• Ian Sutton

Boris Johnson and the Roman Empire

Updated: Nov 7, 2021

Boris Johnson, leader of the UK, compared climate change to the fall of the Roman Empire.
Boris Johnson at the Colosseum

The following is from Politico.

The world risks going "backwards" unless action is taken to combat climate change and could fall "at extraordinary speed" like the Roman Empire, Boris Johnson said Friday.
Speaking on a plane to the G20 in Rome, Johnson said Roman relics “are a fantastic reminder, a memento mori to us today, of a very very important fact which is sometimes called into question by what they call a weak view of history. And that is that humanity, civilization, society, can go backwards as well as forwards."
He added that “when things start to go wrong they can go wrong at extraordinary speed. And you saw that with the decline and fall of the Roman Empire and I’m afraid to say it’s true today, that unless we get this right in tackling climate change we could see our civilization, our world, also go backwards."

Johnson did not use the word “collapse”, but he came close.

So here we have a national leader speaking quite openly and on the record about the potential for our society declining like the Roman Empire. Whether our situation is comparable to that of the western Roman Empire is dubious. Nevertheless, the fact that a national leader is willing to speak so openly about the potential for our society to go backwards.


Chapter 2 of Net Zero by 2050: Technology for a Changing Climate discusses the potential for collapse to which Johnson alludes. It is possible that disruptive technology will appear that will, in effect, make an end run around many of the concerns expressed at this site. However, such technologies will have to run on alternative energy sources, most likely solar or wind power.