Almost a millennium later, on May 29, 1453, Constantinople fell, the capital of the Byzantine Empire captured by the Ottoman Empire. The Middle Ages were over.
Many theories have been offered as to the possible reasons of the decline of these great civilizations. And now, a new study suggests that climate change may have played a part.
Analyzing sections of stalagmites found in a 185,000 year-old cave near Jerusalem, a group of American and Israeli researchers led by geologists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison has constructed a detailed weather record of the region from 200 B.C. to 1,100 A.D. They discovered that this period saw increasingly dry weather caused by a steep decline in precipitation.
The team is currently studying an older part of the same cave, focusing their efforts on trying to understand what happened around 19,000 years ago, at the end of the last great ice age. During that period, the entire planet warmed by up to 5 degrees Celsius. The EU Commission has proposed limiting global warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius above the temperature in pre-industrial times.
As we look at global warming through a socio-cultural lens, policymakers would do well to note the significance of Odoacer's name as a few words of warning: From the Germanic Audawakrs, it means "watchful of wealth."
- Read "Decline of Roman and Byzantine Empires 1,400 Years Ago May Have Been Driven By Climate Change" (ScienceDaily, December 6, 2008)
- Read "Limiting Global Climate Change to 2 Degrees Celsius" (EU Commission, October 1, 2007)
- Protect an acre of rainforest through Conservation International
- Join the Greenpeace "Energy [R]evolution"
- Sign the "We Can Solve It" petition for a global treaty on climate change
- Analyze and reduce your impact on the environment with the National Grid Floe