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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
Forecasts of a grim future ahead from extreme weather have been at once so vague and frequent as to numb many people as to what's coming. But it turns out that this is the second incidence in history of climate change at least partly induced by humans.
Driving the news: In much-discussed new research, U.K. scientists say the 16th century exploration of the Americas by Europeans led to a cascade of disaster:
Why it matters: The research, from four scholars at University College London, suggests that European contact with the Americas starting with Columbus had an impact on a vast scale — shifting human and Earth history. "It caused about half of the cold snap in the 17th century that caused all kinds of havoc all over the world," Charles Mann, author of "1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created," tells Axios.
Thought bubble from Andrew Freedman, author of Axios' Science newsletter: "Assuming the new study is correct, it indicates that the era of human engineering of the climate system started much earlier than the Industrial Revolution."
The research follows up on pioneering work by William Ruddiman, professor emeritus at the University of Virginia. Ruddiman, reached at home in Virginia, said he was a peer reviewer of the paper and that he had only one quibble, which the authors handled in a footnote.
Ruddiman's linkage of the post-Columbus human disaster and climate cooling remains controversial, though it's accepted by an increasing number of mainstream experts, and the paper has gotten some pushback.
Manila, 2004. Photo: Jay Directo/AFP/Getty
A mainstream assumption is that, once policy action and time have their impact, the wave of U.S. and European uprisings over globalization will subside. But that's only if you look at the problem as one that began in the last decade or two.
Charles Mann, author of author of the book on Columbus and the New World, says that the disorder over globalization actually erupted much less suddenly — beginning about five centuries ago.
If you look at globalization as an undulating, five-century arc, the end of it — and discomfort with it — look much more distant. "There is a possibility that the upheaval could end relatively quickly," Mann says. "But I kind of bet it isn't going to."
Ford line, Detroit 1931. Photo: UIG/Getty
As the trade war with China beats on, here's a striking example of the toll of the tariffs:
Duties on steel and aluminum cost Ford $750 million last year, the company said last month. As a result, profit-sharing checks dolloped out to Ford's hourly workers were slashed anywhere from $750 to $1,850 each, reports the Detroit Free Press.
Erica writes: Tariffs pack a double punch for Americans — eroding paychecks as employers lose money and indirectly as goods start to cost more.
What is a quantum computer? (Martin Giles — MIT Tech Review)
Esports — the new social square (Kendall Baker, Sara Fischer — Axios)
The new Beijing-Moscow Axis (Yaroslav Trofimov — WSJ)
The coming business blitz to end the trade war (Matthew Townsend — Bloomberg)
For investment firms, gulf between word and deed (Rick Wartzman — Fast Company)
Screenshot: Michelob Ultra/YouTube
In between punts and stumbles, yesterday’s Super Bowl ads painted a grim portrait of mounting nervousness around emerging tech in the U.S. — a departure from the techno-utopia usually on display in high-profile advertising, writes Kaveh.
In several spots, robots and voice assistants were portrayed as superhuman — but still lacking an essential human touch, reports Axios' Sara Fischer.
Bonus: I'm typing this on a train beneath the San Francisco Bay, sitting under an ad that reads, "Pay off your credit card debt before the AI thing happens."
Go deeper: More food for thought.