Climate Change and Past Civilizations

Climate has played a prominent role in shaping civilization and cultures throughout time. Civilizations exist where they do because of several key features, many of which are directly related to climate. For instance, major cities are located where rainfall is plentiful enough to allow cultivation of crops and a supply of drinking water to large populations. They are located where temperatures are suitable for growing food and living comfortably.

Because climate can change, what may be suitable for the growth of a civilization at one time may not stay that way. If climatic changes occur, civilizations can be seriously affected to the point that inhabitants must adapt. If they cannot adapt, they face extinction.

Through the work of archaeologists, scientists know that many great civilizations have existed in the past, only to be obliterated when the climate changed and the civilization was not able to keep up. This chapter addresses some of these issues. It first looks at the role of climate on settlement patterns and why people choose to live where they do. It then focuses on the impacts of climate change on past great civilizations and their long-term effects. Finally, it looks at modern civilization and the adaptations required today in the face of climate change issues.

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