Climate-human-environment interactions: resolving our past
Climate of the Past, 2, (Special Issue), .
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The paper reviews how we can learn from the past
about climate-human-environment interactions at the present
time, and in the future. It focuses on data sources for environmental
change at local/regional and regional/global spatial
scales, and shows the scope and limitations of each. It reviews
alternative methods for learning from the past, including
the increasing use of simulation models. The use of multiple
records (observational, palaeoenvironmental, archaeological,
documentary) in local case-studies is exemplified in
a study from China, where independent records help unravel
the complexity of interactions and provide a basis for assessing
the resilience and sustainability of the landscape system.
Holocene global records for Natural Forcings (e.g. climate
and tectonics), Human Society and Ecosystems are reviewed,
and the problems of reconstructing global records
of processes that are only recorded at local scales examined.
Existing regional/global records are used to speculate about
the veracity of anthropogenic forcing of global climate, with
specific consideration of the Ruddiman theory. The paper
concludes that a full understanding of causes of earth system
change through (at least) the Holocene can come only
through the most rigorous reconstructions of climate, human
activities and earth processes, and importantly their interactions,
at all locations and at all scales. It follows that we need
to promote inter-scale learning: regionalisation and generalisation
of existing data would be useful first steps. There is
now a need to develop long-term simulation models that can
help anticipate complex ecosystem behaviour and environmental
processes in the face of global environmental change
– and resolving our past is an essential element in that endeavour.
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