Climate Change A Security Problem?


Climate change has been increasingly called “security” problem because of the speculation in heightened violence conflicts. Climate change will affect people in many ways. While severe heat and strong hurricanes could be life threatening, longer growing seasons for crops could even be good.  However, since the Earth is growing warmer, negative effects could outweigh the positive.

A new study released by the University of California, Berkeley and Princeton University found that climate changes are strongly linked to human violence around the world. The results assembled from 61 previous studies drawn from geography, economics, history, archeology, criminology, psychology, and political science all regions from the globe suggest that flood, drought, or high temperatures correlate with spikes in conflict.

Researchers found strong causal evidence and the magnitude of the influence of climatic events is substantial. As the locations throughout the world are expected to warm 2 to 4 percent by 2050, rates of conflict could amplify. More recently, thousands of papers on the topics exploded exploring the link between climate change and violence.

All twenty seven modern societies studied showed a positive link between violence and higher temperatures. Increase domestic violence in Australia and India, ethnic violence in South Asia and Europe, murders and assaults in Tanzania and the United States, police violence in the Netherlands, invasions in Brazil and civil tropics are noted examples from the research.

The connection between climate change and violence dates back 4,000 years ago when the Akkadian Empire and almost all Chinese dynasties collapsed during a period of drought. UC Berkeley’s Marshall Burke, co-lead author wrote that a shift towards hotter conditions could increase personal violence by four percent and intergroup conflicts by 14 percent. Meaning, just a two degrees Celsius rise could increase civil wars by over 50 percent.

Violence linked to rocket attacks exposure?

While climate change may affect violence and is becoming a security problem, there could be other contributing factors such as social and economic problems.

A novel research study conducted by Prof. Golan Shahar from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel, and by Prof. Christopher Henrich from Georgia State University in the USA suggests that chronic exposure to rocket attacks could increase adolescent violence. As their findings were the first to attest the longitudinal effect of terrorism on violence, they find the results very alarming.

From 2008 to 2011, Sahar and Henrich followed 362 Israeli adolescents with yearly exposure to rocket attacks from Western Negev. Their findings revealed a high increase incident of violence such as a gang fight. While the severe violence levels were only 18 percent on the onset of the study, exposure could increase to 2.5 percent.

Rise in Violence

Dr Halvard Buhaug, from the Peace Research Institute Oslo, Norway said:

“I disagree with the sweeping conclusion (the authors) draw and believe that their strong statement about a general causal link between climate and conflict is unwarranted by the empirical analysis that they provide.”

While there is numerous evidence showing that changes in economic condition caused people to be aggressive other researchers believe there could also be another physiological basis.

Dr Halvard Buhaug believed that the civil war in Africa could not have been caused by environmental factors but was linked to high population density, infant mortality, and proximity to international borders.

“I was surprised to see not a single reference to a real-world conflict that plausibly would not have occurred in the absence of observed climatic extremes. If the authors wish to claim a strong causal link, providing some form of case validation is critical.”

Written by: Janet Grace Ortigas

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