Climate and society in long-term perspective: opportunities and pitfalls in the use of historical datasets

Van Bavel, Bas J.P. and Curtis, Daniel R. and Hannaford, Matthew and Moatsos, Michalis and Roosen, Joris and Soens, Tim (2019) Climate and society in long-term perspective: opportunities and pitfalls in the use of historical datasets. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change . ISSN 1757-7799

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Climate and society in long-term perspective: opportunities and pitfalls in the use of historical datasets
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Abstract

Recent advances in palaeoclimatology and the growing digital availability of large historical datasets on human activity have created new opportunities to investigate long-term interactions between climate and society. However, noncritical use of historical datasets can create pitfalls, resulting in misleading findings that may become entrenched as accepted knowledge. We demonstrate pitfalls in the content, use and interpretation of historical datasets in research into climate and society interaction through a systematic review of recent studies on the link between climate and (a) conflict incidence, (b) plague outbreaks and (c) agricultural productivity changes. We propose three sets of interventions to overcome these pitfalls, which involve a more critical and multidisciplinary collection and construction of historical datasets, increased specificity and transparency about uncertainty or biases, and replacing inductive with deductive approaches to causality. This will improve the validity and robustness of interpretations on the long-term relationship between climate and society.

Keywords:Climate and society, Historical datasets, Long-term, Plague, Conflict
Subjects:V Historical and Philosophical studies > V310 Economic History
V Historical and Philosophical studies > V320 Social History
L Social studies > L725 Historical Geography
F Physical Sciences > F860 Climatology
Divisions:College of Science > School of Geography
ID Code:36466
Deposited On:18 Jul 2019 12:56

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