Slaughter Better Than Disease In Controlling Global Warming, Researchers

If you had to guess, which of these would you think would be a better control for global warming: Genghis Khan or the Black Death? Before answering, consider that both were responsible for removing a significant chunk of humanity from the surface of the planet (and interning it underground). The logic is that since it is people who cause global warming, fewer of these pests means less global warming.

Most ordinary citizens pick the Black Death, if only because of the name, which is scarier than the Great Khan’s. And when it was in its youth, the infamous disease wiped out nearly a third of Europe plus a significant chunk of the Asian Subcontinent. Altogether, the Bubonic plague, the official alias of Black Death, killed about 100 million, a toll which rivals even militant socialism (a.k.a. communism). genghis khan battles global warming

But Julia Pongratz of the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology compared the bodies piled up by the Black Death with those massacred by Genghis Khan and found that those who fell by the sword took more carbon with them than those who met their demise by disease. Why?

Genghis Khan and his Mongol hordes had an impact on the global carbon cycle as big as today’s annual demand for gasoline. The Black Death, on the other hand, came and went too quickly for it to cause much of a blip in the global carbon budget.

More particularly, “During high-mortality events, such as wars and plagues, large areas of croplands and pastures have been abandoned and forests have re-grown, absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.” Stated less euphemistically, fewer people means less carbon dioxide injected into the atmosphere, the poisonous gas responsible for climate chaos.

What made the Mongol invasion so great wasn’t just that it killed so many net-carbon increasers, but that it lasted so long, more than time enough to allow trees to take the place of the slaughtered. Khan himself didn’t live forever, of course, but his well-trained hordes pushed on towards Europe for just over a century. A healthy forest can be grown in that time.

The Black Death also lasted about a century, and while it killed twice as many people as did Genghis and his followers, it didn’t kill with the same efficiency as the Mongols. The plague would wander into a populated area and, depending on its mood, would take a out a few here, a few there. It was picky, choosing its victims haphazardly, almost as if it didn’t take itself seriously. The problem was that it left too many alive in any one spot, and those survivors, being only human, decided to celebrate their success of not being killed by engaging in some vigorous breeding by the warm glow of fireplaces. Fireplaces using wood from—you guessed it—nearby forests.

Contrast that with Khanian behavior. The Mongols would ride to town, surround it, encourage its occupants to surrender and be killed in an organized, efficient manner. Or, if the town’s occupants were recalcitrant, the Mongols would lay siege and then kill everybody in a sloppy, disorganized way. It was a take-no-prisoners, kill-everything-in-site attitude either way.

The good thing about this, according to Pongratz, was that when the hordes pushed on towards their next set of victims, they left only silence behind. And barren (freshly fertilized) ground covered in tree seeds—seeds which were able to grow into forests which sucked CO2 from the air, thus cooling the planet.

According to a summary of Pongratz’s work, “Genghis Khan’s bloody conquests scrubbed 700million tons of carbon from the atmosphere as depopulated land returned to forest.” Al Gore was the Nobel Peace Prize for a lot less than that!

The Mongols killed only half as many as the Black Death, but by removing these folks contiguously, “there was enough time for the forests to re-grow and absorb significant amounts of carbon.” In fact, the amount of carbon socked away on the “re-growth on depopulated lands” was “equivalent to the world’s total annual demand for gasoline today.”

The potential uses for Pongratz’s research are obvious. “Based on the knowledge we have gained from the past, we are now in a position to make land-use decisions that will diminish our impact on climate and the carbon cycle.” We now know that we can’t rely on disease to solve our global warming problems. Other solutions must be explored.


  1. DAV

    “What made the Mongol invasion so great wasn’t just that it killed so many net-carbon increasers, but that it lasted so long, more than time enough to allow trees to take the place of the slaughtered.”

    And yet, a lot of Mongolia consists of the Gobi desert and steppes (mostly treeless plains). If he caused trees to grow it must be one of the first examples of NIMBY. Anyway, I see from the photo that he didn’t use green banners. Strange. Must be faded film.

