New Evidence Suggests Ancient Egypt Was Brought Down by Volcanoes and Climate Change
Ancient Egypt is often described as an exotic place—pyramids, hieroglyphics, lavishly worshipped kings and queens.
But in many ways, it has a lot of parallels to modern life. It was an economically diverse, culturally vibrant and unequal place.
The millenniums-old society also struggled with a phenomenon that people today know all too well: climate change. And it may have ultimately led to the civilization's demise, according to a new paper by a team of researchers at Yale University.
The team of researchers studied the tail-end of ancient Egypt during the Ptolemaic dynasty between 305-30 BCE.
Their research shows how climate change can stress a society, causing a chain reaction of drought, famine, instability and conflict, and it provides useful lessons for the urgency of acting to avert such developments today.
Ancient Egypt was dependent on floodwaters from the Nile River to irrigate crops that could feed society, the report explains. When the region faced drought, crop yields would plummet and cause widespread unrest.
The researchers were able to determine that the worst of these droughts were caused by volcanic eruptions, which released sulfurous gases into the atmosphere, altering precipitation patterns and disrupting seasonal monsoons.
Because this period of ancient Egypt was well-documented, the researchers were able to correspondingly chart volcanic eruptions with periods of conflict.
"In years influenced by volcanic eruptions, Nile flooding was generally diminished, leading to social stress that could trigger unrest and have other political and economic consequences,"Joseph Manning, a professor at Yale and lead author on the paper, said in a press release.
This dynamic mirrors on a local level what's happening on a global level today. More than 70 percent of the world's population is dependent on consistent monsoon seasons, according to the researchers, and the accumulation of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere is destabilizing precipitation patterns, putting the livelihoods of billions of people at risk.
As critical resources are compromised through drought, heatwaves, extreme weather and other factors, military experts fear that the ensuing instability could cause conflict.
The example of ancient Egypt provides a sobering example that such conflict is possible.
The U.S. Department of Defense refers to climate change as a "threat multiplier," meaning that it can put pressure on existing societal tensions, accelerating the likelihood of conflict.
That's basically what happened in ancient Egypt, argue the researchers.
"Diminished Nile flooding acted to trigger revolts and constrain Ptolemaic war making ... explaining that the shocks from poor Nile flooding would have occurred against a background of multiple socioeconomic and political difficulties that would have compounded the impacts of Nile variability," the press release states.
There's one key difference between now and then, however. The climate change faced by ancient Egypt was caused by volcanic eruptions. Today's climate change is driven by human activities that release greenhouse gas emissions.
And the world's current predicament would be worsened by another large-scale volcanic eruption—which the team at Yale says we're long overdue for.
"Sooner or later we will experience a large volcanic eruption, and perhaps a cluster of them, that will act to exacerbate drought in sensitive parts of the world," said Manning.
Global Citizen campaigns on the Global Goals, which call for strong climate action. You can take action on this issue here.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Global Citizen.
- Redwoods are the world's tallest trees.
- Now scientists have discovered they are even bigger than we thought.
- Using laser technology they map the 80-meter giants.
- Trees are a key plank in the fight against climate change.
They are among the largest trees in the world, descendants of forests where dinosaurs roamed.
Pixabay / Simi Luft<p><span>Until recently, measuring these trees meant scaling their 80 meter high trunks with a tape measure. Now, a team of scientists from University College London and the University of Maryland uses advanced laser scanning, to create 3D maps and calculate the total mass.</span></p><p>The results are striking: suggesting the trees <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">may be as much as 30% larger than earlier measurements suggested.</a> Part of that could be due to the additional trunks the Redwoods can grow as they age, <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a process known as reiteration</a>.</p>
New 3D measurements of large redwood trees for biomass and structure. Nature / UCL<p>Measuring the trees more accurately is important because carbon capture will probably play a key role in the battle against climate change. Forest <a href="https://www.wri.org/blog/2020/09/carbon-sequestration-natural-forest-regrowth" target="_blank">growth could absorb billions of tons</a> of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year.</p><p>"The importance of big trees is widely-recognised in terms of carbon storage, demographics and impact on their surrounding ecosystems," the authors wrote<a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank"> in the journal Nature</a>. "Unfortunately the importance of big trees is in direct proportion to the difficulty of measuring them."</p><p>Redwoods are so long lived because of their ability to <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cope with climate change, resist disease and even survive fire damage</a>, the scientists say. Almost a fifth of their volume may be bark, which helps protect them.</p>
Carbon Capture Champions<p><span>Earlier research by scientists at Humboldt University and the University of Washington found that </span><a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378112716302584" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Redwood forests store almost 2,600 tonnes of carbon per hectare</a><span>, their bark alone containing more carbon than any other neighboring species.</span></p><p>While the importance of trees in fighting climate change is widely accepted, not all species enjoy the same protection as California's coastal Redwoods. In 2019 the world lost the equivalent of <a href="https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/deforestation-and-forest-degradation" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">30 soccer fields of forest cover every minute</a>, due to agricultural expansion, logging and fires, according to The Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF).</p>
Pixabay<p>Although <a href="https://c402277.ssl.cf1.rackcdn.com/publications/1420/files/original/Deforestation_fronts_-_drivers_and_responses_in_a_changing_world_-_full_report_%281%29.pdf?1610810475" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the rate of loss is reported to have slowed in recent years</a>, reforesting the world to help stem climate change is a massive task.</p><p><span>That's why the World Economic Forum launched the Trillion Trees Challenge (</span><a href="https://www.1t.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">1t.org</a><span>) and is engaging organizations and individuals across the globe through its </span><a href="https://uplink.weforum.org/uplink/s/uplink-issue/a002o00000vOf09AAC/trillion-trees" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Uplink innovation crowdsourcing platform</a><span> to support the project.</span></p><p>That's backed up by research led by ETH Zurich/Crowther Lab showing there's potential to restore tree coverage across 2.2 billion acres of degraded land.</p><p>"Forests are critical to the health of the planet," according to <a href="https://www.1t.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">1t.org</a>. "They sequester carbon, regulate global temperatures and freshwater flows, recharge groundwater, anchor fertile soil and act as flood barriers."</p><p><em data-redactor-tag="em" data-verified="redactor">Reposted with permission from the </em><span><em data-redactor-tag="em" data-verified="redactor"><a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/03/redwoods-store-more-co2-and-are-more-enormous-than-we-thought/" target="_blank">World Economic Forum</a>.</em></span></p>
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