Humans are destroying the planet 170x faster than natural forces, scientists say

Humans are destroying the planet 170x faster than natural forces, scientists say
Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

Surprise! Humans are turning the earth into a garbage fire a lot quicker than previously thought. 

According to Australian National University researchers, humans are speeding up climate change 170 times faster than natural forces.

"Human-caused greenhouse gas emissions over the past 45 years have increased the rate of temperature rise to 1.7 degrees Celsius per century, dwarfing the natural background rate," ANU climate professor Will Steffen said in a statement on the university's news page

The "natural background rate" Steffen mentions refers to the degrees the global temperature climbs in any given century due to natural forces like "changes in solar intensity and subtle changes in orbital parameters, along with a few volcanoes." 

Altogether these factors only account for a rate of change of 0.01 degrees Celsius per century.

Steffan said no one should completely discount nature's effects on the climate — but human intervention has now rendered those effects "negligible compared with our own influence." 

Scientists in San Diego protested the Trump administration's agenda, which largely discounts the existence of climate change.
Source: 
Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

Most climate change deniers maintain the changes in our environment — like say, three consecutive hottest years on record — are totally normal and natural. 

Rising sea levels? Melting ice caps? Short sleeves in February? Nothing to see here, folks.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said much the same in 2014, when he stated point blank, "I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it." He added, "Our climate is only changing." 

Rubio was just one of many 2016 GOP presidential candidates who denied climate change or denied humanity's impact on the environment. 

President Donald Trump himself once called climate change a hoax, suggesting the Chinese had invented the conspiracy to give the country a leg up on trade.

Five years later, Trump, for the most part, hasn't changed his tune on climate change. Though he told the New York Times in November he had an "open mind" on the issue, he lent credence to deniers by saying "a lot of smart people" disagree that climate change exists.

And when Times editorial page editor James Bennet asked Trump if he believes humans have a hand in climate change, Trump suggested the answer to that question depends on how much it would cost American businesses, rather than, say, objective facts.

"Well, I think there is some connectivity," Trump said. "There is some, something. It depends on how much. It also depends on how much it's going to cost our companies."

Battling climate change isn't a completely impossible task, Steffen reminded. Humans can exist in harmony with the environment without completely destroying it, believe it or not.

 "Research shows we can feed nine billion people — the projected world population by 2050 — and reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the same time," Steffen said.

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Marie Solis

Marie is a Slay staff writer with focuses in culture and class. Her writing has appeared in Gothamist and the Awl. You can reach her at marie@mic.com.

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