Victims of climate change
In 1721, a Norwegian missionary named Hans Egede sailed a ship called The Hope from Norway to Greenland, seeking Norse farmers whom Europeans had not heard from in 200 years. It was his mission to convert these Viking settlers of Greenland to Protestantism and save their souls.
Egede searched the coastline and interior of Greenland in vain. Only crumbling stone walls and deserted habitations were found. Even the local Inuit could shed no light on the fate of a settlement that had lasted for 500 years. “What has been the fate of so many human beings, so long cut off from all intercourse with the more civilized world?” Egede wrote in an account of the journey. “Were they destroyed by an invasion of the natives … [or] perished by the inclemency of the climate, and the sterility of the soil?”
Egede was far too late to find the Norsemen who had once lived in Greenland. We know now that the Norse in Greenland were long gone by the time he arrived. They perished sometime in the 15th century – victims, it appears, of a changing climate.
When the Vikings first arrived in Greenland the Earth was in the midst of a warm period. It allowed the Norse to farm, to raise cattle and sheep and to support themselves for centuries. Then the climate changed. Temperatures dropped significantly. Research shows the Norse in Greenland tried to cope by shifting to hunting seals and living off the land. In the end, though, it was not enough. Climate change destroyed them.
All of this occurred centuries before the Industrial Revolution and long before any major impact on our climate from man-made causes.
Genetics unlocking clues
The new science of genetics, as applied to the history of human evolution and migration, has shed significant light on who we are, how we got here and the rise and fall of civilizations. It has demonstrated conclusively that our history, all across the globe, has been one of almost continuous movement. Populations resident in northern Finland today have been shown to be the descendants of ancient hunter gatherers who originated in Southeast Asia. This is not an isolated case. This is the norm.
What drives human migration?
Two primary factors have driven human migration. One has been technology. When people living on the Eurasian steppes thousands of years ago succeeded in domesticating the horse and adapting it to use in warfare, it gave them an advantage that carried them to areas as diverse as Ancient Greece and India. Similar impacts can be seen accompanying the discovery of how to make bronze weapons or how to build ocean going vessels.
The other factor that has driven human migration has been climate change. Not climate change in the sense of a slow evolution over millennia. Climate change that over the space of a few centuries or less could bring empires crashing down, send entire peoples in search of greener pastures and literally change the face of the planet.
Climate change before the Industrial Revolution
This climate change was not the product of human actions. No factories existed on the planet. Motor vehicles and aircraft would not be invented for thousands of years. And, yet, temperatures rose and fell, rainfall increased and then dropped off precipitously, land bridges emerged as water was locked up in glaciers. The same land bridges then submerged as that ice melted and sea levels rose.
Australia’s indigenous population arrived on that continent almost fifty thousand years ago via just such a land bridge. When the seas rose and what had been dry land was flooded they were left stranded, isolated from the rest of humanity until the arrival of English settlers in the 1700’s. Natural climate change allowed them to reach Australia in the first place. It also trapped them there as its natural cycle continued and temperatures rose.
What mankind is doing to destroy the planet
None of this tells us that man does not have an impact of the planet. None of this suggests that we should not be doing everything we can to be responsible stewards of the planet. When plastic waste forms into a gigantic raft in the center of the Pacific Ocean, when cities in the Third World are smothered by toxic clouds of pollution, when entire species of animals are lost to rampant destruction of the environment, we are all reminded that we have a long way to go before we are doing what we should to protect the environment.
What the history of climate change does tell us, however, is that much of what we are force fed about current climate change theory and our role in it is likely wrong or, at best, unconfirmed. If civilizations rose, fell and moved thousands of years before industrialization, then there is no justification for the thesis peddled today that all climate change must somehow be our fault and within our control. A rise in temperatures, even assuming one is proven, does not ipso facto mean we caused it.
Climate change theory
It also means that the bedrock on which all current climate change hysteria is built, that CO2 is the primary driver of climate change, is almost certainly wrong. It may be convenient, in that it appears to tie current climate change to manmade causes, but it provides no explanation whatsoever for how climate change happened in the past. The aboriginal population of Australia walked there across a landmass that is now the island of New Guinea and parts of Southeast Asia. Something heated up the atmosphere so dramatically and melted so much ice that this landmass was flooded and has remained submerged throughout our recorded history. It wasn’t human activity that did that, and absent some, as yet, unidentified physical process, it wasn’t a rise in CO2 levels either.
There are a myriad of factors at work on our climate, including, perhaps most significantly, cycles in solar activity. How exactly they all work together remains not fully understood. One thing is clear, though. We are not the primary drivers of changes in climate. We, like the Lost Vikings, are simply the ones left adapting to it.