Climate Change Kills Off 1/3 of Human Race

April 2.  No, this is not a prediction of the ICPP on what will happen over the next few centuries.  It already happened.  In the 1600’s climate cooling caused a number of weather disasters which led to famines and war and wiped out about a third of humanity. Kingdoms that had lasted for centuries collapsed and men fought for a new order.  That’s from a 900 page book that came out last year by historian Geoffrey Parker called Global Crisis: War, Climate Change and Catastrophe in the Seventeenth Century, I heard an interview with him on WBAI this morning on the program “Against the Grain”.

Climate cooling in the 17th century was surely not man-made.  Parker says it had to do with a unique lack of sunspots, more frequent volcanic eruptions and changes to El-Nino.  The temperature dropped worldwide one to two degrees Celsius.

There were different reactions among the rulers of the world.  The main one was to deny anything was going wrong and to try to drown rebellions in blood.  Others saw the problem as sin against God.  Their solution was to burn witches and murder gays.  Some societies realized something special was going on in the climate and that the state had to take action.  Mogul India cut back on its building program (no second Taj Mahal) and fed many of the starving.

The best response was in Tokugawa Japan.  Their ruler decided there was in a real emergency and took action.  For instance no one could use rice for anything except eating (no saki wine).  Invitations to go to war were actually rejected.  The Chinese asked for help against the Manchus in vain.  The Dutch proposed a joint Dutch-Japanese invasion of the Philippines and this was rejected, too.  This approach was successful and Japan’s population doubled or tripled by 1700.

Obviously there’s a lesson here as our climate starts to heat up.  Climate catastrophe is going to cause more war.  Some say it’s already happened recently, giving Syria as the big example.  An expert on the Bill Moyers TV show talked about years of drought in Syria.  “75 percent of farmers in the northeast suffered total crop failure”. Millions left their homes and the Assad government did not handle the crisis.  The result was a social powder keg and finally an explosion.

More on Parker’s book here and here.

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One Response to Climate Change Kills Off 1/3 of Human Race

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