A new paper in “Science” magazine suggests the Roman Empire fell because of “global warming,” not the hordes of barbarians who pillaged, a claim that critics tell WND is the latest climate-change hysteria promoted as legitimate research by mainstream academics.
Tim Ball, an environmental consultant and former historical climatology professor at the University of Winnipeg in Canada, told WND the explanation for how the Roman Empire fell is completely contradicted by the written history of ancient Europe as well as the archeological record.
“The world was warmer during the Roman period,” he said. “The climate was cooler when the empire collapsed in late antiquity.”
Researchers at several European universities have “reconstructed” the European summer climate for the last 2,500 years. They say tree rings from Germany, France, Italy and Australia show possible links between past climate variability and changes in human history.
“Climate change” coincided with eras of socioeconomic, cultural and political turmoil, like the collapse of the Roman Empire and the outbreak of the Black Plague in Europe during the Middle Ages, European researchers Willy Tegel and others write in their article “2500 Years of European Climate Variability and Human Susceptibility.”
The international research team of archaeologists, climatologists, geographers and historians constructed a history of Central Europe’s summer precipitation and temperature, extending the record more than 1,000 years further than previous studies.
“The climate information stored in these trees allows comparison of natural precipitation and temperature fluctuations with the development of European societies. European summer climate during the Roman Era about 2,000 years ago was relatively warm and wet and characterized by less variability. Increased climate variations from around 250-600 A.D. coincided with the demise of the Western Roman Empire and the exceptional turmoil of the Migration Period [collapse of Rome] during which the continent’s population was substantially reordered,” according to the paper.
The scientists suggest in their abstract that “historical circumstances may challenge recent political and fiscal reluctance to mitigate projected climate change.”
The researchers say that projected global climate change today may affect human societies more than is currently expected and that complex causal links between past climate changes and human responses “urgently require” more investigation.
“The situation is different for temperature though, as the recent warming in the late 20th and early 21st century appears unprecedented with respect to the past 2,500 years,” they said.
The University of Winnipeg’s Ball, however, insisted the collapse of the empire was not caused by a suddenly warming climate.
He acknowledged the evidence shows that during the Roman era, the warming meant the desert zone expanded toward the pole thus making the coast of North Africa drier and causing harvest failures. Italy, meanwhile, also became drier and this was one of the driving forces for the expansion and extension of Roman aqueducts.
The area on the north side of the empire had better conditions for food production, Ball said.
Bonner R.Cohen, a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research, said the Roman Empire, like the Persian Empire and the Greek City States before it, actually benefited from the relatively warm climate prevailing at the time.
“Indeed, this period is known as the Roman Climate Optimum. Agriculture and trade flourished, supporting an ever-growing population in the Mediterranean region. When the Western Roman Empire began its decline in the late 4th century A.D., the climate was still warm, probably warmer than it is today,” said Cohen.
Cohen maintained that the Roman Empire’s collapse was a direct consequence of its being overrun, first by Germanic tribes and later by the Huns. Rome fell in 476, and the Western Empire’s demise was followed by a cooling climate that lasted for another 500 years.
“The chaotic political conditions prevailing in what was once the Western Roman Empire, particularly in Europe, were made all the more unbearable by the cooler climate, which lowered agricultural productivity,” said Cohen. “However, the cooling climate didn’t cause Rome’s decline and eventual fall; the empire went the way of all flesh for political, not climatological, reasons.”
If the warming climate actually was a factor in the fall of Rome, there would be other evidence in addition to the tree rings cited in the new “Science” magazine article, scientists tell WND.
According to Sonja A. Boehmer-Christiansen, an emeritus professor at the department of geography at Hull University in the U.K., at the end of the Roman occupation of England, around A.D. 400, the climate was actually cooling in England.
Evidence of cooling can be seen in coal stores along Hadrian’s wall that have been uncovered by archeologists, she said. But the political impact is uncertain, she said.
“You would need evidence about declining harvest, water supply problems, etc.,” Boehmer-Christiansen said.