Climate Change Impact on Civilizations

Climate Change Impact on Civilizations: Lessons from Space Data and Archaeology

June 9 & 10

Recently, NASA and other remote sensing data have enabled significant progress in archaeological research. One factor emerging from this body of work is that past civilizations were significantly influenced by even minor climatic events. In order to assess and anticipate possible impacts and responses of civilization to climate change, it is instructive to examine the historical and archaeological record and compare it to increasingly detailed climate records from ice cores, sediment cores, cave data and other climate data. Consider that although humans have been anatomically modern for about 130,000 years, and that humans left Africa over 50,000 years ago, and that stunning artistic cultural achievements over 30,000 years old adorn European caves, yet agriculture and complex societies did not emerge until about 10,000 years ago. Coincidentally, this time was when rapid sea-level rise following de-glaciation slowed, and various climate proxies show the global climate system settling into the present stable regime. Nonetheless, minor climate changes helped bring down the Old Kingdom of Egypt, the Maya, and others. How will we react? The message from the past is not reassuring.

Dr. Ron Blom

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