Warm Weather and Prosperity

I get it that a 15F increase in global temperatures would not be good for agriculture.  Of course, I think 15F is absurd, at least from anthropogenic CO2.

However, for the types of warming we are seeing (in the tenths of a degree), such warming has always been a harbinger of prosperity through history.  The medieval warm period in Europe was a time of expanding populations driven by increasing harvests.  When the medieval warm period ended and decades of cooler weather ensued, the Great Famine resulted — a famine which many blame for weakening the population and making later plague outbreaks more severe.

I read a lot of history, and take a number of history courses (both on tape and live).  Its so funny when the professor gets to these events, because she/he always has to preface his remarks with “I know you have been tought that warming is universally bad, but…”

2009 may rank as a below average year for American agriculture, not because of heat, but because of late frosts and an unusually cool summer.

  • hunter

    “Its so funny when the professor gets to these events, because she/he always has to preface his remarks with “I know you have been tought that warming is universally bad, but…””

    It’s amusingly obvious that you’ve made this little ‘anecdote’ up.

    Tell us, did the Industrial Revolution happen during the mediaeval warm period, or the little ice age? Did the Renaissance happen during the mediaeval warm period, or afterwards? Did the Copernican Revolution happen during the mediaeval warm period, or afterwards? Did the Enlightenment coincide with the mediaeval warm period, or the little ice age?

    Tell us also this: if you believe that warmth = prosperity, then why is the average GDP per capita of countries lying on the equator USD 3514, while the average GDP per capita of countries with territory in the Arctic circle is USD 52750 – 15 times higher?

  • Michael

    This past weekend, callers to the morning garden show asked about the lack of produce at farmer markets here in Cincinnati. The host has been running a nursery here for 40 years and simply said there hasn’t been enough heat to ripen fruiting based plant crops. All around the area, people still have green tomatoes. Most years, around the beginning of July, tomatoes are turning red.

  • Michael

    Hunter, have you not heard of the dictators that strip the wealth of the people that live in the tropics. Mexico has all of the resources that the US has, but its government is structured to keep the people poor.

    The Renaissance and the Enlightenment have nothing to do with temperature. They were ways of thinking. The beginings of the Industrial Revolution began as the country was coming out of the little ice age. If temperature was relevant, it should have began around 1350.

  • Mike

    Warren; There is a little typo. Tought should be Taught.

    Hunter/Scientist/Jennifer/Whoever you Dislike Next”:

    If you think temp. has anything to do with the oppression of those countries, might I suggest you read “The Mystery of Capital” by Hernando De Soto. As Michael infers, the basis of the poverty is corruption, or more mildly put, an unwillingness of the status quo to change. That willingness is more than likely born from ignorance.

    The things you cited occured because the land was unable to sufficiently provide as ol’ mother nature was tossing hand grenades at them left right and centre. The human race is always innovating However, when faced with adversity, the human race innovates more quickly. Freezing its ass off qualifies as adversity.

  • ADiff

    The “Copernican Revolution” occurred during the latter part of the warm period; the Renaissance earlier during the warm period; the Industrial Revolution, largely, after the end of the Little Ice Age as warmer weather returned. As for the “Enlightenment”, that term only came into use in the 19th Century, after the end of the Little Ice Age…albeit its reference to developments over a period of centuries….

    Which is all pretty much beside the point, as the Little Ice Age was an unmitigated disaster for most people alive at the time. Europe uniquely developed many of the exceptional cultural characteristics resulting in its rapid progress across these centuries, but how that relates to the un-disputable famines, accompanying pestilence, extensive wars over reduced resources, and mass human misery the end of the Medieval Warm Period caused, is very unclear. One thing’s for certain…the end of that period of ‘crisis global warming’ meant death and misery for millions.

    The point is pretty clear: moderate warming has been, and almost certainly continues to be, all-in-all a good thing for most people alive at any time.

    Interesting the wealthy elites of the West feel comfortable enough to risk their social economies in what amounts to an “act of faith”, while the less wealthy Indians and Chinese not quite so comfortable in their own sense of invulnerability and entitlement aren’t having any of it. I guess the children of the Upper and Upper Middle-Class who wave the banner of this latest Crusade must figure that if worse comes to worse, it’s somebody else who’ll suffer…not them!

