Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Lesson from the past for surviving climate change

E-Science News, via the University of Leicester: Research led by the University of Leicester suggests people today and in future generations should look to the past in order to mitigate the worst effects of climate change. The dangers of rising sea levels, crop failures and extreme weather were all faced by our ancestors who learnt to adapt and survive in the face of climate change.

Dr Jago Cooper, of the School of Archaeology and Ancient History at the University of Leicester, has been studying the archaeology of climate change in the Caribbean as part of a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship. The international study involves researchers from Britain, Cuba and Canada. Dr Cooper said: "Populations in the Caribbean, from 5000 BC to AD 1492, successfully lived through a 5 meter rise in relative sea levels, marked variation in annual rainfall and periodic intensification of hurricane activity.

"This research examines the archaeological lessons that can inform current responses to the impacts of climate change in the Caribbean. I have examined the relationship between long and short-term effects of climate change and past human engagement with the geographical, ecological and meteorological consequences. A key focus of the research has been to investigate past mitigation of the impacts of climate change through the analysis of changes in settlement structures, food procurement strategies and household architecture."

…Said Dr Cooper: "We have acquired archaeological information that has then been closely correlated in space and time with the long and short-term impacts of climate change. It has then been possible to evaluate the relative advantages and disadvantages of past cultural practices in the face of environmental change and establish lessons that will contribute to contemporary mitigation strategies."

Following the end of the last Ice Age, the people of the Caribbean have had to cope with a relative sea level rise of 5m over 5,000 years. Hurricanes led to storm surges that reached inland more than ever. Groundwater became contaminated with salt and the land was waterlogged. But the researchers found that far from abandoning life by the coast and moving further inland, people continued to live by the shore- and even built houses on stilts over a lagoon…..

In the aftermath of Hurricane Gustav, waters off the southern coast of Northern Cuba were significantly churned up by the 150mph winds and 30 foot swells. Photo by NASA

No comments: