Quote of the week: Genghis Khan should have driven a Prius

Ok that headline is not exactly what was said, but it is the flavor of the absurdity. The quote itself from the Carnegie Institution, distributed via  AAAS’s Eurekalert news service, is actually even more absurd.

Here’s the quote:

Genghis Khan and his Mongol hordes had an impact on the global carbon cycle as big as today’s annual demand for gasoline.

Given what happened on Eurekalert yesterday, I wonder about the veracity of this claim.

When Genghis Khan was alive (1162–1227), in this Wiki article it says he killed 40 million:

It has been estimated that his campaigns killed as many as 40 million people based on census data of the times.

Seems like a negative carbon footprint to me.

Here’s the graph of world population from the U.N. A true hockey stick:

It seems pretty much of a stretch to me to equate Genghis Khan’s 40 million low carbon footprint peasant deaths to todays automobile numbers:

year cars produced
in the world
2009 (projection) 51,971,328
2008 52,940,559
2007 54,920,317
2006 49,886,549
2005 46,862,978
2004 44,554,268
2003 41,968,666
2002 41,358,394
2001 39,825,888
2000 41,215,653
1999 39,759,847

That website goes on to say:

It is estimated that over 600,000,000 passenger cars travel the streets and roads of the world today.

600 million cars globally today -vs- 40 million people killed by Genghis Khan.

There’ been a lot of lecturing to us about the evils of the automobile. This website http://carsandpeople.sdsu.edu/ from San Diego State University Dr. Victor M. Ponce goes so far to calculate car to human equivalency:

In summary, in terms of energy consumption, one (1) car is equivalent to approximately 18 persons.

So…if one car = 18 people, then Genghis Khan killing 40 million people….

40 million Genghis Khan people divided by Ponce’s 18 people/car  figure = 2,222,222 Genghis Khan equivalency cars.

600,000,000 cars globally today / 2,222,222 Genghis Khan equivalency cars =  a difference factor of 270 by cars gasoline demand alone.

That’s hardly close to the equivalency of saying Genghis Khan and his Mongol hordes had an impact on the global carbon cycle as big as today’s annual demand for gasoline. And, we haven’t figured in trucks and motorcycles, and farm equipment, and a whole bunch of other gasoline consuming vehicles. Now maybe I’ve missed something in the reasoning behind the claim, but it sure seems way off to me. Beside the magnitude issue, there’s one of sign. It also doesn’t square with the fact that 40 million people removed by Genghis Kahn is a reduction in (negative) carbon footprint while 600 million automobiles are an increase (positive) carbon footprint.

Eh, but close enough for climate science publication news releases in Eurekalert. ;-)

And here is the Eurekalert web source for this Carnegie Institution Press release, reprinted in full below. The author put her email address and tel# in that press release, so apparently she wants to be contacted. Who am I to quibble?

Addendum: Perhaps she is not looking at people so much, but only at forests. But how would you know accurately how much forest had been burned/impacted then to include in a  model today? Historical records are mostly anecdotal. Even so I still think it’s a bit more sensational than need be.

Here’s the Black Death Blip:

===========================================================

Contact: Julia Pongratz
pongratz@carnegie.stanford.edu
650-919-4358
Carnegie Institution

War, plague no match for deforestation in driving CO2 buildup

Stanford, CA— Genghis Khan and his Mongol hordes had an impact on the global carbon cycle as big as today’s annual demand for gasoline. The Black Death, on the other hand, came and went too quickly for it to cause much of a blip in the global carbon budget. Dwarfing both of these events, however, has been the historical trend towards increasing deforestation, which over centuries has released vast amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, as crop and pasture lands expanded to feed growing human populations. Even Genghis Kahn couldn’t stop it for long.

“It’s a common misconception that the human impact on climate began with the large-scale burning of coal and oil in the industrial era,” says Julia Pongratz of the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology, lead author of a new study on the impact of historical events on global climate published in the January 20, 2011, online issue of The Holocene. “Actually, humans started to influence the environment thousands of years ago by changing the vegetation cover of the Earth’s landscapes when we cleared forests for agriculture.”

Clearing forests releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere when the trees and other vegetation are burned or when they decay. The rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide resulting from deforestation is recognizable in ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica before the fossil-fuel era.

But human history has had its ups and downs. During high-mortality events, such as wars and plagues, large areas of croplands and pastures have been abandoned and forests have re-grown, absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Pongratz decided to see how much effect these events could have had on the overall trend of rising carbon dioxide levels. Working with colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Germany and with global ecologist Ken Caldeira at Carnegie, she compiled a detailed reconstruction of global land cover over the time period from 800 AD to present and used a global climate-carbon cycle model to track the impact of land use changes on global climate. Pongratz was particularly interested in four major events in which large regions were depopulated: the Mongol invasions in Asia (1200-1380), the Black Death in Europe (1347-1400), the conquest of the Americas (1519-1700), and the Fall of the Ming Dynasty in China (1600-1650).

“We found that during the short events such as the Black Death and the Ming Dynasty collapse, the forest re-growth wasn’t enough to overcome the emissions from decaying material in the soil,” says Pongratz. “But during the longer-lasting ones like the Mongol invasion and the conquest of the Americas there was enough time for the forests to re-grow and absorb significant amounts of carbon.”

