Monday, 9 July 2007

Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie's Times of Feast, Times of Famine: A History of Climate Since the Year 1000 is interesting on several counts. First off, today I bought the latest Quadrant which contains a letter from me to the editor.

The letter is about climate change and the near-universal acceptance by the public that industrialisation is responsible for increases in global temperatures since the middle of the twentieth century. Naturally, I dispute this assertion.

Ladurie's book, published prior to the whole climate thing, in 1971 in English (orig. French publ. 1969), addresses the issue of warming from the point of view of an historian. He looks at agricultural records, specifically tithes and vintage dates (the date collecting the year's crop of grapes started). He also looks at glaciers and their behaviour at different times over the past 1000 years.

According to Ladurie, the current "amelioration" (his word for warming) began in the mid-nineteenth century. If this is true (and I see no way to dispute the facts he so carefully assembles) then it is clear that industrialisation is not responsible for global warming.

In the mid-nineteenth century industrialisation was so negligible as to be non-existent. The 'Industrial Revolution' had begun, in England at first, a century earlier but the scale of things was, still in 1850, small compared to what would come in the twentieth century.

Yesterday I read about half the book, and I look forward to completing it in a week or so. It is 426 pages long including front matter and index.

If you are in Australia and want to read my letter, Quadrant can be ordered at any newsagent if yours doesn't stock it. Most likely they won't as the magazine's monthly print run is only 5000 for the whole country. It is also available on the Web site. Just google it.

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