Why the Anthropocene is not 'climate change' - and why that matters

Thomas, Julia Adeney

Publisher:  Climate & Capitalism
Date Written:  31/01/2019
Year Published:  2019  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX23535

Reducing our current predicament to combatting climate change, or even narrower, reducing CO2 emissions fails to show the big picture of how humans have changed the planet. To contend with the Anthropocene we need to get rid of one-dimensional thinking of climate change.



"Anthropocene" is a widely proposed name for the geological epoch that covers human impact on our planet. But it is not synonymous with "climate change," nor can it covered by "environmental problems." Bigger and more shocking, the Anthropocene encapsulates the evidence that human pressures became so profound around the middle of the 20th century that we blew a planetary gasket. Hello, new Earth System. Hello, Anthropocene.

The phrase "Earth System" refers to the entirety of our planet's interacting physical, chemical, biological, and human processes. Enabled by new data-collecting technologies like satellites and ever more powerful computer modeling, Earth System science reframes how we understand our planet. Climate is just one element of this system; if we focus on that alone, we will misunderstand the complexity of the danger. The term "environment" helps us understand ourselves as part of ecosystems, but fails to capture the newness of our current situation....

The Anthropocene is a multidimensional challenge. Our future is more unpredictable than ever, with new phenomena like Category 5 megastorms, rapid species extinction, and the loss of polar ice. This change is irreversible.

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