Last update 2/22/2012 9:00:00 AM (GMT+7)

Scientists suggest looking into history to learn climate change lessons

A group of international scientists met here on Sunday to discuss the impact of climate change, one of the biggest issues facing the world today.

The scientists, all members of the Global Human Ecodynamics Alliance, suggested looking back into history to learn lessons and better respond to the current and future challenges.

They believed archeology can play a contributing role in helping make better climate change policies, "because it investigates long sequences of social and climate change at multiple scales."

Using Iceland, Greenland, Kuril Island, the central Arizona desert and the Caribbean Islands, all areas impacted by social and climate change over the centuries, as case studies, the group looked at long-term decisions, some made thousands of years ago, that had an impact on what society in those areas can do today.

Professor Andrew Dugmore of the University of Edinburgh's School of GeoScience, who studied the archeological remains of Iceland and Greenland in the middle ages, said Iceland, which was colonized by the Vikings around 850 AD, started to thrive in the 15th century when it developed its fish and wool trades.

Greenland, in contrast, stuck to its medieval ways in trading such goods as walrus ivory. Eventually its 3,000 to 5,000 inhabitants died off.

Professor Thomas McGovern of City University of New York also said a closer inspection of the Viking colonization showed that when they came to Iceland they brought animals, sheep in this case, that basically destroyed the environment.

With the resulting erosion and then climate change, it should have spelled their end, but not so, the anthropologist pointed out.

With Iceland now regularly ranked one of the world's best countries to live in, and its eroded, denuded landscape considered a great tourist attraction, Dugmore said now is the time for Icelanders to use some of their wealth and work to restore their environment for future generations.

The scientists are here attending the ongoing annual meeting of the Association for the Advancement of Science, which has brought together about 8,000 of the world's leading science communicators, media and the public, and the scientists.

The Global Human Ecodynamics Alliance is an organization of social and natural scientists, historians, educators and policy makers.