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Sci Tech    H2'ed 1/31/11

Does Global Warming mean the fall of the US Empire?

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Message Dominique Lord



Darkness slowly taking over the U.S.
(Picture showing an interesting cloud formation
near Houston taken on Jan. 23rd by the author's wife)

The east coast has been pounded by several snow storms as of late.  Some people may believe that these discredit the effects of global warming, but one hypothesis that has been put forward states that the increase in snow storm activities (and other similar events, such as the flooding episodes recently seen in Brazil and elsewhere in the world) is actually attributed (or influenced by) to climate change (caused by human activity); the other two hypotheses are the effects of  La Nià a  or a combination of both.

You see, the increase in observed average temperatures (recall that 2010 has the highest recorded yearly average temperature since about 1890) is associated with an augmentation in the level of moisture in the air. As discussed by several experts, such as Dr. Michio Kaku, this increase in moisture content not only leads to the creation of more storms, but also to stronger ones too. In fact, Professor Kaku warned us that we should expect storm activities to increase for the years to come. In his words: "get used to it."

What do these storms have to do with the fall of the U.S. Empire?

Well, I recently came upon a study published in the top academic journal Science that specifically examined the effects of climate change on the evolution of different civilizations. The Swiss researchers (paleoclimatologists to be exact), who collaborated with archaeologists on this study, examined more than 9,000 pieces of wood dating back 2,500 years. From these pieces of wood, they were able to extract information about temperature and precipitation levels on a year-to-year basis.

As discussed in a Discovery News article, "to get annual temperatures, they measured rings in high-altitude conifer trees, which grow faster in warmer summers and slower in colder years. To gauge precipitation, they looked at tree ring widths in lower-elevation oaks, which grow faster in years with higher levels of rainfall. Other techniques allowed them to figure out exactly which year each ring represented."

With this extracted information in hand, they found that the temperature levels observed over the last few years are in fact the highest values that occurred over the 2,500-year study period! No kidding. This is yet another study that supports the discussion points I made in my first post about global warming; in it, I demonstrated that the probability global warming IS NOT caused by human activity is equal to about 7.62E-24 (or 1 / 131,236,127,521,095,000,000,000). In other words, it's equal to a big 0. See the original post for more detailed information. This piece also describes original peer-reviewed publications on this topic. Let's not forget several well-received articles that my friend Kent Pitman also wrote on this subject (see here and here for example).

What's more interesting is that the researchers were able to link significant weather patterns (climate changes caused by 'natural forcing' like volcanic activities among others) and with major historical events, such as the Black Death in 1347 AD, the Thirty Years War, and the fall of the Roman Empire. The researchers believe that climate instability or variability between 250 and 550 AD may have helped in the demise of this mighty empire.

Obviously, the authors of the study are cautious about establishing a cause-and-effect relationship, but their study clearly helps in better understanding the effects the climate has on social evolution and the society in general.

With so many people in US who believe that global warming is a fraud, even when the climate around them is fast changing for the worse, how soon will U.S. Empire fall? Will global warming help topple the great giant at the hands of China? Will the latter country become the next Empire? This country is certainly on the right track for taking over the U.S. as the dominant world power, given its increasingly strong economic power and large military arsenal (see my piece on this subject here). Perhaps global warming may accelerate this process.

Although China is a gigantic contributor of anthropogenic greenhouse gases, they are also more active than the US in trying to curb or reduce their noxious emissions. At the very least, they are trying to do something about it.

This does not bode well for the United States...


This post originally appeared at Open Salon.

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Dominique is an Associate Professor in the Zachry Department of Civil Engineering at Texas A&M University. His research work aims at reducing the negative effects associated with motor vehicle crashes. When he's not developing mathematical and (more...)
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