Bob Britnell takes issue with the BBC’s environmental reporting

Climate change hysteria vs a dose of reality

I don’t know whether you, like me, heard that latest bit of climate change “research” on the BBC – where else? – this week. The “little ice age” we were told was caused by the arrival of Europeans in the Americas where the native population was decimated by new diseases we took with us.

Nothing new in the thesis that we introduced new diseases to a native population without resistance to them and it is without doubt that huge numbers died.

Of course we don’t know how many there were in the first place, nobody was taking a census either before or after new diseases had run their course, so although we can be certain they had an impact we cannot be certain just how great that impact was, although it is generally accepted it was considerable.

What the researchers then did was to develop from the theory that millions died, that this then resulted in huge areas of America that had been under cultivation being abandoned because there was nobody to work the land.

Now I’m enough of a historian to know that the popular image of “Red Indians” riding across the great plains to attack defenceless settlers is Hollywood at it best – or, perhaps, worst?

The natives of the eastern seaboard who the earliest European settlers met were, at least in part agrarian, cultivating crops as well as hunting game and it may well be that land was neglected and went wild because of deaths.

But, and it’s a big but, we don’t actually know how many natives there were, how much land they cultivated, how many died and what the impact of that was locally, let alone on the global climate.

It seemed to me that this was sloppy research linking a well known global climate change to the actions of mankind, a bit like global warming but in reverse, with a determination to prove that man can control the weather and that any major change is all our fault.

What particularly caught my attention was the suggestion of the linkage to the “little ice age”, my recollection being that commenced sometime in the 14th century. So I turned to Professor Brian Fagan’s excellent book: he gives the start of the “little ice age” as occurring in the first 10 or 20 years of the 14th Century, somewhere between 1300 and 1320 with it culminating in about 1850, well after the start of industrialisation.

I learnt at school the rhyme, “in fourteen hundred and ninety two Columbus sailed the ocean blue”, and that was, of course the year he made landfall in the West Indies from where the Spanish went on to Central America in subsequent voyages. The first English attempt to found a colony was at Roanoke in Virginia in 1585.

The inconsistency is that the “little ice age” seems to have started about 200 years before the first Europeans set eyes on the Americas and almost 400 years before the settlement of North America at which time settlers met plenty of native Americans, some friendly, some hostile, all susceptible to disease. The point is that the “little ice age” started hundreds of years before native Americans were exposed to the diseases that supposedly led to them abandoning agriculture.

It all rather smacks of “global warmists” doing their normal trick of blaming everything on mankind and endeavouring to turn our clock back to a pre-industrial era.

Before the “little ice age” we had the “medieval warm period” but we had no polluting heavy industries or motor vehicles so what caused that? The earth has a changeable climate and really we do not fully comprehend how it works; we know about the El Nino effect and the La Nina effect and we know about the North Atlantic Oscillation and we know that all of these affect the climate, but we are a long way from fully understanding how. As to the impact of solar flares or sunspots we know even less about their impact on our climate, but just enough to know they must have an impact.

It is at this point the warmists introduce the “precautionary principle”, don’t do anything just in case. This is not a principle embraced in the developing world however and I must say that I cannot help but see in the “warmists” the same green lobby that want us to abandon our civilisation as we know it.

They are of course supported by the BBC who regularly report that “this has been the warmest year since records began”. You might wonder which records and when they began, so I shall enlighten you.

The dear old Beeb is referring to the Central England Temperature Record which goes back as far as 1953 and was then modified in 1974.

In terms of climate change that’s no time at all, but, it suits the climate change agenda which dominates the BBC and much public discourse.

And, read Professor Fagan’s books, they’re easy going and very informative.


3 responses to “Climate change hysteria vs a dose of reality”

  1. Mike Scott says:

    The Central England Temperature Record was created in 1953, but it tracks temperatures back to 1659, with precision to 0.1°C from 1722, drawing on a variety of data sources. I suspect your other assertions are probably as accurate as that one.

  2. Felix Sirovski says:

    I wonder what tools they had in 1722 to measure temperature with 0.1 °C precision. Are your own assertion made with the same accuracy and precision, eh?

  3. Mike Scott says:

    “In 1714 Dutch scientist and inventor Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit invented the first reliable thermometer, using mercury instead of alcohol and water mixtures.” “…he helped lay the foundations for the era of precision thermometry by inventing the mercury-in-glass thermometer (first practical, accurate thermometer)” ( &

    Funny how those dates line up, isn’t it? Decent thermometers invented in 1714, accurate temperature record from 1722. Its almost as if the climate scientists know what they’re talking about.

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