The global impact of forest re-growth in even the long-lasting events was diminished by the continued clearing of forests elsewhere in the world. But in the case of the Mongol invasions, which had the biggest impact of the four events studied, re-growth on depopulated lands stockpiled nearly 700 million tons of carbon absorbed from the atmosphere. This is equivalent to the world’s total annual demand for gasoline today.

Pongratz points out the relevance of the study to current climate issues. “Today about a quarter of the net primary production on the Earth’s land surface is used by humans in some way, mostly through agriculture,” she says. “So there is a large potential for our land-use choices to alter the global carbon cycle. In the past we have had a substantial impact on global climate and the carbon cycle, but it was all unintentional. Based on the knowledge we have gained from the past, we are now in a position to make land-use decisions that will diminish our impact on climate and the carbon cycle. We cannot ignore the knowledge we have gained.”

###

The Carnegie Institution for Science (carnegiescience.edu) is a private, nonprofit organization headquartered in Washington, D.C., with six research departments throughout the U.S. Since its founding in 1902, the Carnegie Institution has been a pioneering force in basic scientific research. Carnegie scientists are leaders in plant biology, developmental biology, astronomy, materials science, global ecology, and Earth and planetary science.

The Department of Global Ecology was established in 2002 to help build the scientific foundations for a sustainable future. The department is located on the campus of Stanford University but is an independent research organization funded by the Carnegie Institution. Its scientists conduct basic research on a wide range of large-scale environmental issues, including climate change, ocean acidification, biological invasions, and changes in biodiversity.

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86 thoughts on “Quote of the week: Genghis Khan should have driven a Prius

  1. This certainly fits well with the 10:10 crowd, “Genghis Khan, champion of environmentalism”. i.e. Kill people = Save the planet

  2. Next thing you know, they will be blaming the LIA on him…………………..

    oh wait, nevermind, first they would have to admit that there was a LIA

  3. This happy [snip] is what passes for political argument today. You’re worse than Genghis! Well, you’re worse than Adolf!

    [snip]

  4. These people have absolutley been sucking on too many automobile exhaust pipes. Maybe there’s a point, just before the unconscious state, at which they can still do math but have no grasp of the subject being measured.

  5. Gentlemen, I wouldn’t touch her with yours and make of that, which you will. The woman is stupid beyond redemption..

  6. “The Black Death, on the other hand, came and went too quickly for it to cause much of a blip in the global carbon budget. ”

    In other words, the Plague (which killed what, a third of the population?) and the deaths of 10 of millions were positive events. It takes a lot education to say something that stupid.

    Or put the cart before the horse. Agriculture expanded when the warmer weather permitted it, and contracted when it didn’t. Or did it become warm enough in Greenland to grow crops only because the Vikings colonized it and grew crops? And how exactly did their carbon footprint cause the LIA, which saw them abandon the colony?

    “We cannot ignore the knowledge we have gained”

    These findings were brought to you courtesy of an activist, not a scientist, see the previous posting on facts losing their truth.

  7. As I recall, the Black Death came in cycles – not just one manifestation. But, that aside, IIRC, it also killed approximately the same numbers as the Khan family in a shorter time period. Which would have caused a larger blip in the carbon cycle than the same amount of decaying “matter” spread over a 4X longer time period.

    Dunno who she is, but I don’t think much of her thought process.

  8. Whom the gods want to destroy they first make mad. I think it’s a chronic problem in the carbon footprint calculating business.

  9. Talk about dubious sources, the 40 million deaths is most likely cited from good old Wikipedia that uses a book called “Empire of Debt” by Bill Bonner, basically a mass newsletter marketer with no academic cred that I can find, and Addison Wiggin, his business partner, who has BA in English and French, and a MA in Philosophy. They in turn cite “1300 Chinese Census” which shows a decrease of 40 million from the last “estimate” after the completed invasion. Of course it is kind of hard to have a thorough census A. in 1300 B. After Mongul hoardes have displaced a good portion of your population and totally disrupted your government C. in a territory as large as China.

    I find it highly unlikely that a force of probably maximum of 250,000 foot soldiers (and small fraction of horsemen) with bows and spears could kill twice as many people as well over 5 million 20th Century Germans with bombers, panzers, artillery and MGs did in the USSR. Or nearly 4 million genocidal IJA soldiers did in a much more heavily populated China from 37-45.

    Seems their history research is as light and dubious as their scientific research.

  10. Are the authors of this paper saying that the pre-industrial levels of CO2 were too high? If so, what level are they saying is acceptable? And even if we accept that the pre-industrial level remained at 280 ppmv, there is clear evidence of both warm and cool periods over the past 2,000 years, so there must have been other more powerful influences on climate than CO2.

  11. Technically, it seems to me like farming has a larger negative impact on CO2 than a forest would.

    Sure, it takes a lot of CO2 to grow a forest… but once the trees reach a certain size, they really don’t get any bigger – and at that point, they balance out with the CO2 released by termites and decay of old wood and forest debris.

    If we really needed to reduce CO2, I’ve always thought the best approach would be to chop down trees, build buildings out of wood, then plant new trees, to repeat the cycle. I think in general, using lots of paper products (and specifically NOT recycling)… or farming a lot would also be good.

  12. Somehow, I have a bad feeling that we (taxpayers) paid for this.

    Descartes: “I think, therefore, I am”

    Universe: “So?”

