“Climate A Factor”? Tell Us More!

This Reuters article and the study on which it is based may qualify as this year’s coyest news story. Once again, we are warned against the dangers of “climate change.” Yet, if you read between the lines, the message is not what a casual reader might think:

Climate change seems a factor in the rise and fall of the Roman empire, according to a study of ancient tree growth that urges greater awareness of the risks of global warming in the 21st century.

A skeptical reader might ask, really? So, what sort of climate was associated with the rise of the Empire, and what climate was associated with its fall?

Good growth by oak and pine trees in central Europe in the past 2,500 years signaled warm and wet summers and coincided with periods of wealth among farming societies, for instance around the height of the Roman empire or in medieval times.
Periods of climate instability overlapped with political turmoil, such as during the decline of the Roman empire, and might even have made Europeans vulnerable to the Black Death or help explain migration to America during the chill 17th century.

Reuters implicitly acknowledges one of the points that global warming skeptics have been making for a very long time–that is, that warm periods in human history have generally been good for people, while cold periods have been bad. The Roman Empire flourished during a warm period; the climate cooled, and the result was the Dark Ages. When the Earth warmed up again, in “medieval times,” as Reuters says–this is the Medieval Warm Period–civilization once again leaped ahead. When Reuters refers to “climate instability,” what it really means is “cooling temperatures.” Black Death, anyone?

The study said the evidence, helping back up written records that are sparse in Europe more than 500 years ago, “may challenge recent political and fiscal reluctance” to slow projected climate change in the 21st century.

Why? Shouldn’t we rather conclude that a little global warming would be a terrific thing for humanity? Currently, the Earth’s temperatures are colder than they have been for roughly 98% of the time, during the last 10,000 years. Let’s hope they get a little warmer.

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