  2. Dennis

    Actually, since young forests are far more efficient at respiring (taking in CO2 and passing out O2), simply removing old growth from the world’s forests and replacing it with “young thrifty stands” as the Forest Service was wont to say in the halcyon days of timber harvest (1950’s and ’60’s) would accomplish as much as wholesale slaughter. The wood thus gained would further increase long-term carbon storage by being tied up in houses for 30+ years. What’s not to like? Sharpen your axes.

  3. commieBob

    Is Genghis Kahn close enough to Hitler that we can invoke Godwin’s Law and declare that the alarmists have lost?

  4. Bruce

    But … wasn’t “burning” part of the Mongol Horde’s routine? All that carbon was released from the sacking and burning of cities could not have been a good thing.

  5. cosmos

    I would change the title to this:
    Slaughter Better Than Disease In Controlling Global Warming Researchers

  6. Ray

    I’m waiting for the environmentalists to praise Stalin and Hitler for improving the environment by killing lots of people.

  7. JH

    Though Genghis Khan’s offspring established the short-lived Yuan dynasty, what I never understand is why many Chinese consider him a hero.

    Wars and pandemics might have effects on the atmospheric CO2 concentration, but which one is better in controlling global warming? Controlling GW? What a yucky question. Both are abominable.

    It seems impossible to end a war without dropping bombs now. What is the effect of a bomb on the atmospheric CO2 concentration? How does one go about finding answers to this question?

  8. Speed

    PDF is by paid subsciption only. Abstract is free.

    Press release:

    Clearing forests releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere when the trees and other vegetation are burned or when they decay. The rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide resulting from deforestation is recognizable in ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica before the fossil-fuel era.

    Makes it sound like smoking gun evidence was found — ice cores.

    From the abstract:

    Historic events such as wars and epidemics have been suggested as explanation for decreases in atmospheric CO2 reconstructed from ice cores because of their potential to take up carbon in forests regrowing on abandoned agricultural land.

    Here, we use a coupled climate–carbon cycle model to assess the carbon and climate effects of the Mongol invasion (∼1200 to ∼1380), the Black Death (∼1347 to ∼1400), the conquest of the Americas (∼1519 to ∼1700), and the fall of the Ming Dynasty (∼1600 to ∼1650).

    [according to the models] Only the Mongol invasion could have lowered global CO2, but by an amount too small to be resolved by ice cores.
    [my bold]

  9. The Medieval Warm Period (MWP or Medieval Climate Optimum) lasted from about AD 950–1230. In 1230 global temps took a plunge of ~0.6°C. The Golden (Mongol) Horde did most of their slaughtering (~40 million murders) from 1205 to 1295, so could have been responsible for the the plunge. Correlation is not causation, but the slaughters and the temperature drop were concurrent.

    The Black Death was responsible for 100+ million deaths, very quickly, from 1348 to 1350, although it hung around killing people in large numbers for another 500 years. Global temperatures had risen following the death of Kublai Khan (1294) almost 0.3°C by 1350, but following the plagues of 1348-1350, global temps again plunged in three declines to ~0.8°C below the Medieval Optimum. The last of those reached the Little Ice Age nadir in 1600.

    Note that smallpox and other Old World diseases killed an additional ~80 million people in the New World between 1500 and 1600. So microorganisms killed about 4 times as many people as the Golden Horde did, and again, global temperature decline (the Little Ice Age) was concurrent.

    Note also that hominids have been using fire for ~1.6 million years, and that fire technology was quite advanced by 400 kya (thousand years ago), although metallurgy and pottery firing began only about 25,000 years ago. By “advanced” I mean that hominids had cooking fires and flint hardening fires in Neanderthal times. They (we) undoubtedly also burned landscapes to drive game, increase game forage, promote fruit, nut, and root crops, and create firewood by 400 kya and probably earlier.

    Anthropogenic landscape fire has been in use for at least four 100,000-year-long ice age glaciations and at least four 10,000-year-long interglacials. Hence however much hominids burned back then, it did not override Milankovitch astronomical perturbations.