  13. Excuse me, but I doubt there was any “Census” taken at that time in history. Furthermore, Genghis typically gave his targets the option of paying tribute, etc. or being part of the roadkill which was common in those days. When the Big G decided to eliminate opposition they killed everything within the circle they formed, even insects. Total obliteration.

    In any case, he was not the only wannabe world conqueror to make a name for himself. This kind of BS is pure fantasy. Methinks far too many “climate scientists” have been watching old “Conan the Barbarian” type movies.

  14. But he eliminated 40m people. How long did that set word population back? he eliminated 1/7th of the worlds population. If there was only some kind of calculus to determine the difference in area under the curve…

  15. This sort of goofy “research” (speculation) does the climate alarmist agenda no good at all. Makes them a laughingstock.

  16. Seems a bit of a chance she was the Director/Producer of Al Gores movie.

    My memory is not that good on movies. google the name

  17. The article compares more than a century of forest re-growth to a single year of gasoline use. The sign is not an issue–just the magnitude of the total effect. The article is not ridiculous.

    Of course, such studies require proxies, and the accuracy of them is always in doubt.

    And anything to do with carbon dioxide and human causation is full of so much emotion and desire to prove something as to cast great doubt upon ANYthing.

    REPLY: If the article said nothing about war and human disease, then I’d have only to quibble with the forest issue. Yes proxies, anecdotal history. It’s all estimates. And what’s the point of worrying about Genghis Kahn today? -A

  18. typo: is as it always has been

    REPLY:Helpful to know where? Body, a comment from you, another commenter?

  19. “The Black Death, on the other hand, came and went too quickly for it to cause much of a blip in the global carbon budget. ”

    This is a completely ridiculous comment and lack even a remote understanding of the kind of devastation the Black Death inflicted on Europe. The Black death of the 1340’s and its return in the decades following killed 50% of the population of Europe. Not only did the Black Death ravage Europe, but everwhere between Europe and China. The Black death started in China and moved its way gradually westward ravaging everywhere it went.

    If we look at Europe alone a 50% population decline would be on the order of 40 to 100 million deaths alone. Furthermore, these deaths were permanent! The population of Europe did not recover for centuries after the Black Death. Before the Black Death came along Europe had been experience higher population growth and a nice warm climate that helped to support said population growth. With the arrival of the Black Death vast tracks of land were abandoned by their dead owers and left to become reforested.

    The impact of the Black Death was brutal, devastating and had a lasting impact on European society, to suggest otherwise is wilful ignorance.

  20. You might get closer by projecting the lost percentage of population forward to today (it looks like 40M was about 10% then), and assuming that no other factor would have limited the population to its current level had the 40M survived. 10% of the current world population is about 670M people, which is about 37M car equivalents, off ‘only’ by factor of 16. I guess you could factor in a drop in agricultural and electrical needs too. That might get the error down to a factor of 10.

    As others have said, the ability of Genghis Khan to kill off 40M people, 10% of the world population at the time, also seem like a gross overestimate.

  21. The greatest deforestation that as happened in recent past is the last glacier period. The ice killed 70-100 trillion trees in the northern hemisphere. No CO2 was taken up. No O2 was produced.

    The loss of 25 million people from the Black Death during the LIA can hardly be counted as a “blip”.

    The number of trees is a rough estimate.

  22. Ghengis Khan’s legions burned cow and horse dung to heat their yurts. I hope this was taken into account in their calculations….

  23. Mark says:
    January 20, 2011 at 1:04 pm

    …Furthermore, these deaths were permanent!

    You imply the existence of temporary death, which means that I must insist you give me details on this zombie apocalypse you’ve discovered.

  24. a blip

    well here in good old blighty we still have villages that were abandoned during the Black Deaths – so that would be a ‘blip’ of just over 600 years then.

    The Black Deaths also caused a massive social upheaval; breaking down the remnants of the feudal system and empowering the workers for possibly the 1st time; Labour (unskilled; semi-skilled and skilled) was in short supply for the first time.

    Farming in the UK (and Europe) didn’t recover for decades; nor did the population; nor did the standard of living.

    Black Deaths – they came in waves..

    But watch out : the warming/change/challenge/??? meme is dead; look at the new meme : human FARMING adversely (?) affected the climate long before industrialization; therefore human CO2 must be responsible for all 33 deg C of unnatural CO2 caused warming that the earth suffers from; so it will not be sufficient just to stop industry; these buffoons are ready to move to the next stupid attempt….

    warm is good – cold is bad

  25. Jason,

    But he did it whilst riding horses, surely a more eco friendly means of transport than a Prius. It’s just that he had other issues:-)

  26. “”””” “We cannot ignore the knowledge we have gained” “””””

    But perish the thought that we should ever make use of that knowledge.

    Now old Genghis was a bit of a loser. It wasn’t untill Harry Truman demonstrated that he had a way to knock them down even faster than Genghis could set them up; that we really started to put our knowledge to good use.

    I suspect that virtually all of the seven billion people now infesting this planet, are actually living a damn side better than Ghenghis and his fellow horse jockeys did, back in those days; and much of that improvement in man’s lot, can be laid at the foot of the automobile.

