In the Anthropocene we are responsible for the planet’s future

Professor James (Jai) Syvitski & Brett Cherry


On this planet humans are radically changing the land, air and water. In many cases this is unavoidable. All species have some degree of impact on the environment in which they live, but in the case of humans it is magnitudes greater. We are now the force driving environmental systems which has led to a new geological epoch — the Anthropocene.

During the preceding geological period (the Holocene) the planet’s climate was getting cooler but since human intervention it’s heating up at a faster rate than we have ever experienced before. We are releasing enough greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere that it is intensifying the hydrological cycle, leading to more rainfall in some areas, and making others dryer. But it’s not only the climate we’re changing. Humans are moving around more sediment (silt, sand, gravel etc) than all the rivers, ice sheets and desert winds in the world combined. We are a geological force to be reckoned with. Continue reading

Britain needs infrastructure ready for climate change – before it’s too late

Professor Richard Dawson, Newcastle University

Floods are often presented as human interest stories of stranded grannies and rescued pets, but their impact on hidden infrastructure is just as severe. In late 2015 for instance, a number of power systems and phone exchanges were inundated in Leeds and York which cut off thousands of homes, businesses (who were unable to process card payments), bank machines and even police and hospital services on Tyneside, 100 miles away.

But it’s not just floods and it’s not just phone lines. In fact, a major new peer-reviewed report highlights how, across the UK, the country’s infrastructure – services such as energy, transport and sanitation that are essential for modern society – is already experiencing significant impacts from severe weather related to climate change.

Unchecked, the projected increases in flooding will lead to more disruption of infrastructure. Furthermore, gradual changes in our climate, such as a rise in average temperatures, will reduce capacity and increase running costs.

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