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The ability of the nobility to shore up its position in the face of demographic decline reached its limits in the seventeenth century. Xochimilco’s ongoing financial troubles, which had their twin origins in population loss and the dislocations brought by climate extremes of the Little Ice Age, further destabilized relations across class lines, as did the criminality of a ruling class that had become estranged from the old collective bonds of the community. examines labor drafts and town finances and presents a microhistory of crime and political violence to explain political change. The upheavals were part of a wider, global crisis of the seventeenth century. With the passing of the old dynastic rulers, an alternative basis for authority came into being. By the century’s end, a new cohort of officeholders came to dominate local government whose authority came to rest on good stewardship of the city’s finances and resources. Lineage and esteemed ancestry ceased to be key factors in local politics as non-native peoples began to assume positions of power at a time increasing ethnic and racial complexity.
Beginning in northwestern Kenya with the story of Eregae and Aita Nakali, this chapter introduces the new science of climate extremes and extreme event attribution. Between 2015 and 2019, the “fingerprints” of climate change slapped hundreds of millions of people. Extreme heat waves, floods, droughts, and wildfires exacted a terrible toll on developed and developing nations alike. These catastrophes affected hundreds of millions of people and resulted in hundreds of billions of dollars in losses. Fire-afflicted movie stars in California and ranchers in Australia; drought-stricken South Africans; poor flooded fisher-folk in Bangladesh; Houston's middle-class families riven by flood: these are just some of the people who felt the crushing blow of more extreme climate. While humans have always faced the perils of natural disasters, the data suggest that the human and economic cost of climate and weather extremes is increasing rapidly as our population and economies expand and our planet warms rapidly. Since the early 1980s, the number of large catastrophes has quadrupled, inflicting billions of dollars in losses and impacting vulnerable populations on every continent. Understanding the link between extremes and warming is both a moral and an existential imperative.
The most important mechanism of climate change can be understood by everyone: Why do greenhouse gasses have such a direct warming effect on our planet? This chapter approaches this question with a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) attitude. First, the humorous tale of Stinky, Dinxie, Bif, and Moo teaches us how the greenhouse effect really works. It's a straightforward matter of balancing energy, not a matter for belief. Also, it turns out that the atmosphere is really thin, and has a lot less actual mass than we might at first think. Then, this understanding is augmented by lots and lots of data. Multiple independent data sources hammer home convergent evidence identifying very rapid levels of observed warming. Looking at air temperatures, ocean temperatures, and global sea levels, we see extremely rapid rates of warming, rates that have increased dramatically in the last decade. 2015–2019 stand out as exceptionally warm. Global temperatures are modeled extremely well by climate models, while the observed warming doesn’t track at all with changes in incoming solar radiation, and these changes are very small energetically. We don’t need to believe in climate change; we can understand and observe it. The chapter introduction and a sidebar use the devastating Thomas Fire to set this warming in context.
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