts of carbon dioxide for every million molecules of air in the atmosphere. This compares to the 3ppm of carbon dioxide that humanity is currently adding to the atmosphere every year through the burning of fossil fuels.
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,”