Late Holocene climate: Natural or anthropogenic? Public Deposited

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  • For more than a decade, scientists have argued about the warmth of the current interglaciation. Was the warmth of the preindustrial late Holocene natural in origin, the result of orbital changes that had not yet driven the system into a new glacial state? Or was it in considerable degree the result of humans intervening in the climate system through greenhouse gas emissions from early agriculture? Here we summarize new evidence that moves this debate forward by testing both hypotheses. By comparing late Holocene responses to those that occurred during previous interglaciations (in section 2), we assess whether the late Holocene responses look different (and thus anthropogenic) or similar (and thus natural). This comparison reveals anomalous (anthropogenic) signals. In section 3, we review paleoecological and archaeological syntheses that provide ground truth evidence on early anthropogenic releases of greenhouse gases. The available data document large early anthropogenic emissions consistent with the anthropogenic ice core anomalies, but more information is needed to constrain their size. A final section compares natural and anthropogenic interpretations of the δ¹³C trend in ice core CO₂.
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  • Ruddiman, W. F., Fuller, D. Q., Kutzbach, J. E., Tzedakis, P. C., Kaplan, J. O., Ellis, E. C., ... & Woodbridge, J. (2016). Late Holocene climate: Natural or anthropogenic?. Reviews of Geophysics, 54(1), 93-118. doi:10.1002/2015RG000503
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  • 54
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  • 1
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  • The research contributions to this paper were carried out by funding from the following: U.S. National Science Foundation grants ATM-0902802 and AGS-1203430 (W. F. Ruddiman, J. E. Kutzbach, S. J. Vavrus, and F. He), Leverhulme Trust grant F00568W (C. N. Roberts, R. Fyfe, and J. Woodbridge), UK Natural Environment Research Council grant NE/K003402/1 and European Research Council 323842 (D. Q. Fuller), UK Natural Environment Research Council grant NE/1025115/1 (P. C. Tzedakis), European Research Council grant COEVOLVE 313797 (J. O. Kaplan), U.S. National Science Foundation grants CNS-1125-210 and DBI-1147-89 (E. C. Ellis), and PACES Programme of Helmholtz Association (C. Lemmen).
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