Modern climate change is more intense than anything the Earth has seen in the past 2,000 years

Polar bear.
(Image credit: IRINA YARINSKAYA/AFP/Getty Images)

Almost all scientists agree that climate change is being caused by humanity's affect on our world — but the general public isn't quite so convinced. Skeptics often say that even before humans were the reigning species on Earth, the average temperatures on the planet tended to fluctuate between warmer and colder periods. But a pair of new studies basically takes the wind out of that argument, finding solid proof that the climate change we're experiencing now is a direct result of human activity.

The studies, published on Wednesday in Nature and Nature Geoscience, both investigated our current climate and compared it to previous warm periods in the Earth's history. The first study concluded that while certain regions of the Earth have experienced fluctuations in climate before, modern climate change is the first time that the entire planet has warmed — at least in the last 2,000 years.

The second study, meanwhile, assessed the intensity of modern climate change. It found that, even during warm periods in the last 2,000 years, never before has the temperature risen so swiftly as it is now. Since the beginning of the 20th century, global temperatures have risen about two degrees, NBC News explained — and it could rise over five more degrees by the end of this century. That might not seem like a lot, but it's much faster than any other warming event in the last 2,000 years.

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The conclusion? "We cannot discern any event that is remotely equivalent" to modern climate change, said Scott St. George, a geographer at the University of Minnesota, in a letter published alongside the two studies.

If there's any hope of reversing the effects of climate change, "it's time for everybody to wake up and make changes now," said Jennifer Hertzberg, a paleoclimatologist not involved in the research. Read more at NBC News.

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