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Climatic Change and Chinese Population Growth Dynamics Over the Last Millennium



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Climatic Change and Chinese Population Growth Dynamics Over the Last Millennium by Fung Lee
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This dissertation, "Climatic Change and Chinese Population Growth Dynamics Over the Last Millennium" by Fung, Lee, 李峰, was obtained from The University of Hong Kong (Pokfulam, Hong Kong) and is being sold pursuant to Creative Commons: Attribution 3.0 Hong Kong License. The content of this dissertation has not been altered in any way. We have altered the formatting in order to facilitate the ease of printing and reading of the dissertation. All rights not granted by the above license are retained by the author. Abstract: Abstract of thesis entitled Climatic Change and Chinese Population Growth Dynamics over the Last Millennium submitted by LEE Fung for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at The University of Hong Kong in October 2007 The climate-population relationship has long been conceived. Although the topic has been repeatedly investigated, most of the related works are Eurocentric or qualitative. Consequently, the relationship between climate and population remains ambiguous. This research seeks to explore how far the impact of climate change has on population growth dynamics in non-European settings, with study area and study period delimited to China over the past millennium. Research focus has been put on the association between long-term climate change and secular population cycles in agrarian societies. This research distinguishes itself from the others in a way that it principally relies on all known cases instead of some selected examples to investigate the climate-population relationship. This study hypothesizes that long-term cooling indirectly induces below average population growth via shrinking land carrying capacity, which in turn places increasing pressure on the historical agrarian societies already stressed by population growth, resulting in more frequent mortality crises such as wars, famines, epidemics, and natural calamities. Based on a literature survey in the areas of human demography and environmental change, a conceptual model along with the above notion has been proposed. Fine-grained climate, population, mortality crisis, and socio-economic datasets have been chosen and various statistical and mathematical methods have been applied to verify the proposed model, supplemented with qualitative analysis. The important results were: (1) There were six cold phases in China in the past millennium, five of them associated with population collapses, with the population reduced between 11.4% and 49.4%. Although social buffers were becoming more effective in dissipating climatic forcing, they could not prevent population collapses from happening in long-term cooling. (2) Various mortality crises were more frequent in a cold climate. (3) The peaks of various mortality crises lagged behind the peak of population size and the climax of wars lagged behind the temperature trough, which might be attributable to social buffers. (4) Various mortality crises were positively correlated among them. Besides, their fluctuations were eventually translated into the oscillation of population growth rate, while warfare played the most important part in decelerating population growth. (5) Temperature did better than aridity threshold and 'climate' (the arithmetic average of temperature and aridity threshold) in explaining the shifting of population distribution and fluctuation of population size in historical China. In summary, the climate-population relationship is evident in historical China. Based on these findings, the conventional understandings of the socio-political and demographic cycles in Chinese history, which ignore the role of climatic forcing, are re-evaluated. Significantly most of the world's population will continue to rely on small-scale agriculture and subsist from harvest to harvest, just as many Chinese peasants once did. Given the proven impact of global warming in shrinking land carrying capacity, more research about the capability of human societies to buffer against th
Release date NZ
January 27th, 2017
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Country of Publication
United States
colour illustrations
Open Dissertation Press
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