Friday, October 14, 2011

Columbus blamed for Little Ice Age

Christopher Columbus gets blamed for lots of things from being a poor manager to being one of the causes of the mass genocide in the new world. However, one thing he is not associated with is global climate change. Until now anyway...

An article by Devin Powell titled Columbus blamed for Little Ice Age has some details. It notes, "By sailing to the New World, Christopher Columbus and the other explorers who followed may have set off a chain of events that cooled Europe’s climate for centuries. The European conquest of the Americas decimated the people living there, leaving large areas of cleared land untended. Trees that filled in this territory pulled billions of tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, diminishing the heat-trapping capacity of the atmosphere and cooling climate, says Richard Nevle, a geochemist at Stanford University."

Dr. Nevle is quoted, "“We have a massive reforestation event that’s sequestering carbon … coincident with the European arrival.”

I am not going to doubt the sincerity of this research. The world was changed by the European discovery of the new world. Lots of things happened. But Columbus sailing his boats across the Atlantic caused the Little Ice Age in Europe? I think it goes to show how we just don't understand everything about the global weather and how it acts over the long term yet.

7 comments:

Chris said...

No one can agree to how many people lived in North America pre-Columbus, so it is hard to imagine it got calculated.

David Carthage said...

Blaming Columbus is just silly. If connecting the hemispheres did lead to global cooling, then he's just a link in the chain. You might as well blame Queen Isabella for sending him, or her mother for giving birth to her, or the guy who hammered the last nail into the Santa Maria.

That said, I think the theory's interesting: the idea that the population loss in the Americas set off a chain of events leading to the Little Ice Age. That kind of global view of history seems particularly valuable nowadays, in the shadow of global warming.

Anyway, great post!

lawnmower boy said...

Eh. Pre-Columbian North Americans cleared far more land with fire than by hand. So any globally-significant forest regeneration ought to be detectable on the ground archaeologically.

Du hoc Canada said...

no one can deny it, that's part history of the world...

Charles Hodgson said...

Blaming Columbus for basically discovering the "New World" and what resulted from it is a hard argument to make. There are others leaders who were involved in the settling of Hispaniola and also the destruction that it caused. But also other Little Ice Age causes can be from a Volcanic Eruption or Solar Flare. So Reforestation is plausible but I would say not likely.

Benjamin Raucher said...

I am not convinced. There were two few American Indians and most were hunter and gathers particularly in North America

BENJAMIN RAUCHER

Jordan179 said...

The Little Ice Age started in the early 14th century, over 150 years before Columbus discovered the New World. So this statement is ridiculous. If the claim is that the discovery of the New World caused the trough of the Little Ice Age (16th to 19th centuries), the argument makes more chronological sense but still fails, since what mostly happened in the New World was that patterns of population distribution changed. The American population first crashed (due to the plagues) causing reforestation, then increased again (due to natural recovery and immigration) which again reduced forest cover. And serious deforestation due to lumbering didn't really happen until the 18th-19th centuries.