A network of interdisciplinary scholars studying past climate change
Two major publications came out this week in climate history. The first is John Brooke’s Climate Change and the Course of Global History: A Rough Journey (New York: Cambridge University Press): a Big History approach, covering geological timescales down to the recent human past. Brooke emphasizes the role of climate cycles, catastrophes, and sudden change in human evolution, migration, and the crisis and collapse of states and empires, challenging theories of Malthusian pressures and endogenous decline. The book offers the most comprehensive global synthesis of past climate change impacts to date.
Also this week, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences included an article by Neil Pederson and collaborators at the Earth Institute indicating that the rise of Genghis Khan’s Mongol Empire in the early 13th century AD coincided with the longest period of above-average rainfall in Mongolia for more than a millennium. The article forms part of a larger project measuring tree-rings and sporormiella spores to analyze the “energetics” of Mongol nomads: the interaction between climate fluctuations, the maintenance of horses and livestock, and the rise of steppe empires.