Rise and Fall of Empires Linked to Climate Change

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Ben Cohen
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Roman Ruins #1, Jerash - jerash, Jerash

A fascinating study has been published in the journal Science that links shifts in Europe's climate with the rise and fall of its empires. From the BBC:

A team of researchers based their findings on data from 9,000 wooden artifacts from the past 2,500 years.

They found that periods of warm, wet summers coincided with prosperity, while political turmoil occurred during times of climate instability.

The team of researchers used oak ring width chronologies to measure climate change, and the findings correlated with the rise and fall of Empires across Europe. The ring width chronology works as follows:

During good growing seasons, when water and nutrients are in plentiful supply, trees form broad rings, with their boundaries relatively far apart. But in unfavourable conditions, such as drought, the rings grow in much tighter formation.

Scientists routinely warn us of the political implications of climate change - and we ignore them at our peril. Population pressure, destruction of complex eco systems, and a rapidly heating planet will all effect human societies because like it or not, we our intrinsically linked to our environment. The data that links the rise and fall of empire with shifts in climate stability should certainly concern us - if it happened to the Romans when their impact on the environment was relatively benign, there's no reason it won't happen to us.