Insights From Past Millennia for Climate Impacts on Human Health & Survival: AMOC Tip would Crush Us

May 20, 2022

In the last video I chatted in great detail about how a collapse of the AMOC (Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation) ocean current system is at grave and ever increasing risk of occurring; in fact I discussed how Early Warning Signs (EWS) are already looking pretty dire.

What would the consequences to humanity actually look like if the AMOC was to shut down?

To try and probe this question, in this video I examine in detail a fascinating peer reviewed paper called “Insights from past millennia into climatic impacts on human health and survival”. Over the past several thousands of years, there have been many different civilizations build up and then very quickly collapse and essentially vanish, and this paper tries to tease out the climate connections to many of these collapses. The nexus of drought-food scarcity-famine seems to be the most common pathway leading to the collapse of many societies.

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Ref1: Insights from past millennia into climatic impacts on human health and survival, by Anthony J. McMichael — Feb 6, 2012 // Link to direct PDF here of full article.

Climate change poses threats to human health, safety, and survival via weather extremes and climatic impacts on food yields, fresh water, infectious diseases, conflict, and displacement. Paradoxically, these risks to health are neither widely nor fully recognized. Historical experiences of diverse societies experiencing climatic changes, spanning multicentury to single-year duration, provide insights into population health vulnerability—even though most climatic changes were considerably less than those anticipated this century and beyond. Historical experience indicates the following.

(i) Long-term climate changes have often destabilized civilizations, typically via food shortages, consequent hunger, disease, and unrest.
(ii) Medium-term climatic adversity has frequently caused similar health, social, and sometimes political consequences.
(iii) Infectious disease epidemics have often occurred in association with briefer episodes of temperature shifts, food shortages, impoverishment, and social disruption.
(iv) Societies have often learnt to cope (despite hardship for some groups) with recurring shorter-term (decadal to multiyear) regional climatic cycles (e.g., El Niño Southern Oscillation)—except when extreme phases occur.
(v) The drought–famine–starvation nexus has been the main, recurring, serious threat to health.

Warming this century is not only likely to greatly exceed the Holocene’s natural multidecadal temperature fluctuations but to occur faster. Along with greater climatic variability, models project an increased geographic range and severity of droughts.

Modern societies, although larger, better resourced, and more interconnected than past societies, are less flexible, more infrastructure-dependent, densely populated, and hence are vulnerable. Adverse historical climate-related health experiences underscore the case for abating human-induced climate change.


About paulbeckwith

Well known climate science educator; Part-time Geography professor (climatology, oceanography, environmental issues), University of Ottawa. Physicist. Engineer. Master's Degree in Science in Laser Optics, Bachelors of Engineering, in Engineering Physics. Won Association of Professional Engineers of Ontario gold medal. Also interested in investment and start-ups in climate solutions, renewable energy and energy efficiency. Avid chess player, and likes restoring old homes. Married with children.
This entry was posted in a Climate, a Global Warming, Climate Crisis, Collapse, Tragedy, z Marginal Societies, z Urgent and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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