    A famous Physicist who now seems to be quite unknown, once railed against NASA’s space program and its excesses. He commented that the rocket that launched men to the moon was just a worthless pile of scrap metal; and a total waste of valuable resources to build such a monstrosity. This was back in the days when Physicists of the unmentionable’s ilk, were trying to rip off the funds to build something they called the “Superconducting Super Collider”. Now how does that grab you for a really practical use for valuable resources. So who cares if there really is a Higgs Bozo ?

    So the “Moon Project” that Kennedy launched was supposed to take ten years, and cost 40 billion dollars. Seems to me that it only took about 8 years, and came in several billions of dollars under budget.

    And analysts have calculated, that the USA saved a lot more than that $40B in the next ten years; just by the reduced crop losses in the South Eastern United States; that resulted from improvements in longer range (1 week) weather forecasts; that resulted from the simple fact that the US program was a manned program, and it demanded around the clock, around the world global communications, and weather monitoring; because that was required to continuously monitor the well being of those astronauts. So NASA put up the necessary weather and communications satellites to close that loop.

    As for the money they did spend on that pile of scrap metal. That funded the development of all manner of technologies; exotic materials, Electronics; you name it; even how to eat or go pee out in space, Neil Armstrong and his buddies simply went along on a free ride just for the hell of it.

    Well yes we could have done it differently and spent the money to do the research in other ways. A nuclear war with the Russians would have done quite nicely to fund that sort of advanced technology research. So why did we waste it giving a joyride to a few hot rod jet pilots.

  27. Even worse, Genghis Khan and the horde no doubt plundered the treasuries of all their carbon credits, tipping the world into a catastrophic death spiral that now, after this hottest year, is only becoming absolutely undeniable.

    It has been said that court eunuch Gymgiss Khansen saw this future written in the ox entrails and tried to warn him. But no. And the rest is history.

  28. This is part of the warmists response to the rationalists who point out that the past included natural variations. They’re trying to co-opt the natural variation and take it out of the conversation. It’s ALL man’s fault All the time going back to the very beginning. It seems like they are trying to say that the world and the world’s climate was perfet until man came on the scene and started building fires for warmth.

  29. The central assumption is that CO2 is responsible for warming. Also remember that water is not classified as a greenhouse gas by the IPCC – only 100% as a “feedback” on CO2. Also, it isn’t clear that they have compensated for CO2 exchange with the oceans based on temperature (where the existence or not of things like the Medieval Warm Period, the Roman Warm Period, the LIA, etc can make a large difference in modeling). The US has experienced tremendous reforestation in the past century or so, while the population has grown tremendously as well, so another assumption in this study (that reforestation is inversely proportional to population change) is falsified. Etc.

  30. The 3 Kingdoms period in chinese history was probably bloodier then anything Genghis Khan did. Chinese historians usually start from AD184 which was the beginning of the end for the Han Dynasty.

    From Wikipedia

    “The Three Kingdoms period was one of the bloodiest in Chinese history.  A population census during the late Eastern Han Dynasty reported a population of approximately 50 million, while a population census during the early Western Jin Dynasty (after Jin re-unified China) reported a population of approximately 16 million.[2] However, the Jin dynasty’s census was far less complete than the Han census, so these figures are in question.”

    I have read the book written in about 1200AD on this period of Chinese history and it was pretty bloody. Allowing for the Jin census in 280AD missed say 5 million people – in this hundred year period there was a net loss of 30 million.

    Could you imagine the world and Chinese population could have been? I think CO2 would be the least of our problems.

  31. Actually there’s been a lot of reforestation in the past hundred years, although in North America a lot of the early 1900s timber was trees which were due to the preceding reforestation. Americans and Europeans were both burning a lot of land for various reasons. The Khan’s war was just another war…and the fact that his horses didn’t starve means they were able to remain on enough green land.

    Europeans used to know they were getting close to the New World due to all the smoke blowing over the Atlantic, because the natives and colonists were burning what was in their way.

  32. I think it is so noble of these population activists to start the ball rolling over population control by hanging themselves in a public arena. This will set a fine example to the rest of us prolific breeders by them putting their money where there mouth is (was)!

  33. Being out by a factor of 270 is pretty close for the Climate Change “industry”. They’re getting better…

  34. You’ve heard about Genghis Khan’s last words from his deathbed, said to his trusty 2IC when the 2IC asked if he he would do anything different if he had the chance for a do over?

    “yeah, next time no more Mr Nice Guy”

  35. Anthony, I think you have it backwards. The last biography I read of Ghengis Khan said that he has gotten a bad rap as a barbarian intent on destruction mainly because he wasn’t a western european therefore… The book said that he actually was a very good ruler, pushing good government administration, education, and science in the course of building the biggest empire perhaps ever known, then or after. He and his sons set up there capitol in Beijing and spread civilization. His administration would have encouraged agriculture. This would have resulted in a lot of deforestation as farming and ranching spread. Thus, he would have had a “negative” impact on climate. As if we can classify all changes as negative.

    In any case if they are claiming that Ghengis had as big a “negative” impact on the environment as we have with all our CO2, it is noticable that the world didn’t come to an end, all species didn’t die out, and people weren’t driven near to extinction. Doesn’t this imply that CAGW will also not be “Catastropic”. Hence the need for panic driven actions is eliminated.

  36. And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer.
    And when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, Come and see.
    And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword.
    And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand.
    And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine.
    And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see.
    And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.

