Download Full Text (383 KB)
From the Ice Ages of the past to the rapid and intensifying warming of the Anthropocene, only the most ardent skeptic would deny that the earth's climate has changed over time; but what does it mean to think about climate change in historical perspective? In recent years, historians have pointed to manifold ways long-term trends in temperature and weather patterns have shaped and constrained human migration, subsistence, trade, and war. Other historians have explained how nations, empires, and peoples responded to changing climatic conditions, and some believed they could change their place's climate through particular social and economic practices. Put in this way, some historical approaches to climate change seem to dally with determinism while others risk overemphasizing the scope of human agency in the face of vast solar and geological forces. A number of historians have reflected on the tension between the scientific and religious epistemologies that often inform our public conversations about climate change. In recent centuries dramatic changes in human behavior, particularly fossil fuel consumption, have transformed the planet. While scientists, activists, business interests, and policymakers debate the reality of human-caused climate change and what, if anything, to do about it, historians have traced the history of that debate and insisted that it should be informed by history.
Seton Hall University
Arts and Humanities | History
Seton Hall University, Department of History, "Destiny, Agency, and Adaptation: Climate Change from a Historical Perspective" (2021). Symposium in Comparative History. 7.