  • hunter

    The inanity of defending cold weather vs. tropical is something to behold.
    Unless the climate shifts dramatically more than is predicted in even the most extreme chicken little AGW scenarios, we are not tlaking about alligators in the baltic.
    Warmer weather patterns do not mean a tropical Europe.
    Warmer weather patterns do imply better growing seasons.
    Colder weather is associated with the plagues and depopulation of the worst parts of history. We had best hope that the cool summers and early winters of the year or so do not become a serious trend.

  • Robert

    hunter, Mark Twain may have been thinking of someone such as yourself when he said “It’s not what you know that kills you, it’s what you know for sure that ain’t true.

  • An Inquirer

    Apparently, the ancient classical empires were in lower (warmer) latitudes: Roman, Nubian, Greek, Aztec, Inca, Babylonian, Indus, Han . . .
    However, my college history professor speculated that civilizations in higher latitudes had an advantage when technology advanced to the point where mono-crops could be grown. It was easier to keep out the weeds in higher latitudes – as long as we do not go too far north or south. (Of course, control of weeds is not much of an issue with current technology.) The professor’s theory was interesting, but civilization advancements are probably more correlated with cultural nuances such as work ethic, loyalty to central government, etc.

  • George

    While we are discussing the effects of cooler periods versus warmer periods, consider this: There seems to be a pronounced (but not well researched) correlation between cooler periods and major storms. At least the historic record seems to relate tales of violent hurricanes in the 15th and 16th Centuries. And the 16th and 17th Centuries saw far more loss of life to hurricanes than recent times. Also, the geological record tells us that major hurricanes were more frequent prior to about 8Kbp than during the rather short time we have been keeping weather records (post-1850).

  • An Inquirer

    yes. There are both anecdotal as well as some research that equates cooler GMT with more violent storms. On a regional basis, I know that we had many more tornadoes when I grew up than we have now. I sometimes shudder to think how the media and public would react if today we had a repeat of some of the strong hurricanes and tornadoes of the middle decades of the 20th century.

  • Keith

    Inquirer, here is a look at the frequency of F3 to F5 tornadoes in the US for the past several decades:
    This is always an interesting chart to show when someone tries to claim that AGW is causing more severe storms. In a similar vein, here is an article looking at hurricane severity.
    I thought it was quite striking to see the difference in marine data available a century ago vs. today.

  • Curt

    A few months ago, I found a pair of papers by a couple of Chinese scientists examining how societies fared in different climate conditions. Their conclusions were unequivocal that warmer conditions were better.

    The first paper just examined the Chinese region. One thing that stunned me was that China lost over 40% of its population in a few decades of the 17th Century, at the depths of the Little Ice Age. The second paper extended the analysis much wider, and with pretty much the same conclusions. How did the New Scientist summarize the paper results? “Climate Change Deadly”!

    I’ll try to dig up proper references to the papers.

  • Jane M

    Try the following:


    Great initiative !!!

    Jane M.

  • gt

    Curt, if you can provide the reference/link to the paper that would be great. As a Chinese I am very interested. I would think that sociological factors such as wars, civil unrest, and the turmoils associated with transition of dynasties would have a more pronounced impact on overall population. How the authors isolate the effect of climate from the “background” is of interest to me.

  • An Inquirer

    gt: Try this article: “Climate change and Zhou relocations in early Chinese history” by Chun Chang Huanga and Hongxia Sub.

    It is not the only one on the issue, but it appears a decent place to start.

  • gt

    An Inquirer – Thanks for the reference. I just scanned through the abstract and it’s definitely interesting.

  • Eric H

    I drop in on this site from time to time and note the comments of the scientist/hunter/whatever. Has anyone ever attempted to try any kind of formal Turing test against this responder? It uses the language, but does not seem to understand what is being discussed, and drops words and phrases like “fuckwit” into the mix at quasi-random intervals. In the context of this post, it seems to have picked up something about history and has used up all of the references it can find in its database, i.e. “industrial revolution”, renaissance, etc., without seeming to grasp the context, implication, or meaning of any of the underlying discussion. My guess is that this is a very good attempt at artificial intelligence, but not one that can do anything like have a meaningful discussion about climate, responses to AGW, etc. So, it may be entertaining to try to interact with it and perhaps try to elicit insults and scatological nonsense, but one shouldn’t expect anything useful.

  • Stevo

    Eric H: you really have no idea what you are talking about, do you? Clearly you’re not capable of meaningful discussion about either climate or AI. How about you do some serious learning before you embarrass yourself in public again?

  • hunter

    Eric H,
    Good points all.
    But remember the old saying, ‘pearls before swine’.