    But elimination of landscape anthropogenic fire by both the Golden Horde slaughters and parasitic microorganism death pandemics could been responsible for the Little Ice Age.

    The moral question posed (should we slaughter 90% of the human race to cool off the planet?) rests on the (additional) supposition that cooling off the planet is desirable, when in fact it isn’t. WARMER IS BETTER, YOU FOOLS!!!!!!!!!!!

    Do you really want another Little Ice Age? Or a regular one for that matter? What in God’s name is wrong with you dunderheads who desire 2-mile-thick continental ice sheets crushing your cities? If we are going to snuff 90% of humanity (for whatever reasons), then let’s kill off all the morons who think it’s too hot on Planet Earth. Line them up against a wall and shoot them, or nuke them indiscriminately, or whatever. The fewer idiots in the gene pool, the better off we survivors will be. And warmer, too.

  10. DAV

    My take is we don’t really need another Mongol invasion. We simply should get rid of those nasty farms and return to our roots swinging from the trees which will conveniently replace those farms.

    How is it that sone people get to live in fantasy land while I’m stuck with real life?


    How did you manage to read that article in the Miami Herald with all of those distracting pics in the right column? Are the rumors saltpeter is served at a certain AF facility cafeteria true?

  11. Doug M


    I was going to echo your point. Carbon sequesterd in tree trunks only stays sequesterd if the trees do not decay.

  12. Bruce

    “Carbon sequesterd in tree trunks only stays sequesterd if the trees do not decay.”

    Long ziplocs.

  13. Robert of Ottawa

    Half way through your article, I burst out larfing.

  14. Robert of Ottawa

    Mike D:

    A warm planet is a happy planet.

  15. Hwan

    I think Julia Pongratz is writing a book too. It’s titled, “Abortion…the new carbon offset”

  16. Bryn

    What a waste of effort. I thought climate change was controlled by combustion of fossil fuels, not burning/burial of humans, trees, bacteria or whatever that are just part of the normal carbon cycle. Is this called science? I despair.

  17. ErisGuy

    In the computer game Civilization, an older version I no longer play, global warming increases as industrial development increases. Late in the game, I would become a Green Warrior, conquering my neighbors, taking their resources, and leveling their cities (which destroyed their populations) while increasing my own economic output. The depopulation and planting of forests balanced the prosperity and power of my own cities.

    I thought the game was crazy.

    Hats off to Wm Briggs, for showing me I was wrong and the game designers were right. Civilization was a better simulation than I thought. It’s time the USA became a Green Nation: Canada and Mexico should be restored to their pristine, pre-Columbian (indeed, pre-human) wilderness for the betterment of all mankind.

  18. Justin Ert

    I’m having a chicken and egg moment…I’m not a scientist, but I am suffering a critical lapse, can someone put me straight:
    Does this bizarre piece from Julia Pongratz of the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology infer that an effect of re-forestation is to reduce global co2 and thus global temperatures?
    Here was I thinking that increased co2 causes greater plant growth…
    OK, so my daft thought experiment leads me to ponder whether temperatures would drop – according to AGW theory – if humans de-existed tomorrow… Hyper-re-forestation would occur, sucking out all that evil co2, but as it was sucked out of the atmosphere – not to be replaced – the expanding forests would start to shrink because there would be hardly and co2 left in the atmosphere to stimulate their growth…

  19. Dear ErisGuy,

    How perceptive of you. Human beings have been de-pristining North America for at least 15,500 years. So if we “want” to go back to the good old days, that would be approximately during the Older Dryas glacial stadial, the coldest point of the Wisconsin Glaciation, when ice sheets covered half of North America.

    Ice Box Earth is the apparent goal of the Chattering Classes. Lets’s chill, baby!!! Turn down the thermostat to Neanderthal temps. Cool!!!!

    Pardon me, all you deluded retards out there, if you can read this, which you probably can’t due to your severe mental incapacities, but no no no you are not allowed to fiddle with the dials. People who are much better and smarter than you will do that. You go back to your room and play with your toys.

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