Two Millennia of Environmental-Disaster-Induced Wars in China
Zhang, Z., Tian, H., Cazelles, B., Kausrud, K.L., Brauning, A. Guo, F. and Stenseth, N.C. 2010. Periodic climate cooling enhanced natural disasters and wars in China during AD 10-1900. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 277: 10.1098/rspb.2010.0890.
In a study designed to further explore the subject, Zhang et al. employed "historical data on war frequency, drought frequency and flood frequency," all of which were compiled by Chen (1939), as well as "a multi-proxy temperature reconstruction for the whole of China reported by Yang et al. (2002), air temperature data for the Northern Hemisphere (Mann and Jones, 2003), proxy temperature data for Beijing (Tan et al., 2003), and a historical locust dataset reported by Stige et al. (2007)," plus "historical data of rice price variations reported by Peng (2007)."
In analyzing the linkages they found to exist among these different factors, the international (Chinese, French, German, Norwegian) team of researchers concluded that "food production during the last two millennia has been more unstable during cooler periods, resulting in more social conflicts," while specifically noting that "cooling shows direct positive association with the frequency of external aggression war to the Chinese dynasties mostly from the northern pastoral nomadic societies, and indirect positive association with the frequency of internal war within the Chinese dynasties through drought and locust plagues," which have typically been more pronounced during cooler as opposed to warmer times.
Given such findings, Zhang et al. conclude "it is very probable that cool temperature may be the driving force in causing high frequencies of meteorological, agricultural disasters and then man-made disasters (wars) in ancient China," noting that "cool temperature could not only reduce agricultural and livestock production directly, but also reduce agricultural production by producing more droughts, floods and locust plagues," while stating that the subsequent "collapses of agricultural and livestock production would cause wars within or among different societies." Consequently, although noting that "it is generally believed that global warming is a threat to human societies in many ways (IPCC, 2007)," Zhang et al. come to a somewhat different conclusion, stating that some countries or regions might actually "benefit from increasing temperatures," citing the work of Nemani et al. (2003), Stige et al. (2007) and Zhang et al. (2009), while restating the fact that "during the last two millennia, food production in ancient China was more stable during warm periods owing to fewer agricultural disasters, resulting in fewer social conflicts."
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