  37. Don’t kid yourselves . . . the bad guys are only buying time . . . their robots are not perfected yet . . . . Slaves were “a version” of robotics. . . .

    How does that one go . . . What is a mindless slave? . . . . “Blindly” Obedient!

  38. thecomputerguy says:
    January 20, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    “If we really needed to reduce CO2, I’ve always thought the best approach would be to chop down trees, build buildings out of wood, then plant new trees, to repeat the cycle. I think in general, using lots of paper products (and specifically NOT recycling)… or farming a lot would also be good.”

    Damn right, Computerguy. CO2 fixation by crops such as corn and soybean is way faster than trees, but this tends to get back into the atmosphere again when we feed these to pigs and chickens (and then eat the pigs and chickens….).

    However, the US is actually in a net re-forestation phase for most of the past 50-100 years as a massive amount of re-forestation has taken place in both New England and the Pacific coast regions. I really need to find the paper that calculates this, but globally, we aren’t doing all that badly either – with a lot of temperate forests growing and rate of tropical forest loss declining. I would like to see how oil palm plantations are accounted for in this as well as a lot of the “old-growth” forest cut down for these plantations were probably CO2-neutral, whereas a decent oil palm plantation sucks up CO2 about as fast as corn and not all of it is returned to the atmosphere as quickly.

    We should start a campaign to use more wood for building – my wife’s family in Norway live in a house over 300 years old made with solid wood timbers. Can they claim carbon credits?

  39. The case of all scientific endeavour that is politically motivated is the creation of plausibly denialable propaganda. This is no exception and shows that truth should never get in the way of a good story. Alas for these people the target audience is getting smaller as the stories become taller. Thus their audience is rapidily being reduced to those with an incurable malaise, called terminal stupidity.

  40. Uhm the graph, but as far as I know the latest data says people have existed during some 400 000 years, which is about double than from a decade ago, so I humbly wonder what people existed 2-5 million years ago in the “Old Stone Age”?

  41. 40 Million people killed? Hell, that’s only a start. How about the indirect carbon savings on the children and subsequent generations that would have been born had those 40 Million not been killed. Imagine the forest that wasn’t chopped down because of the contribution this great warrior made to the environment.

    It’s really getting quite silly isn’t it.

    Seriously, Julia Pongratz’s article is poorly argued and is a waste of time which wouldn’t be an issue if this trifle was on her own time and was not supported financially by anyone else. The Carnegie Institution must have too much money.

    This world is becoming very strange.

  42. I guess that the point of this is that the ideal human population of the world is zero. That way no artificial CO2 would be released and the global temperature would be much colder, and as everyone knows plants including trees grow much better in cold climates with low Co2. ……….What ???? Oh they don’t????? are you sure????? really? oh never mind.

  43. Anthony says: “Addendum: Perhaps she is not looking at people so much, but only at forests. But how would you know accurately how much forest had been burned/impacted then to include in a model today? ”

    Perhaps? Did you actually read the article before condemning it?

    … used a global climate-carbon cycle model to track the impact of land use changes on global climate.

    The global impact of forest re-growth in even the long-lasting events was diminished by the continued clearing of forests elsewhere in the world. But in the case of the Mongol invasions, which had the biggest impact of the four events studied, re-growth on depopulated lands stockpiled nearly 700 million tons of carbon absorbed from the atmosphere.

    It is ALL about forests! Sure it is an estimate for land cover, but the two factors (long-term forest regrowth vs annual fuels burned by automobiles) are certainly the same order of magnitude. (And yes, the author clearly recognized that the signs were indeed the opposite, which also seems to have confused Anthony.)

    “Ok that headline is not exactly what was said … ” Apparently actually looking at what was said is not important.

    Eh, but close enough for climate science publication news releases in Eurekalert blog WUWT. ;-)

    REPLY: I don’t disagree that the whole article is confusing, but where do those estimates for the model input come from? As we’ve seen many times, models and reality vary, especially with time. The 700 million figure is supposedly a result of deaths of people, and those deaths resulted in less land use and regrowth. But how did they arrive at those figures? Anecdotal SWAG? Estimates of how much land the average peasant used?

    And it appears that the whole Genghis Kahn historical figures on plundering/death might be wrong, so where does that leave the study? From commenter “Pull My Finger” above:

    Talk about dubious sources, the 40 million deaths is most likely cited from good old Wikipedia that uses a book called “Empire of Debt” by Bill Bonner, basically a mass newsletter marketer with no academic cred that I can find, and Addison Wiggin, his business partner, who has BA in English and French, and a MA in Philosophy. They in turn cite “1300 Chinese Census” which shows a decrease of 40 million from the last “estimate” after the completed invasion. Of course it is kind of hard to have a thorough census A. in 1300 B. After Mongul hoardes have displaced a good portion of your population and totally disrupted your government C. in a territory as large as China.

    I find it highly unlikely that a force of probably maximum of 250,000 foot soldiers (and small fraction of horsemen) with bows and spears could kill twice as many people as well over 5 million 20th Century Germans with bombers, panzers, artillery and MGs did in the USSR. Or nearly 4 million genocidal IJA soldiers did in a much more heavily populated China from 37-45.

    Seems their history research is as light and dubious as their scientific research.

