Friday 22 September 2017

The Little Ice Age by Brian Fagan

 The Little Ice Age by Brian M. Fagan

Subtitled 'How Climate Made History 1300 - 1850', this book charts how the mostly cold and often unpredictable climate affected human history, particularly in Europe, over the period often known as the Little Ice Age. Covering events including The French Revolution, The Bubonic Plagues and the Irish Potato Famine, the author outlines how years of cold and wet springs and summers made harvests more unreliable and how the resulting food shortages affected people's lives.

It is interesting to see how much the climate changed over these years and how incredibly unpredictable it often was, a good year might be followed by several poor years and then by a relatively stable period of a few years. It makes you realise that the changeability of the current climate is historically normal - the climate has always changed. However, it is very clear, just by looking at some of the graphs alone, that the current rising temeratures and extreme weather events (think Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria) are well beyond normal and to large extent are a result of human activities.

It's a fascinating book and an important one for understanding our climate:

"..we can be certain that such minor 'ice ages' occured many times earlier in the Holocene, even if we still lack the tools to identify them. We would logically expect another such episode to descend on earth in the natural, and cyclical, order of climate change, were it not for increasingly compelling evidence that humans have altered the climatic equation irrevocably through their promiscuous use of fossil fuels since the Industrial Revolution. We may be in the process of creating an entirely new era in global climate, which makes an understanding of the Little Ice Age a scientific priority."

The Little Ice Age by Brian Fagan published by Basic Books.  

Updated to add: If you're interested in this topic, you may be interested in this article by Dagomar Degroot on the Aeon website

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