The Human History of Climate Change

The Human History of Climate Change

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A man with a bike stands on a flooded street
August 4, 2020

Much attention has been paid to the ways we humans are changing our climate. Yet, how has an ever-evolving climate changed us?

Climate change is one of the monumental challenges of our day, but the reality of climate change is nothing new. In recent decades, scientific advances have expanded our understanding of prehistory, and brought into ever sharper focus the connection between historic variations in climate and the development of humanity and society.

By taking a look at the history of climate change, we might see more clearly why today’s warming is so different from periods of change that came before, and how climate change can amplify economic and societal pressures that are already in place.

University of Pennsylvania economist Jesus Fernandez Villaverde looks back through time to discuss how climate change may have forced our primate ancestors down the road of evolution, contributed to the fall of empires and, more recently, helped to spur great migrations of people, including those that led to the building of the United States.