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Geology 1001/1101. Sec 003 Chris Paola Class 14: the Anthropocene. Chapter 14. HUMAN IMPACT ON EARTH’S ENVIRONMENT. What is burning?. CH 4 + 2O 2  CO 2 + 2H 2 O + energy. methane oxygen carbon dioxide water. Relative carbon emissions. What is the “greenhouse effect”?.

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Geology 1001/1101

Sec 003 Chris Paola

Class 14: the Anthropocene

chapter 14

Chapter 14



what is burning
What is burning?

CH4 + 2O2 CO2 + 2H2O + energy

methane oxygen carbon dioxide water

what is the greenhouse effect
What is the “greenhouse effect”?


1. Energy must balance: output = input

2. Higher surface temp  higher rate of energy radiation

1. Incoming solar radiation

3. GHG return some of the outgoing energy back to earth as infrared radiation




2. Surface temp increases until energy balances

4. Higher surface temp required to balance extra input energy

gw points that i think both sides agree on
GW: Points that (I think) both sides agree on
  • CO2 is a greenhouse gas
  • The observed increase in CO2 levels is anthropogenic
  • The Earth’s climate has warmed over the past couple of decades
CO2 is a greenhouse gas

The observed increase in CO2 levels are anthropogenic

The Earth’s climate has warmed over the past couple of decades

CO2 is not the most effective greenhouse gas

Other anthropogenic changes work against GW

The Earth’s climate undergoes important natural cycles that are not well understood

both sides now
By not acting, we will create an environmental catastrophe

A new “green” economy could be beneficial

There is strong scientific consensus about GW

By acting in haste, we will create an economic catastrophe

A warmer climate could be beneficial

Science is not a democracy; dissenting voices are being suppressed

Both sides now…

There is no way around the fact that this and other important decisions about the environment will have to be made with imperfect scientific understanding. What is the best way to do this?

what is the anthropocene
What is the “Anthropocene”?
  • Holocene: geologic epoch since last glacial advance
  • Anthropocene: proposed current geologic epoch of strong human influence
the anthropocene
the Anthropocene
  • Energy, Climate change, and CO2
  • Land use
  • Geo-engineering
geo engineering

UM Institute on the Environment Momentum

2010 Spring

geo engineering3

Could stimulating plankton with Fe speed up the biological pump?

“Give me half a tanker of iron, and I’ll give you an ice age”

– John Martin, former Director, Moss Landing Marine Lab

co 2 capture and storage



CO2 Capture and Storage

Potential for Reducing CO2 Emissions

from Fossil Fuel Power Generation

Increased Reforestation



Gas, Oil,



Source: IEA Greenhouse Gas

R&D Program

Injection into Depleted Oil/Gas Reservoirs


The human footprint

Land loss in coastal Louisiana associated with river diking & flood control


The human footprint

The total earth moved in the past 5000 yr would be sufficient to build a 4000-m-high mountain range, 40 km wide and 100 km long.

If current rates of increase persist, we could double the length of our mountain range in the next 100 yr.

R. L. Hooke (2000) Geology 28:843

the human footprint
The human footprint

Sanderson, E. W. et al. (2002) Bioscience, 52, 891

the human footprint1
The human footprint

Sanderson, E. W. et al. (2002) Bioscience, 52, 891-904.

the human footprint2
The human footprint

Sanderson, E. W. et al. (2002) Bioscience, 52, 891

how far to the nearest road
How far to the nearest road?

Fraction of US land area that is:

  • Less than 127 m (417 ft) = 20%
  • Less than 382 m (1253 ft) = 50%
  • More than 1000 m (0.6 mi) = 18%
  • More than 5000 m (3.1 mi) = 3%

Coterminous US, from Riitters, K. H., and J. D. Wickham (2003), Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 1, 125-129.