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Alec Torres: Global Warming & the Mongolian Empire's Rise

Humanity’s greatest land empire was made possible by non-human climate change. Many phenomena, real and imagined, have been attributed to global warming. From rising ocean levels to increased agricultural yields to tornadoes to polar vortices to droughts to rapes to car thefts, global warming now stands as the cause of just about anything. And because of current political dogma, man is ultimately blamed for all these evils (and occasional goods).

Now a recent study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences argues that there is a correlation between increasing global temperatures and the rise of the Mongolian empire. According to “Pluvials, droughts, the Mongol Empire, and modern Mongolia,” the “dramatic increase in temperature and precipitation in the 13th century” increased grassland production, favoring the formation of Mongolian power, which was predominantly reliant on horses.

For global-warming alarmists, there’s one problem: The Mongolian empire, fueled by a “dramatic increase in temperatures,” grew to power in the early 1200s, over 500 years before the first Industrial Revolution, when man began pumping large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere.

The scientific facts of the study are clear, even if the researcher’s sociopolitical conclusions are debatable. Annual tree-ring records show a warming period through the 12th and 13th centuries, which yielded “persistent moisture unprecedented in the last 1,000 years” correlating with the rise of the Mongolian empire. Much like the Medieval Warm Period of the 10th to 13th centuries, which warmed the North Atlantic region, this hot spell contradicts those few who contend that global warming is purely man-made. Furthermore, according to the study, this pre-industrial global warming was significant enough to cause the rise of the largest land empire in the history of mankind.

This alone does not prove whether anthropogenic global warming (AGW) exists, or to what degree, but it does cast doubt on the multiplicity of evils alarmists claim AGW causes. After all, this study asserts that a major climatic change happened, resulting in one of the grandest accomplishments in human history, long before man traded his horse in for an SUV, or his hand loom for a mechanical one.

Ultimately, global warming may not have actually promoted the rise of the Mongolian empire. While scientists contend that it did cause wetter weather, it is for historians to determine the degree to which weather and climate affected human events.

But if global warming was behind the rise of the Mongolian empire, it was surely natural, not man-made. Likewise, when alarmists claim that global warming will cause extreme weather, that may or may not be true. But in determining whether man is to be blamed or not, it is worth looking back to the Mongolians.

— Alec Torres is a William F. Buckley Fellow at the National Review Institute.

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Posted: March 12, 2014 Wednesday 04:00 AM