It was the Romans who cooked the planet….

As regular readers will know, this blog does not often delve into the science of climate change. However, I have picked up on some news that is floating around the blogosphere which is discussing perhaps one of the most silly pieces of ‘science’ that I have yet seen. Apparently us nasty humans have been wrecking the planet since Roman times, and the medieval warm period was apparently down to us too….

The full story can be found here, and there is a critical evaluation here. This new addition to the ‘evidence’ was reported on ABC news:

A period covering the heyday of both the Roman Empire and China’s Han dynasty saw a big rise in greenhouse gases, according to a new study.

The finding challenges the view that human-made climate change only began around 1800.

A record of the atmosphere trapped in Greenland’s ice found the level of heat-trapping methane rose about 2000 years ago and stayed at that higher level for about two centuries.

Methane was probably released during deforestation to clear land for farming and from the use of charcoal as fuel, for instance to smelt metal to make weapons, says lead author Celia Sapart of Utrecht University in the Netherlands.

“Per capita they were already emitting quite a lot in the Roman Empire and Han Dynasty,” she says of the findings by an international team of scientists published today in the journal Nature.

As others have pointed out, never mind that the populations of the even the Han and Roman empires were miniscule by comparison with modernity (which they admit, but note the point about per capita in the story), they were guilty too.  I mention this news because it is so utterly silly, that it is indicative of desperation. When human wickedness to the planet is back-dated to the Roman and Han empires, you know that the activist scientists are metaphorically not just scraping the bottom of the barrel, but that there is very little barrel left.

However, in some respects, the response that examines the ‘science’ is giving too much dignity to the paper and may be a strategic error. The ABC report is classic alarmist reporting,  and the paper has the potential for wider reporting by alarmist media but……it might have been better to leave this paper alone, and let it ‘travel’. By this, I mean let it have some space to gain traction. It is quite simply so silly, it does not really need the forensic examination that has been so effective in the past. Or at least not yet.

When people read that the Romans and Han dynasty started to ‘cook’ the planet, the less interested observer of the climate debates would surely just go ‘Huh???? What, no SUVs, no coal power stations, no major industry and they were STILL starting to cook the planet???’

I am being a little flippant here to make the point, but I hope that I do make the point. The paper and reporting of the paper can only serve to raise further questions in the minds of people who already have doubts, but do not have the time or inclination to delve into the forensic examinations of  alarmist positions. People are not stupid. The silliness of the ABC report would make most people do a metaphoric double take. That in turn might prod them enough to look at the rest of the ‘science’ of alarmist positions.

That is no bad thing.
Note: None of the use of terms such as ‘alarmist’ is applied to the many honest scientists who might agree with the AGW thesis, but who continue to examine the science of the climate, and their area of that science, as objectively as possible. Here I refer to the scientists who accept uncertainty/doubt and seek to honestly find the truth.


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