Be Careful of What That Next Climate Might Look Like, and Reflections on David Keys's "Catastrophe: An Investigation Into the Origins of Modern Civilization"

So Thomas Friedman in Sunday’s NY Times had a good piece about the environmental factors at play in the so-called Arab Spring popular uprisings, here. This is an aspect of climate change that usually gets ignored—political instability. I think everyone should quit commiserating about the drowning polar bears and realize the polar bear might very well be You. (“They’ll adapt,” they say: well, so will you, but it might be in ways you don’t want to imagine.) One of my favorite books of recent years was David Keys’s Catastrophe: Investigations Into the Origins of Modern Civilization (2000), a rather arcane but fascinating work of nonfiction/history. I’m not even sure how I stumbled upon this book years ago, but it’s an in-depth analysis of the aftermath of some chaotic natural event, most likely one included in that doomsday list often featured on Discovery Channel’s What We Fear the Most programming—Yellowstone’s Super Volcanoes, Asteroid Impacts, etc. Essentially Keys argues that an unidentified climate change event occurred in the late sixth century or seventh century: his theory is that it was a super-eruption of the volcano Krakatoa. But exactly what caused it is less important than its effects: A world reorganization. The rise of Islam, the fall of (what was left of) the Roman Empire, among other major events. Population shifts in Northern Europe.
And take a gander at this little taste of things to come, via the Weather Channel’s webpage, here:
“Last week we revealed the dozens of cities that had their warmest March on record. Now we have the official word from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that March 2012 was the warmest March on record in the contiguous United States.In addition, the January through March period of 2012 was the warmest first quarter of the year on record. Records date back to 1895 in both cases.
NOAA also released information stating that the early March tornado outbreak in the Ohio Valley and Southeast was the first billion-dollar weather disaster of 2012. The total damage cost is estimated to be $1.5 billion. This comes on the heels of the record-breaking fourteen billion-dollar weather disasters we saw in 2011.
NOAA’s full report on March 2012 will be released at 11 am on Monday, however here are some of the quick facts that we have so far:
– 25 states east of the Rockies had their warmest March on record
– An additional 15 states had a top ten warmest March
– The average temperature of 51.1 degrees was 8.6 degrees above the 20th century average for March and a half degree warmer than the previous record warm March set in 1910.”
Right. 8.6 degrees warmer than average.

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