Scientists have known for some time that human activities are triggering climate change, but now two researchers, Will Steffen and Owen Gaffney of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, revealed just how much impact we’re having on the Earth. Through the first-ever mathematical equation of its kind, the Anthropocene Equation, they showed humans are causing temperatures to rise at rates far faster than natural forces. Steffen told The Guardian, “The human magnitude of climate change looks more like a meteorite strike than a gradual change.”

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The two researchers said for most of the four and a half billion years Earth has existed, geophysical and astronomical forces changed the planet, prompting a rate of change of 0.01 degrees Celsius per century. But during the last 60 years, humans have been the ones driving change. Specifically, in the last 45 years, greenhouse gas emissions we’ve released have spiked the rate of temperature rise to 1.7 degrees Celsius per century. That rate of change propelled by humans is a crazy 170 times quicker than that of natural forces.

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To design the equation, the two researchers looked at the rate of change in what they called Earth’s life support system, including the atmosphere, oceans, waterways, forests, wetlands, ice sheets, and biodiversity.

Steffen told The Guardian, “We are not saying the astronomical forces of our solar system or geological processes have disappeared, but in terms of their impact in such a short period of time they are now negligible compared with our own influence. Crystallizing this evidence in the form of a simple equation gives the current situation a clarity that the wealth of data often dilutes.”

Gaffney and Steffen wrote humans must reduce climate change; if we fail to do so the results could set off societal collapse.

The journal The Anthropocene Review published their article introducing the equation last week.

Via The Guardian

Images via NASA’s Earth Observatory on Flickr and Pixabay