The past gives an insight into our climate future

WE tend to look to computer predictions for our climate prospects but should we look more at history?

In 1315 the heavy rains started soon after Easter and continued through September. In 1316 they started at planting time.

The sodden years continued until 1321 and marked the start of what has become known as the Little Ice Age, which was actually a zig zag of climatic shifts.

Efforts were worsened at intervals by volcanic events, the worst of which were the poisonous smogs from Laki in 1783 and the ‘year without a summer’ from Tambora in 1815.

Danish research has suggested a cycle of about 260 years of wet/cold, warm/dry shifts.

The warm 20th century was not really a climatic norm and that warming has not continued for the last 17 years (although the carbon levels blamed for it have continued to rise). What we are seeing now is actually much more related to what preceded the Little Ice Age than a warm period.

History also tells us the effects of climate on peoples and how they survived.

The oldest solution was, of course, to up and move. This was only possible when the world was a much emptier place, but the main and most urgent casualty of sudden climate change is FOOD.

Growing populations from the good times need more food in the bad times, but food comes from the land, and if the population spread has been outward over growing land, rather than into urban centres, then available land becomes smaller as populations become larger.

Our land is not a matter of decorative ‘environment’ it is a matter of our future.

Modern building sprawl is insane and unsustainable.

Food does not come from supermarkets, it comes from good land and good, adaptable farming practices. One of nature’s other great lessons is that when man overloads his environment, nature deals with the problem as it would with any other species. It cuts down the numbers. And the most usual way is by famine.

So should our main priority now be to save our growing land? If housing is absolutely necessary should it be allowed on only the poorest growing land and on already spoiled land (whatever the cost of clean-up)?

Land = food. No land = no food. Climatic shifts require food reserves for the bad years. So where will our food come from in the future?

How late is too late?

Margaret J Reichlin, MacCullum Road, Upper Enham.

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