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Study: Climate change strongly affects human conflict and violence

climate-change

I think the key word HERE is “strongly.”

Shifts in climate are strongly linked to human violence around the world, and according to a new study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley and Princeton University, even relatively minor departures from normal temperatures or rainfall can substantially increase the risk of conflict.

The study, which includes more data than prior research in this field and covers all major regions of the globe, shows the Earth’s climate plays a more influential role in human affairs than previously thought. The results were published today (Thursday, Aug. 1) in the journal Science.

The authors found similar patterns of conflict around the world that were linked to changes in climatic, such as increased drought or higher than average annual temperature. Examples include spikes in domestic violence in India and Australia; increased assaults and murders in the United States and Tanzania; ethnic violence in Europe and South Asia; land invasions in Brazil; police using force in the Netherlands; civil conflicts throughout the tropics; and even the collapse of Mayan and Chinese empires.

The study could have critical implications for understanding the impact of future climate change on human societies, as many climate models project global temperature increases of at least 2 degrees Celsius over the next 50 years.

The study draws on a variety of research fields including climatology, archaeology, economics, political science and psychology to provide a comprehensive look at how climatic changes shape human conflict and violence.

“What was lacking was a clear picture of what this body of research as a whole was telling us,” said Solomon Hsiang, the study’s lead author, who was a postdoctoral fellow in Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy at Princeton during the research project and is now an assistant professor of public policy at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy. “We collected 60 existing studies containing 45 different data sets and we re-analyzed their data and findings using a common statistical framework. The results were striking.”

They examined various aspects of climate such as rainfall, drought or temperature, and their associations with various forms of violence within three broad categories of conflict:

  • Personal violence and crime such as murder, assault, rape, and domestic violence;
  • Intergroup violence and political instability, like civil wars, riots, ethnic violence, and land invasions;
  • Institutional breakdowns, such as abrupt and major changes in governing institutions or the collapse of entire civilizations.

The results proved all three types of conflict exhibit systematic and large responses to changes in climate, with the effect on intergroup conflict being the most pronounced. Conflict responded most consistently to temperature, with all 27 out of 27 studies of modern societies finding a positive relationship between high temperatures and greater violence.

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