Climate change has historically been an evolutionary determinant for our species, affecting both hominin evolutionary innovations and extinction rates, and the early waves of migration and expansion outside Africa. Today Homo sapiens has turned itself into a major geological force, able to cause a biodiversity crisis comparable to previous mass extinction events, shaping the Earth surface and impacting biogeochemical cycles and the climate at a global level. We argue that anthropogenically-driven climate change must be understood in terms of a monumental niche construction process, generating long-term ecological inheritance and eco-evolutionary feedbacks that are putting our health and well-being and those of future generations at risk. We then list five major sources of climate change counter-intuitiveness, highlighting how evolved cognitive biases and heuristics may stand in the way of providing effective responses within tight deadlines. Drawing on our framing of the climate breakdown, we finally call for an evolutionary perspective in approaching the adaptive challenge posed by climate change: we argue that putting the brakes on a genuine self-endangering evolutionary trap ultimately depends on our counteractive niche constructing abilities, played at the level of our institutional and innovation capacity.

Anthropogenic climate change as a monumental niche construction process: background and philosophical aspects

Caserini S.
2020-01-01

Abstract

Climate change has historically been an evolutionary determinant for our species, affecting both hominin evolutionary innovations and extinction rates, and the early waves of migration and expansion outside Africa. Today Homo sapiens has turned itself into a major geological force, able to cause a biodiversity crisis comparable to previous mass extinction events, shaping the Earth surface and impacting biogeochemical cycles and the climate at a global level. We argue that anthropogenically-driven climate change must be understood in terms of a monumental niche construction process, generating long-term ecological inheritance and eco-evolutionary feedbacks that are putting our health and well-being and those of future generations at risk. We then list five major sources of climate change counter-intuitiveness, highlighting how evolved cognitive biases and heuristics may stand in the way of providing effective responses within tight deadlines. Drawing on our framing of the climate breakdown, we finally call for an evolutionary perspective in approaching the adaptive challenge posed by climate change: we argue that putting the brakes on a genuine self-endangering evolutionary trap ultimately depends on our counteractive niche constructing abilities, played at the level of our institutional and innovation capacity.
2020
Anthropocene
Climate change
Cognitive bias
Human evolution
Niche construction
Sixth mass extinction
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11311/1153610
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