Possibly the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.
MINNEAPOLIS — By sailing to the New World, Christopher Columbus and the other explorers who followed may have set off a chain of events that cooled Europe’s climate for centuries.
The European conquest of the Americas decimated the people living there, leaving large areas of cleared land untended. Trees that filled in this territory pulled billions of tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, diminishing the heat-trapping capacity of the atmosphere and cooling climate, says Richard Nevle, a geochemist at Stanford University.
“We have a massive reforestation event that’s sequestering carbon … coincident with the European arrival,” says Nevle, who described the consequences of this change October 11 at the Geological Society of America annual meeting.
But, as anyone with half a brain knows, correlation does not equal causation.
Ice cores from Antarctica contain air bubbles that show a drop in carbon dioxide around this time. These bubbles suggest that levels of the greenhouse gas decreased by 6 to 10 parts per million between 1525 and the early 1600s.
Ten ppm accounts for the Little Ice Age?
Natural processes may have also played a role in cooling off Europe: a decrease in solar activity, an increase in volcanic activity or colder oceans capable of absorbing more carbon dioxide. These phenomena better explain regional climate patterns during the Little Ice Age, says Michael Mann, a climate researcher at Pennsylvania State University in State College.
But didn’t Mann get rid of the Little Ice Age along with the Medieval Warm Period? Make up your mind, Mike.
The team is a bit confused. Mann says that there wasn’t a Little Ice Age. Europeans caused deforestation, not reduced it.