A study published on August 24 in the scientific journal Nature suggests humans have been contributing to climate change for way longer than we initially thought. The situation is pretty bad. Using climate data dating back 500 years, the researchers found human-induced global warming began as early as the 1830s. Mere decades after the industrial revolution.
Basically, as soon as we started polluting the atmosphere, the Earth started warming up. Yeah, it's pretty hard to write this one off as coincidence.
Luckily though another study reported in the same journal has identified a brand new planet that we haven't fucked up yet*. It might be inhabitable in the future.
According to the research published in Nature by a bunch of different scientists, the closest star to our sun hosts a planet that's of similar size to Earth. Judging by the distance between this planet, nicknamed Proxima b, and that star, it likely sits within the "Goldilocks zone." This means the planet is not too warm, not too cold, and theoretically is able to support life and water on its surface.
Proxima b orbits the red dwarf star Proxima Centauri, 4.2 light years away from our own solar system. In the scheme of the broader universe this is actually quite close. Prior to this discovery, the most inhabitable-looking planet was Wolf 1061c, located 14 light years away.
To keep things in perspective though, the fastest manmade object ever made—NASA's Solar Probe Plus, set to launch in July 2018—will only reach speeds of 720 kilometres per hour at it passes our sun. Even if it could keep up this breakneck pace, it would still take the Probe around 6,000 years to reach Proxima b.
Plus, even if we had the technology to leave this trash planet behind forever and begin a glorious new era of human supremacy on Proxima b, it should be noted that there are no guarantees this planet is totally habitable.
"The habitability of planets like Proxima b—in the sense of sustaining an atmosphere and liquid water on its surface—is a matter of intense debate," the study says.
"The most common arguments against habitability are tidal lock-ing, strong stellar magnetic fields, strong flares and high ultraviolet and X-ray fluxes; but none of these have been proved definitive."
In other words, we're probably safer on our increasingly hot and polluted planet for now. However, as that first study—led by 25 scientists from all over the world—shows everything we've been doing since the dawn of the 19th century has been hurting our planet big time.
While we tend to think of climate change as a 20th and 21st century phenomenon, using data from corals, tree rings, and ice cores the scientists created climate models for the past 500 years. What their models show is that from the moment our relentless thirst for technological progress was sparked, greenhouse gas emissions have been gradually warming up the planet.
Needless to say, this is still happening and looks unlikely to slow anytime soon.
*Honestly, we will probably fuck Proxima b up too.
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