Pollution pre-dates industry by millennia
The dark satanic mills usually blamed for kick-starting global pollution could be off the hook if new research is to be believed.According to a paper published in the journal Science human were fuelling atmospheric degradation and climate change well before the Industrial Revolution began.
An international team of scientists led by New Zealand based Dr Dominic Ferretti have concluded that the ancients released huge amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas far more potent than modern-day climate criminal carbon dioxide.
Over the years large fluctuations due to changing weather patterns would have been expected but methane levels remained on a more-or-less even keel for thousands of years preceding the industrialisation of Europe and North America.
Now Ferretti's team believe they have traced the source of the ancient methane emissions to America, a continent still dogged by accusations of climate abuse.
The scientists examined methane locked in the ice of Antarctica and suggest its primary source would be the early human settlers of America, who practiced extensive burning of both forests and prairies to manage and clear land.
While natural climate change in the past 1,000 years could have been expected to see levels rise, they remained more or less unchanged until the engines of industry began ticking over.
The scientists now believe the most likely explanation was the arrival of Europeans in the America, and the sharp decline in the native population.
Less native Americans meant less fires, to such a degree as to have enough global impact as to counterbalance the natural rise in emissions.
While the study provides an explanation for methane levels in centuries past, it does not contradict the fact that post-industrial humans have ushered in a huge rise in the release of greenhouse gases.
Before 1800, atmospheric methane levels had hovered around a relatively stable 650 parts per billion.
In the past 200 years they have shot up to over 1600ppb.
By Sam Bond