    So if the death figures are inflated, it would seem the human impact changes then would be way off. And what’s the point of the Kahn comparison in the first place? How does model with anecdotal input this help us today? IMHO the whole premise of the study is flawed. – Anthony

  44. “Based on the knowledge we have gained from the past, we are now in a position to make land-use decisions that will diminish our impact on climate and the carbon cycle. We cannot ignore the knowledge we have gained.”

    Lest you thought that all they were after was your gasoline, heating oil, and electricity, rest assured that the ever expanding arguments like this one will subject every aspect of your life to the meddling of the under-occupied and over-interested, conveniently justified by the need to prevent ‘climate change’.

    We are now in a position to make land use decisions based on climate, even though we do not yet have a closed carbon budget, and cannot even begin to say to where it is that 50% of our estimated current carbon emissions dissappear? Uh-huh.

    This sort of gross overstatement of our level of knowledge and our certainty of the particulars of that knowledge is the stuff of lifestyle politics masquerading in lab coats. It aint science.

  45. Madman2001 says:
    January 20, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    This sort of goofy “research” (speculation) does the climate alarmist agenda no good at all. Makes them a laughingstock.

    Imo, they’re appealing to their same kind, those still stuck as a group in a child like Fantasyland, but a lot less real than “Dora the Explorer”, where magical relations between overdone concoctions make sense once someone says so. Once one of the “annointed ones” told me the latest theory on schizophrenia was that those suffering from it are the way they are probably because they can only understand a long lost primal language, which “scientists” were searching for. So I asked her to please let me know when the schizophrenics stop hallucinating about God speaking to them, and even in words they understand, and so on. End of discussion.

    So 600 million cars x 18 people/car = 10.8 billion people must be eliminated immediately “before it’s too late”, or else we’re all gonna die – compared to Ghengis Kahn’s paltry 40 million? No wonder we’re still here! But back in his day, a person’s worth of carbon credits probably bought a lot more than it does today. And Ghengis did in fact kill off enough cars prophylactically to at least delay their presence on the scene.

  46. mkelly: Ok But how did you make that rough estimate? For a long time as I drive around I notice how many trees there are, I think there are far far more trees than most people realize. Most people, me included only see the trees that can easily be seen from the road or near houses, there a lot more trees than that. But even at that there tree are generally growing close together it is amazing how many there are. I have wondered how to estimate how many trees there are.

  47. “Genghis Khan and his Mongol hordes had an impact on the global carbon cycle as big as today’s annual demand for gasoline.”

    “But in the case of the Mongol invasions, which had the biggest impact of the four events studied, re-growth on depopulated lands stockpiled nearly 700 million tons of carbon absorbed from the atmosphere. This is equivalent to the world’s total annual demand for gasoline today.”
    ================
    Both of the above quotes from the article say: “annual demand for gasoline”
    What does “annual demand for gasoline” mean.
    It is “equivalent” how???
    Just gasoline???

    Ah, well.
    I certainly wouldn’t know, but I’ve heard it’s “publish or perish”.

  48. Looks like the “Rapid Response Team” needs to add another one to their “To Do” list.

    Peter? Scott?

  49. I see two different spellings of the “gentleman’s” name throughout the post: Kahn and Khan. Unless you’re suggesting that he belonged to one of the lost tribes, I would use the latter spelling: Khan.

    REPLY
    : typos fixed thanks

  50. I imagine scientist back in around 1050 would have plotted a graph using just those 30-40 years to show thet the world’s population was headed to zero within 200 years.

  51. So, we can’t grow crops, ‘cos that put up CO2 (?); and I assume we can’t keep cows or sheep, ‘cos they belch and fart GHGs. But we can grow trees, ‘cos that’s the best for the world.

    So what are we supposed to eat – wood and bark with a tender leaf garnish?

    Where on earth do these people come from?

  52. How truly it is written: Quem deus vult perdere dementat Prius. (“Whom the gods wish to destroy is nuts about the Prius.”)

    Julia Pongratz is right, though. The earth’s forests were virgin and pristine until Genghis Khan invented the forest fire in 1180 AD. (That was subsequent to his invention of lightning, at about the same time.)

  53. Hi Anthony and All,

    While others have mentioned a number of problems with the researcher’s arguements and position, one absolutely HUH-UGE one seems missing — IIRC, according to the ‘true believers,’ CO2 levels have been virtually constant and unchanged for, what’s the claim? a few million years until we came along pumping massive amounts into the atmo over the past 50 years or so, right?

    So….. where’s the vostock or other proxie evidence of CO2 level increase/decrease that corresponds to the supposed impacts of Khan, Black Death, etc., referred to by this research?

    A second but more minor issue – using the quoted timeframes: the Mongol invasions in Asia (1200-1380), and the Black Death in Europe (1347-1400), how does the researcher possibly figure that losing 1/4 to 1/3rd of the entire world population to the black death over 53 years somehow have less impact than losing fewer people over 180 years? Seems to me that the sudden loss of as many (or more likely far more) people would result in far less agriculture & more re-forestation of the 180 year time frame of the Khan losses.

    Regardless, this paper is yet one more example of the gross and rampant speculation and flawed logic throughout far far too much of what passes for ‘science’ and ‘research’ these days. The implications for our state of knowledge and future is really rather frightening.

  54. I think Genghis Khan would actually have chosen a Humvee, with various weapons and spikes attached so that looks like something from a Mad Max film.

