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The First Ever Climate Change Reporter (And Skeptic)

Who was the first one to write about climate change? For a while I thought I had found the most ancient reference in world literature: Lorenzo Magalotti in 1683 (referred to by Giacomo Leopardi in 1832)

[One and a half centuries ago Magalotti wrote] in the Family Letters: “It is certain that seasons’ natural order is worsening. Here in Italy it is common saying and lamentation that the half-seasons have disappeared; and in this confusion, it’s without doubt that the cold is advancing. I have heard my father that in his youth, in Rome, on the morning of Easter Sunday, everybody would change into summer clothes. Nowadays whoever can afford not to sell his shirt, I can tell you he’s very careful not to abandon any winter piece of clothing”. This is what Magalotti wrote in 1683.

Then Tony Brown and WUWT found something even more remote: Saint “Cyrian” (actually, Saint Cyprian) from around 250AD

The world has grown old and does not remain in its former vigour. It bears witness to its own decline. The rainfall and the suns warmth are both diminishing. The metals are nearly exhausted the husbandman is failing in his fields. Springs which once gushed forth liberally now barely give a trickle of water.’

I can happily report we can push the date a couple of centuries further back, by referring to “De re rustica” (“Agriculture“) by Lucius Junius Moderatus Columella (around AD40-50). From Book 1, 1:4-5:

[…] I have found that many authorities now worthy of remembrance were convinced that with the long wasting of the ages, weather and climate undergo a change; and that among them the most learned professional astronomer, Hipparchus, has put it on record that the time will come when the poles will change position, a statement to which Saserna, no mean authority on husbandry, seems to have given credence. For in that book on agriculture which he has left behind he concludes that the position of the heavens had changed from this evidence: that regions which formerly, because of the unremitting severity of winter, could not safeguard any shoot of the vine or the olive planted in them, now that the earlier coldness has abated and the weather is becoming more clement, produce olive harvests and the vintages of Bacchus in the greatest abundance. But whether this theory be true or false, we must leave it to the writings on astronomy […]

Note how little has changed, with Authorities convinced the climate is changing, and the unconvinced agriculture expert…

(h/t Fabio Spina and Climatemonitor.it – Google English translation)

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  1. 2012/02/09 at 18:30

    he was obviously funded by Big Olive Oil and therefore nothing he wrote can undermine the overwhelming scientific consensus! (Bob Ward)

  2. Parma John
    2012/02/09 at 15:15

    Very interesting post for sports fans, too. The statue of Columella in Cádiz (see wikipedia page referenced above) shows the beloved agrarian participating in his other passion. He poses in the process of carving the very first hockey stick, which was used both on the rapidly disappearing Fosso Grande ice as well as in his climate reporting.

    Of course, since he was the author of the De Arboribus we can assume that Columella also invented the ancient game of ring-toss (now known as dendroclimatology).

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