Hot air and Congress



Bruce Doe's article, “A Potomac Perspective on the Growing Global Greenhouse” (Eos, January 5, 1999), contained the provocative suggestion that temperature in the Washington, D.C., region might be causally linked to congressional attention to the topics of greenhouse warming and global climate change, as well as federal funding for research into these topics. This assertion is particularly interesting in light of recent archaeological and paleoclimatic studies that suggest a link between large-scale regional climate change and major events in ancient civilizations. For example, the collapses of the Akkadian Empire, the Minoan civilization in Crete, the Old Kingdom of Egypt, and the Mayan civilization in Mexico appear to coincide with major regional climate changes, suggesting that climatic factors might be more important than previously proposed sociopolitical ones in explaining the history of these cultures (see, for example, K. Wright's article, “Empires in the Dust,” in Discover, March 1998).

If a connection between climate and politics could be demonstrated in our own society, it might shed light on these past events. However, Doe did not further explore this possibility, presumably because of the lack of an appropriate quantitative measurement of legislative activity that could be compared to the temperature record.