  55. We have always had an impact on our environment!
    Just as Tigers and Elephants have an impact on their environments.
    Only difference is we’re stupid enough to think it makes a real difference!

    DaveE.

  56. Hold it. Pull My Finger does not appear to know much about the Mongols if he is stating that the Mongol forces were mainly “foot soldiers”. The Mongol horde was almost exclusively mounted archers. The exception is that after Chingis Khan conquered Khwarizm, the Mongol engineering corps adopted artillery–trebuchets and ballistae. In battle Mongol artillery shooting containers filled with burning tar, naptha or quicklime supplemented the arrows of the cavalry.

    As to the 40 million figure–consider that Chingis Khan’s first move against the West, the conquest of Muhammed Ali Shah’s empire, culminated in the conquest of Samarkand. Four-fifths of Samarkand’s 500,000 inhabitants were massacred. Samarkand had expected to hold out for more than a year; instead it fell in 5 days. 40 million is quite believable.

    Primary source: James Chambers, The Devil’s Horsemen: The Mongol Invasion of Europe.

  57. I get a stupid kick out of publicly funded, expensive studies, that strain to find ancient relationships to man and climate that go back a thousand, or five thousand years. What a joke! Are all these people mad or are they just uneducated?

    This planet’s current climate history extends back over 2 million years. I say current because we have been in an ice age since about that time. We can argue the reasons, but not the pattern. One hundred thousand years of great mountains of ice, then 15 – 20,000 years warmth with higher ocean levels. It is established, and recognized in science and it has nothing to do with man. There are a number of publications at the National Academy Of Science Press ( Climate Crash and Abrupt Climate Change as examples) that lay it out pretty clearly. A 1,000 or 5,000 year history of anything has no meaning, and makes no difference, it is lost in the noise. We successfully populated coastal settlements about 7,000 years ago when sea level stabilized. We haven’t lost new urbanic civilizations since then and we aren’t now.

    Why do these people believe such absurd stuff? Aren’t educators educating? Or are they too on this gravy train and can’t afford to speak truthfully.

    Who are more uneducated? The people who produce this crap, or the people who fund it. Certainly, the people who believe it are the victims, as are we all.

    Again, what a joke. So $500,000 down the drain for dribble?

  58. Dear Anthony,

    You know I respect and admire you, but you’ve got the gist of this one wrong. The theory proposed here is that human impacts on the historical environment included continental-scale landscape burning. That is, anthropogenic fire drove a significant percentage of the terrestrial carbon cycle. When massive hemoclysms (human population crashes) occurred in history, the sudden dehumanization of landscapes eliminated, for a time, anthropogenic fire. During those hiatuses, plants continued to grow and carbon fixation continued apace, but CO2 emissions declined because people weren’t burning off the land so frequently or so broadly.

    For a more complete study (not just a blurb in news wire) see

    Robert A. Dull, Richard J. Nevle, William I. Woods, Dennis K. Bird, Shiri Avnery, and William M. Denevan. 2010. The Columbian Encounter and the Little Ice Age: Abrupt Land Use Change, Fire, and Greenhouse Forcing. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 100(4) 2010, pp. 1–17.

    http://westinstenv.org/histwl/2010/11/22/the-columbian-encounter-and-the-little-ice-age-abrupt-land-use-change-fire-and-greenhouse-forcing/

    Abstract

    Pre-Columbian farmers of the Neotropical lowlands numbered an estimated 25 million by 1492, with at least 80 percent living within forest biomes. It is now well established that significant areas of Neotropical forests were cleared and burned to facilitate agricultural activities before the arrival of Europeans. Paleoecological and archaeological evidence shows that demographic pressure on forest resources—facilitated by anthropogenic burning—increased steadily throughout the Late Holocene, peaking when Europeans arrived in the late fifteenth century. The introduction of Old World diseases led to recurrent epidemics and resulted in an unprecedented population crash throughout the Neotropics. The rapid demographic collapse was mostly complete by 1650, by which time it is estimated that about 95 percent of all indigenous inhabitants of the region had perished. We review fire history records from throughout the Neotropical lowlands and report new high-resolution charcoal records and demographic estimates that together support the idea that the Neotropical lowlands went from being a net source of CO2 to the atmosphere before Columbus to a net carbon sink for several centuries following the Columbian encounter. We argue that the regrowth of Neotropical forests following the Columbian encounter led to terrestrial biospheric carbon sequestration on the order of 2 to 5 Pg C, thereby contributing to the well-documented decrease in atmospheric CO2 recorded in Antarctic ice cores from about 1500 through 1750, a trend previously attributed exclusively to decreases in solar irradiance and an increase in global volcanic activity. We conclude that the post-Columbian carbon sequestration event was a significant forcing mechanism.

    There are three parts to this hypothesis. First, that historically human beings had a significant impact on the carbon cycle. Second, that a massive and rapid population crash occurred in the post-Columbian Americas. Third, that the subsequent alteration of the carbon cycle (to increased fixation, decreased emissions) affected global climate.

    The first two parts are cutting edge new findings in anthropology, landscape geography, and historical ecology. The evidence is strong, as are the inferences. The third part is based on GCMs, and may be weak. In the case of this article, the authors are not climatologists at all, but are excellent (indeed leading) anthropologists and landscape geographers.

