The Great Chinese Famine Of 1876-79
By Paul Homewood
We continually hear that global warming is already leading to more, and more severe droughts across the world.
While Obama is prattling on about responding to “the devastating impact of crippling droughts”, it is perhaps a good time to look back at one of the truly crippling droughts, the Great Famine in China, which ran from 1876-79.
This was, of course, the time when the Little Ice Age was having its final fling. Brian Fagan, in his excellent book, “The Little Ice Age”, records that cold weather between 1870 and 1890 affected, not only China and India, but also Britain, where the weather in 1879 rivalled that of the brutally cold 1690’s.
Meanwhile, HH Lamb writes that “the greatest extent of ice on the Antarctic Ocean may have been as late as around 1900.” And many other scientists have identified the late 19thC as the time when glaciers in Iceland, Greenland and across much of the Northern Hemisphere reached their maximum extent.
Make no mistake the late 19thC was an extremely cold time in the Earth’s recent history.
It would, therefore, be reasonable to assume that, if global warming was leading to “crippling droughts”, the 19thC would have been a time of plenty.
If you did, you would be wrong. There were many droughts during this period, but perhaps the worst was in China.
A study by Chinese scientists, “1876-1878 severe drought in North China: Facts, impacts and climatic background” reported that:-
Based on the reconstructed precipitation series in North China from historical documents, the 1876-1878 drought was identified as the most severe and extreme one in North China over the past 300 years. Meanwhile, the spatial patterns of seasonal and annual precipitation during 1876-1877 were analyzed and the social and economic impacts related with this drought event were evaluated according to the descriptions in the historical documents. The results indicated that this long-lasting drought started by the spring of 1876 and did not stop until the spring of 1878. Within the three years, the harvest failures brought the rice price increased to 5-10 times than that in the normal year, and the total population in the five provinces over North China decreased by more than 20 million due to a large number of dead people and migrations. In addition, related investigations suggested that the 1876-1878 drought was prevalent worldwide, which has possible link with abnormal high SST in the equatorial central and eastern Pacific, strong El Niño episode and positive AAO anomalies.
According to Wikipedia,
Nine to 13 million people are estimated to have died in the famine out of a total population of the five provinces of 108 million.
British missionary Timothy Richard first called international attention to a drought causing famine in Shandong in summer 1876. He appealed to the foreign community in Shanghai for money to help the victims. In March 1877, the Shandong Famine Relief Committee was established with the participation of diplomats, businessmen, and Protestant and Roman Catholic missionaries.
Richard became aware that drought conditions were even worse in neighbouring Shanxi province which at that time was virtually unknown to foreigners. In early 1878, Richard journeyed to Shanxi. His "famine diary" described conditions. "That people pull down their houses, sell their wives and daughters, eat roots and carrion, clay and leaves is news which nobody wonders at…The sight of men and women lying helpless on the roadside, or if dead, torn by hungry dogs and magpies [and] of children being boiled and eaten up is so fearful as to make one shudder." Shanxi was the most seriously impacted province in the famine with an estimated 5.5 million dead out of a total population of 15 million people. Remote and inaccessible rural districts suffered most.
It is an insult to the memory of the millions of people, who suffered and died during this time, for Obama to attempt to expunge events like this one from the historical record. To do so for political reasons is unforgiveable. The man is a disgrace.