The world’s present global warming trend brings concerns about longer and hotter droughts, rising sea levels, disappearing plant and animal species, and more destructive storms. These problems would have seemed minor to those living in Egypt 4,200 years ago. A research paper authored by scientists at the University of Pennsylvania and the Smithsonian Institution, published in the July, 2012, edition of Geology, states that a mega-drought lasting a hundred years began around 2,200 BC. This ancient drought was so severe it brought an end to Egypt’s Old Kingdom and the era of pyramid building, and marked the beginning of a chaotic time when a succession of dynasties struggled to cope with the changing conditions.
By dating core samples taken from sediment in the Nile Delta, the researchers found that pollen count decreased dramatically during this period, meaning plant life had died off for lack of water. At the same time, the greater amount of charcoal in the sediment indicated an increase in fires most likely caused by the extremely dry conditions.
Could today’s global warming trend be the beginning of another mega-drought that would decimate plant life and seriously reduce the availability of water? There is no scientific evidence to support such a conclusion, even though scientists are not sure exactly where this global warming trend will eventually take us. For one thing, world climate was different then than now. A planet-wide cooling trend took place between 3000 and 2000 BC, when renewed glaciations locked up water in snow and ice. These conditions cut down evaporation, reduced worldwide precipitation, and lowered the sea level and the volume of major rivers such as the Nile.
We may not be headed into a hundred-year mega-drought, but global warming combined with a global population explosion and a higher standard of living in developing societies will bring the need for many changes in the way we live and the way we share natural resources. It will be a different world.