The Coming Climate Crisis

The Little Ice Age Could Offer a Glimpse of Our Tumultuous Future.


Over the last couple of decades, as the impact of global warming has intensified, the discussion of climate change has spilled out of the scientific and technocratic circles within which it was long confined. Today, the subject has also become an important concern in the humanities and arts.

Discussions of climate tend to focus on the future. Yet even scientific projections depend crucially on the study of the past…


Perhaps the most intensively researched of these periods is the Little Ice Age, which reached its peak between the late 15th and early 18th centuries. This early modern era is of particular interest because some of the most important geopolitical processes of our own time trace back to it.


During part of the Little Ice Age, decreased solar irradiance and increased seismic activity resulted in temperatures that, as Geoffrey Parker writes in Global Crisis, a groundbreaking global history of the period, were “more than 1 [degree Celsius] cooler than those of the later twentieth century.”

The current cycle of human-induced global warming is likely to lead to a much greater climatic shift than that of the Little Ice Age.


Amitav Ghosh is the author of The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable. @GhoshAmitav

Foreign Policy 

H/T to David Middleton writing at Watts Up With That for the Summary

By increased seismic activity I wonder if the author is referring to the volcanos shown in this graphic.

Volcanic activity


2 thoughts on “The Coming Climate Crisis

  1. phil salmon February 19, 2019 / 10:09 am

    I saw that Harris and Mann figure years ago and noticed the trend of shortening warm spells and deepening cold spells. It’s the sort of question that you get in IQ tests – here’s the trend so far, what would you expect next?

    Odd though that many volcanoes occur at or near the end, not the beginning, of the cold spells. Volcanoes are supposed to cool the climate. Those who simplistically believer that all warming is only ever CO2 and all cooling is only ever aerosols, would not expect such a pattern. Personally I believe climate fluctuates from a mixture of external forcing (weak nonlinear) and internally driven oscillations. I also feel that the influence of volcanoes and aerosols in general is greatly exaggerated, and very transient. The climate is not passive and can change by itself. Changes can be “entrained” by external periodic forcing but forcing is not always needed. It can “force” itself.

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