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Imagine Earth without people

October 21, 2006

This was the title of a fascinating piece in last weeks New Scientist which can be found here.

The article was based around the concept that all the people on earth disappeared over night and asked the question what would happen to the earth once we had gone.

Amongst the more interesting snippets were :

By some estimates, 85 per cent of the night sky above the European Union is light-polluted; in the US it is 62 per cent and in Japan 98.5 per cent. In some countries, including Germany, Austria, Belgium and the Netherlands, there is no longer any night sky untainted by light pollution. Pretty quickly – 24, maybe 48 hours – you’d start to see blackouts because of the lack of fuel added to power stations

In the boreal forests of northern Alberta, Canada, for example, human impact mostly consists of access roads, pipelines, and other narrow strips cut through the forest. In the absence of human activity, the forest will close over 80 per cent of these within 50 years, and all but 5 per cent within 200

Even if CO2 emissions stop tomorrow, though, global warming will continue for another century, boosting average temperatures by a further few tenths of a degree. Atmospheric scientists call this “committed warming”, and it happens because the oceans take so long to warm up compared with the atmosphere. In essence, the oceans are acting as a giant air conditioner, keeping the atmosphere cooler than it would otherwise be for the present level of CO2.

That last one certainly makes you think of the trouble we are stacking up for the future!

Categories: Environment
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