Extreme Violence and Climate Change Linked by Scientists

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If you thought your bad mood was normal on a humid, hot or rainy day, well, the Journal of Science says it  is not. According to the magazine, violence is triggered by climate change.

For centuries, human behavior has been linked with nature, whether it is the moon or the constellations in the sky, meaning we are all connected in one way or another. It was only recently that scientists understood those connections.

A new study published by Princeton University and UC Berkeley’s Science Department reveals the link between violence and climate change. The scientists found a connection between riots, institutional breakdown, civil war, and climate change.

If the predictions are accurate, the world´s heat is going to increase by 2 degrees Celsius by 2050. The results lead them to think that if weather keeps changing, so will human behavior.

For the study, the scientists measured a meta-analysis of 60 studies, including archaeology, criminology, economics and psychology. The study went back to 10,000 B.C. to the present day. Violent behavior was present under hotter and wetter conditions.

Researchers found that although climate change is not the primary cause of violence, it is a key factor when societies collide and have tensions between each other. According to the study, incidences of war might increase by as much as 56 percent and personal violence could increase by 16 percent, because of climate change between now and 2050.

Lead author, Solomon Hsiang explains that now policymakers and governments can intervene, “we think that by collecting all the research together now, we´re pretty clearly establishing that there is a causal relationship between the climate and human conflict.” Also Hsiang said, “People have been skeptical up to now an individual study here and there. But considering the body of work together, we can now show that these patterns are extremely general. It is more the rule than the exception.”

Additionally, extreme climatic conditions have aggravated violence in three different categories, regardless of geography, wealth and time in history. For instance, India and Australia have had domestic violence when there was climate change. Also, the United States and Tanzania have experienced more assaults and murders when the weather is drier and hotter. Europe and South Asia also had ethnic violence linked to temperature. Besides that, the collapse of ancient empires is linked to climate change. For example, the data suggests that the fall of the Mayan civilization is in relation to extreme weather conditions.

Edward Miguel, Oxfam Professor of Environmental and Resource Economics at Berkley, said about the phenomenon, “we often think of modern society as largely independent of the environment, due to technological advances, but our findings challenge that notion. The climate appears to be critical factor sustaining peace and wellbeing across human societies.”

Furthermore, researchers explained that climate change is linked to violence, because many times it results in migration, following confrontation with the existing residents.

On the other hand, as the Atlantic magazine says, “Armed conflict has globally declined over the past 50 years or so, even though the world has been warming the entire time.” For that, Hsiang has an answer, “our study is not saying that climate is the only cause of conflict, and there is not conflict that we think should be wholly attributed to some specific climatic event.” However, he says, “we are trying to point out is that climate is one of the critical factors that affect how things escalate, and if they escalate to the point of violence.”

Marshall Burke, a UC Berkeley graduate student explain, “We like to compare it to smoking. In the 1930s scientists were figuring out there was this really strong relationship between smoking and lung cancer, but it wasn’t for many decades after they figured out the precise mechanism that links smoking to lung cancer.”

The findings about the link between violence and climate change are alarming for both policy makers and individuals alike. It might be an important call for action, and for individuals, it is a wake up call. There may be results explaining to us why we act in certain ways under changing climate circumstances.

By: Oskar Guzman
Special Correspondent Mexico and Canada.

SOURCES: The Atlantic, Princeton University, Los Angeles Times