    It is important not to conflate the parts. Just because part 3 is weak, it does not mean the other two parts are equally weak.

  59. GK killed 40million people based on census data of the time? They did no census back then. This was started in the 19th cent UK, I think. So this grand figure was based on some guess by a frantic grant seeking student. About the same as all the other claims by the alarmists.

  60. Who wrote the Carnegie Institution quote: M. Night Shyamalan? It’s got everything a film trailer needs. Implied violence, mild peril, a lesson from history transposed to our time, the mental image of the Mongol hordes sweeping all from their path, that irritating wailing music that has to be in all historical films these days and just enough information to get the reader interested without giving away the ending.

    “Genghis Khan and his Mongol hordes had an impact on the global carbon cycle as big as today’s annual demand for gasoline.” …

    In the opposite direction.

    If only Don LaFontaine were still here to give it an appropriate measure of gravitas.

  61. Gengis had nothing on Curtis Lemay.

    Now, THERE was a climate changer.

    Not enough carbon credits on earth to
    offset Curtis.

  62. I wonder if the author included the progeny of those 40 million people killed by GK? bY EYE, IT LOOKS LIKE THERE WERE AROUND 250 MILLION AROUND HIS TIME, SO ONE MIGHT ARGUE THAT 40m/250m*7

  63. Sorry, fat fingers. Still, if one includes the potential progeny, this could be a much more plausible statement.

  64. TOM T says:
    January 20, 2011 at 3:15 pm
    mkelly: Ok But how did you make that rough estimate? For a long time as I drive around I notice how many trees there are, I think there are far far more trees than most people realize. Most people, me included only see the trees that can easily be seen from the road or near houses, there a lot more trees than that. But even at that there tree are generally growing close together it is amazing how many there are. I have wondered how to estimate how many trees there are.

    Living in the UP of Michigan I am blest with an abundance of trees (forests) of various kinds. I own a plot of land on which I can count the trees and do some small maths to achieve an estimate of what could be true based on land covered by the glaciers. Or as many alarmists do I can make up numbers that sound good and scary. I did the latter on this, but I think I may not be too far off.

    If deforestation is an impact then the largest deforestation is during ice ages. All tress north of southern Michigan (in the Americas) lost to ice. CO2 should have gone up not down (trees vs oceans). O2 would gone down for lack of production. I think the ice age impact on CO2 has not been fully looked into.

  65. Yes , you’re missing something. Read more carefully:

    ” But in the case of the Mongol invasions, which had the biggest impact of the four events studied, re-growth on depopulated lands stockpiled nearly 700 million tons of carbon absorbed from the atmosphere. This is equivalent to the world’s total annual demand for gasoline today.”

    ie the TOTAL impact of GK was equivalent to ONE YEAR’s gasoline.

    Please pay attention at the back ;)

  66. My God, she just gave a reasonable argument for waging war. Carbon credits.

    Interesting angle but I reckon if DOD had to buy indulgences to offset the carbon footprint of a 500lb bomb and the kerosene needed for a fighter-bomber to deliver it they would not be ahead on the carbon credits they’d get for killing a few Afghan villagers.

    Mind you, if nuclear power is the new “clean and green” solution to our energy needs, maybe similar arguments could be used to prove nuclear weapons are environmentally friendly as well. Conventional warfare is very “polluting” compared to a nice clean nuclear strike.

  67. John Marshall says:
    January 21, 2011 at 2:00 am

    GK killed 40million people . . . . . ??? Are you sure it was GK?

    “The Spanish priest Bartolomé de Las Casas (who was living in the Dominican Republic at the time) wrote in his 1561 multivolume History of the Indies:[28]

    There were 60,000 people living on this island [when I arrived in 1508], including the Indians; so that from 1494 to 1508, over three million people had perished from war, slavery and the mines. Who in future generations will believe this?”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ta%C3%ADno_people#Population_decline

    and there is this . . . I admit I don’t VET . . . for credibility.

    A History of Biological Warfare from 300 B.C.E. to the Present

    http://www.aarc.org/resources/biological/history.asp

    Yes . . . I am one cynical puppy . . .

  68. My authority on Ghengis Khan, and by implication the “annointed”* Climate Scientists and all their merry Totalitarians, is Bob Dylan: bottom line, “You ain’t going nowhere.”

    *Thomas Sowell via Jo Nova

  69. RoHa says:
    January 20, 2011 at 6:24 pm

    I think Genghis Khan would actually have chosen a Humvee, with various weapons and spikes attached so that looks like something from a Mad Max film.

    While wearing an outfit like Lord “The Ayatollah of Rock and Rolla” Humongous :)

  70. OK, this fits in with the nearly-insane discipline of geoengineering, albeit unintentionally (or maybe not).

    Kill enough people and you can impact the “carbon threat” (aka CO2).

    Maybe not ours but some generation in the near future will be forced to deal with these nutcase CAGW Gaians and geoengineers and their thinly-veiled rationales to depopulate the planet in the name of “carbon.”

  71. The idea that, in his 21 year rule, Genghis Khan and his minions killed 40 million people is ridiculous. That would be 2 million a year or 38000 a week, using swords and lances. No explosives , automatic weapons or biological weapons. It just couldn’t be done. The idea that it affected the atmosphere is just as idiotic. The atmosphere goes its own way, effectively ignoring our input.

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