There are hybrids, cap-and-trade, and wind energy ... and then there's Genghis Khan. Guess which one has the biggest environmental impact?
Genghis Khan's Mongol invasion in the 13th and 14th centuries was so vast that it may have been the first instance in history of a single culture causing man-made climate change, according to new research out of the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology, reports Mongabay.com.
Unlike modern day climate change, however, the Mongol invasion cooled the planet, effectively scrubbing around 700 million tons of carbon from the atmosphere.
So how did Genghis Khan, one of history's cruelest conquerors, earn such a glowing environmental report card? The reality may be a bit difficult for today's environmentalists to stomach, but Khan did it the same way he built his empire — with a high body count.
Over the course of the century and a half run of the Mongol Empire, about 22 percent of the world's total land area had been conquered and an estimated 40 million people were slaughtered by the horse-driven, bow-wielding hordes. Depopulation over such a large swathe of land meant that countless numbers of cultivated fields eventually returned to forests.
In other words, one effect of Genghis Khan's unrelenting invasion was widespread reforestation, and the re-growth of those forests meant that more carbon could be absorbed from the atmosphere.