Medieval Climate Change

I caught this new “medieval”-ism over at the conservative website, The Canada Free Press.

“Medieval environmentalists” attack CO2 in their efforts to derail civilization

The quote in the headline is explained in this snippet:

Nigel Calder, former Editor of New Scientist magazine, refers to much of today’s global warming, anti-CO2 movement as “Medieval environmentalism”. Such alarmists, Calder explains in the film The Great Global Warming Swindle, embrace climate change dogma, saying to themselves, “Let’s get back to the way things were in Medieval times and get rid of all these dreadful cars and machines.” Calder says that for extremists, CO2 is “an emblem of industrialization”, something they oppose with a passion.

I think this shows a subtle development in the rhetoric of the climate change war. Usually, when the word “medieval” is invoked in a global warming debate, it’s followed by “warm period.” In fact, Nigel Calder is very fond of pointing to the Medieval Warm Period as evidence that humans are having little effect on the climate. The argument goes like this:

Premise 1) It was warm in the Middle Ages.
Premise 2) So warm that they were able to grow wine grapes in southern Britain.
Premise 3) No, really. Grapes. Can you imagine that?
Premise 4) Yeah, the kind you make wine out of.
Preimise 5) There was no CO2 being added to the atmosphere by industrialization in the middle ages.
Premise 6) But there were grapes. Lots and lots of grapes. Of the wine-making variety.
Premise 7) No, I don’t know what type of wine. Maybe a chianti. That’s a type of wine, right?
QED: Humans aren’t causing global warming.

I’ve been accused in the past of making things up for comedic effect,* but do not be so quick to accuse here. Grapes are a vital part of the argument against human-influenced climate change. If you google ‘grapes in britain,’ four of the first five hits are links to climate change discussions invoking the Medieval Warm Period. I know this, because when I’m googling for odd uses of the word medieval, I almost inevitably get back links for press-releases from the Orwellianly-named, whose mission statement is:

“to document the magnitude and spatial and temporal extent of a significant period of warmth that occurred approximately one thousand years ago. Its goal is: to ultimately provide sufficient real-world evidence to convince most rational people that the Medieval Warm Period was: (1) global in extent, (2) at least as warm as, but likely even warmer than, the Current Warm Period, (3) of a duration significantly longer than that of the Current Warm Period to date, and (4) full of delicious, delicious grapes.”**

So you heard it here first. If you’re a climate change opponent, medieval grapes are out; medieval environmentalists are in. Adjust your strawmen appropriately.

*That accusation? Made up for comedic effect.
**Go ahead, accuse all you want. You can’t stop me. I’m out of control.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • greg

    wow i don’t believe you’re totally right, i mean the pollution has increased hugely and also it was considered a phenomenon also weather can change very suddenly, Im sure you would know that, be it a long time or short.

  • Michael

    Nigel Calder…or Niles Caulder?

    Perhaps this is merely a hilarious attack by the Brotherhood of Dada.

  • pilgrimchick

    I had no idea about the grapes. I had heard about the potential existence of a “mini ice age” sometime in the late Middle Ages, though.

    At least if they use “medieval” as an adjective, you hope they spell it right.

  • Sharon

    Um, there are still a number of vineyards in southern Britain. (The only one I ever tasted was Not Good, but they exist.) There are a handful as far north as Yorkshire and Lancashire.

  • LLCoolCarlIII

    The quality of the current British grapes is itself used as evidence that the warming now is not as substantial as it was during the MWP. Just wait a few years, and mother nature (but definitely not humans) will make it so that British wine is as good as it was during the Middle Ages, or so the argument goes.

  • Mr. Right

    Whoever you are, this is a completely innacurate reading of both modern and mideaval climates. The climate did in fact raise around 10 degrees in 1150 in Northern Europe, which caused a large variety of problems for the countries. But then the climate dropped back to it’s normal level. But here again, the climate shifts in 1300 year cycles. Your predictions of modern-natural climate change is 400 years early. And, recent samples of the ozone layer has been taken and compared with a sample from 1976, and the CO2 percentage is up 5%. THat’s a lot and it didn’t come from “natural” climate change.

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