Modelling Socio-Environmental Transformations of the Americas During the Little Ice Age, 1492 – 1800
Date: 14 - 16 November 2019
Convenors: Eleonora Rohland (Bielefeld, GER), Franz Mauelshagen (Wien, AUT), Jobst Heitzig (Potsdam, GER)
Earth / climate system modelling has entered a new stage at which integrating the social sphere has become the main issue. Efforts to integrate social change with environmental transitions exceedingly involves expertise from the social sciences and the humanities. Modelling socio-environmental transformations in the Americas after 1492, our historical case, is placed in this wider context. It starts from evidence showing that atmospheric carbon Dioxide (CO2) levels declined in the second half of the sixteenth century and stayed below long-term pre-industrial averages for about a hundred and fifty years. One hypothesis attributes lower CO2 levels to land cover changes following the rapid collapse of indigenous populations in the Caribbean and Spanish and Portuguese Colonial America from 1492. Alternative explanations, however, prefer feedbacks in the natural Earth system to Little Ice Age cooling. At the current state this scientific controversy is unresolved. Only refined Earth system modelling that includes the social sphere can be expected to provide answers. It is a highly interdisciplinary undertaking requiring a wider range of expertise from several disciplines. It is the main purpose of this workshop at the Bielefeld Center for Interdisciplinary Research to bring experts from all relevant fields of study to the table.