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Two Millennia of Climate Change & the Fiscal Well-Being of China

Paper Reviewed
Wei, Z., Fang, X. and Su, Y. 2014. Climate change and fiscal balance in China over the past two millennia. The Holocene 24: 1771-1784.

In an impressive study published in The Holocene, Wei et al. (2014) write that "climate change has long been suggested as a factor of great importance in facilitating the rise or fall of culture," citing Issar and Zohar (2007); but they note that "this type of study still faces the lack of high-resolution data of long-term socio-economic processes." Thus, in an effort designed to overcome this deficiency, they searched and found over 1100 such sets of information in 24 Chinese fiscal and economic history books, plus other well-preserved historical documents, from which they constructed a 2130-year (220 BC to AD 1910) fiscal-state sequence with decadal resolution that is representative of the phase transition history of China's fiscal soundness.

This work revealed that "the fiscal balance of dynasties from 220 BC to AD 1910 experienced seven large stages." More specifically, they say "the relatively sufficient periods dominated from 220 to 31 BC, AD 581-1020, AD 1381-1520 and from AD 1681-1910," whereas the relatively deficient periods were the three intervening time intervals. Most important of all, the three Chinese researchers discovered, as they describe it, that "fiscal crisis was more likely to occur in cold-dry climatic scenarios," noting that "both temperature and precipitation displayed more significant effects on the fiscal fluctuation within the long term, particularly for temperature."

Issar, A.S. and Zohar, M. 2007. Climate Change: Environment and History of the Near East. Springer, Berlin/Heidelberg, Germany.

Posted 13 April 2015