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Exploring Climate Events and Human Development
The Past 100 Years: Putting the 20th Century in Perspective


The animation above is from the joint gateway of the Historic Land Use Estimation Efforts by the National Institute of Public Health and the Environment (RIVM, Netherlands) and the Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment (SAGE, USA). Below is their description of the work they have been conducting.


One of the conclusions of the recent IPCC Working Group I Third Assessment Report ' The Scientific Basis ', was that "Emissions of greenhouse gases and aerosols due to human activities continue to alter the atmosphere in ways that are expected to affect the climate". It clearly identified carbon emissions from land use change as an important driver of global climate change. Nevertheless, there have been relatively few comprehensive studies of global, long-term historical changes in land cover due to land use. Here, we present two recently developed historical databases of global land use change. Based on historical statistical inventories (e.g. census data, tax records, land surveys, historical geography estimates, etc) and applying different spatial analysis techniques, an attempt has been made to reconstruct land cover change due to land use for the last 300 years. The initiative for this effort has its origin at a PAGES/LUCC meeting held in Bern in March 2000. PAGES is 'The International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP) Core Project charged with providing a quantitive understanding of the Earth's past climate and environment', while 'The Land Use and Land Cover Change (LUCC) Project is a programme element of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP) and the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (IHDP)'.

Scientists from different disciplines were thus brought together to discuss how to close the gap between the initiatives of these land use and population research communities. It appeared that PAGES primarely looked at periods of several hundred to thousands of years, while LUCC merely reported on recent decadal land use changes. At the meeting in Bern, two databases were presented: one by dr. Navin Ramankutty of SAGE, and the other one by ir. Kees Klein Goldewijk of RIVM. Both databases attempted to fill the timespan gap left by PAGES and LUCC. These two efforts blend perfectly in with FOCUS 3 of PAGES called "Human Impacts on Terrestrial Ecosystems (HITE, Activity 3)", which emphasizes the historical land use changes during the past 300 years.

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