Wed, Feb 13, 2019 - Page 14 News List

Study: European colonization of Americas cooled Earth’s climate
歐洲人殖民美洲 殺戮太多導致氣候變化

First landing of Christopher Columbus on the shores of the New World at San Salvador on Oct. 12, 1492 by Dioscoro Puebla, 1862.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

European colonization 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, new research has found.

Settlers killed off huge numbers of people in conflicts and also by spreading disease, which reduced the indigenous population by 90 percent 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, researchers say, 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 0.15 degrees Celsius in the late 1500s and early 1600s, the study by scientists at University College London (UCL) found.

“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,” wrote the UCL team of Alexander Koch, Chris Brierley, Mark Maslin and Simon Lewis.

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 UCL researchers found that the European colonization 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, warfare and societal collapse.


1. colonization n.


(zhi2 min2)

2. indigenous population phr.


(yuan2 zhu4 min2 ren2 kou3)

3. depopulation n.


(ren2 kou3 jian2 shao3)

4. smallpox n.

天花 (tian1 hua1)

5. societal collapse phr.


(she4 hui4 beng1 kui4)

Researchers then calculated how much land indigenous people required and then subsequently fell into disuse, finding that around 55 million hectares, an area roughly equivalent to France, became vacant and was reclaimed by carbon dioxide-absorbing vegetation.

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 (ppm). This compares to the 3ppm of carbon dioxide that humanity is currently adding to the atmosphere every year through the burning of fossil fuels.

(The Guardian)











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